Indoor plants do more than give us something beautiful to look at. They clean the air, regulate humidity, increase positivity levelsand create calmness and relaxation. Plants are in museums, public parks, commercial buildings, office spaces and, yes, even airports. The Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is no exception. What’s remarkable about SLC, however, isn’t necessarily the plants (though they are spectacular), but Leslee Peterson, the sole person who is tasked with meticulously caring for all 500 of them.
Leslee is SLC’s in-house Green Guru, Plant Whisperer and Resident Horticulture Expert.
Leslee spent a few years in Seattle earning a horticulture degree and honing her green- thumb skills, while working as a gardener for private residences. When she was ready for a change and to be closer to family, Leslee moved back to Salt Lake City and serendipitously found a job as SLC’s horticulturalist. She initially noticed a big difference between peacefully working outside in a garden by herself and tending to plants in the busy concourses and terminals, but has adjusted nicely to her new indoor garden environment.
“I love the energy here,” said Leslee. “It’s fun getting to know people—passengers and employees—and generally learning about the airport and what each department does.”
Leslee was introduced to the gardening world as a young child when her mom would awaken her at 6:00 a.m. on weekends to pull weeds.At the time Leslee thought her mom was punishing her, but now sees it as a great gift. Leslee credits her father for her love of plants, too. Every Sunday, he’d take her on walks and point out characteristics of leaves and trees and various plants and why they are important.
“I blame my parents,” said Leslee. “But I think there’s something to the energy between plants and humans. I’m grateful they taught me that so early.”
Although caring for plants seems like a laid-back job, don’t be fooled. Leslee spends 30 hours a week just watering them, and sometimes longer if the plants require fertilization. She inspects each one and meticulously dusts individual leaves.
Leslee gets plenty of questions from airport employees, whose desk plants she visits each week, as well as passengers. Questionsrange from how often to water, to what kind of fertilizer to use or hearing personal gardening stories. She engages happily and is always ready to share her best tips and tricks for keeping plants healthy and growing.
“It’s this constant interaction with other gardeners and it’s so neat,” said Leslee. “Most of the time they just want to know what I’m putting on the plants and how to care for them. If they have any problems with their own plants, they’ll ask for my advice. I love it, and I love helping people.”