Hidden Hospital: The ‘plant ladies’ prepare for the holidays

One step into the greenery storage room below the Pomerantz Family Pavilion, and you no longer feel like you’re in the basement of a hospital. It’s filled to the brim with greenery, plants, decorations, and other supplies.

Kathy Williams (left) and Cindy Wood (right) in their greenery storage room below Pomerantz Family Pavilion

The “plant ladies” Kathy Williams (left) and Cindy Wood (right) in their greenery storage room

The nearly 350 plants throughout UI Hospitals and Clinics don’t just take care of themselves, and during the holiday season, that number ramps up to around 600 plants.

kathy

Kathy waters plants in the greenery storage room.

Kathy Williams and Cindy Wood are both greenhouse caretakers in the Grounds Division of Maintenance and Engineering Services, or the “plant ladies,” as they are affectionately referred to. Together, they care for all of the live plants throughout the entire main hospital, in addition to about 500 artificial vines.

“People ask us all the time for advice on taking care of plants, and I love talking with them about it,” says Kathy. “It’s been an amazing job.” She’s been here for 35 years, and Cindy for 13 years; both of them have degrees in horticulture.

In addition to keeping the plants well hydrated, Kathy and Cindy also fertilize, re-pot, and relocate plants throughout the hospital—they say it takes a full week to water every plant in the hospital. The two women find homes in the hospital hallways for all of the plants, most of which are donated. They also tend to special memorial planters that UI Health Care faculty or staff members have established in memory of loved ones. Any department that wishes to have plants moved to or from their area should contact Kathy or Cindy directly.

Poinsettia tree in the Fountain Lobby

The poinsettia tree in the Fountain Lobby each year stands 9.5 feet tall.

The “big kahunas” comes out this time of year—the three poinsettia “trees,” which include a total of about 270 poinsettia plants. The three trees will be erected soon after Thanksgiving. The largest one will be in the Fountain Lobby (Elevator C, Level 1), one in the Pomerantz Family Pavilion Lobby (Elevator L, Level 1), and the third in the Center for Disabilities and Development. Kathy and Cindy set these up, keep them watered, and on Dec. 28, the individual poinsettias will be given away to any patient, visitor, or staff member who wants one.

Additionally, each primary entrance into the hospital will soon have a tree that the two women decorate, and the exterior hospital groundskeepers add lights, garland, and trees to the outside entrances as well. Departments also get trees and wreaths from the plant ladies to decorate their own areas. As if this doesn’t keep Kathy and Cindy busy enough, they also obtain about 500 small Norfolk Island living pines that are given to hospital volunteers and distributed to patients’ rooms (patients who can’t have live plants in their rooms receive miniature artificial trees).

So, the next time you notice some lovely greenery in the hospital, you have Kathy and Cindy to thank!

greenhouse-storage

Another view of the greenery storage room

Staff members from across UI Health Care came last week to get wreaths and trees to decorate their work units

Staff members from across UI Health Care came last week to get wreaths and trees to decorate their work units.

Kathy and Cindy pose on Level 12 of the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital

Kathy and Cindy pose on Level 12 of the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where they will have additional planters to tend to.

6 comments

  1. These ladies are awesome! They are both very friendly and helpful. I had a nephew die last year and one of the plants I took home was starting to not look so great. I ran into them & asked their advice and now my plant is doing great. I think of my nephew every time I look at that plant.

  2. Kathy and Cindy are wonderful. When my Mom died this past year, I wanted to donate a plant in honor of her to the Clinical Cancer Center. I contacted these two wonderful ladies and they were so helpful. They tended to this plant as if it was their only concern. I appreciate their kindness and warmth shown to me. This is a wonderful article and you are so deserving of any recognition you both receive.

  3. So proud to have these two on our UIHC team, and I look forward to each visit they make to our office suite. Happy Holidays, Kathy & Cindy!

  4. You can tell that Kathy and Cindy are totally dedicated to their jobs and they do amazing work. They will always say hi with a big smile to follow. Thanks for Caring!!!

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