John Herbert Alexander III
Boston, MA 02130
I like to think of the Dana Greenhouses as the collection’s meristem. It’s the place where the plants begin growing. Simply put, my job is to encourage seeds to germinate and to grow roots onto sticks.
I have been the plant propagator at the Arnold Arboretum since 1976. I earned my undergraduate degree from Harvard University Extension School and I am a third generation nurseryman. At the age of 6, I began helping my grandparents make cuttings, and continued to help at their nursery during many summers and school vacations.
Lilacs are a passion of mine. I’m an active member of the International Lilac Society and have served numerous terms on their Board of Directors. Currently I am the Lilac Society’s New England Regional Vice President. Syringa × chinensis ‘Lilac Sunday’ and Syringa ‘Purple Haze’ are two of my cultivar selections.
The Eastern Region of the International Plant Propagator’s Society is an organization of plant propagators representing various horticultural and botanical gardens, nurseries, and academic institutions. They honored me in 1995 by making me a Fellow, and again in 2004 by awarding me their prestigious Award of Merit. Such recognition by my peers is truly an honor. If you have an interest in plant propagation, consider joining IPPS. Members are serious about the IPPS motto—to seek and to share the art and science of plant production—and are quite willing to aid and assist fellow members. Students and serious amateurs are welcome.
I love to get plants started, growing them from seeds, cuttings, and grafting. What treatment will encourage a given seed to germinate? Will another root from cuttings? What species can we use as rootstock for a particular graft? These are the questions we ask ourselves and each other every day at the Dana Greenhouse. We have a great team and this is an exciting place to work. Even so, it is work, and there is the less glamorous side of day to day plant care; we do that too.
When I’m not growing plants, I may be spending time with my Siberian huskies. We walk every day and may skijour when there’s snow. One of my sons and daughter-in-law raise Siberian huskies, and sometimes they let me race their 3rd string team. What a joy to glide over the snow with few sounds other than the shhhhhhh… of the sled on the snow and my panting (the musher works too as part of the team).
During a rebellious period of my life, I considered a career in engineering. In addition to plants and dogs, I have a fondness for old machines, especially manually-operated farm equipment such as the corn sheller, the cheese press, and household equipment like early washing machines. You may also find me operating somewhat more modern machinery like my vintage Norton motorcycle or my classic Cessna Skyhawk.