Behind the Scenes with Phil Applegate, Groundskeeper

Phil ApplegateBeyond the extensive Gilcrease collection and exhibits, visitors can experience our beautiful landscape. We caught up with Phil Applegate to learn more about what it takes to care for our historic theme gardens.

Q: Where were you born?
A: Right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Q: How did you find your passion for gardening?
A: I’d been doing it for a long time at The University of Tulsa. I started out as a groundskeeper there many, many years ago. I had done it as a hobby and was able to find a job doing what I like, being outdoors. I’m not really an indoor, desk, computer-type person at all, so it worked out.

Q: Which themed garden is your favorite?
A: I like the Colonial Garden; it has the most history. There are a lot of plants that we can actually get from Monticello, Mount Vernon, actual colonial gardens that sell their own seeds from their gardens.

Q: Has there been any member involvement in making these gardens beautiful?
A: Yes. In fact, one of the Gillies gifted us tulip bulbs. She is head of the garden committee for the Gillies. She had some tulip bulbs left over from their own house that they donated, which is great because we didn’t have any tulips, so we were very happy to have them.

Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: I like the fall. Things start to chill out, the summer work is over, and winter starts to cool everything down.

Q: What’s your typical day on the job?
A: Pulling weeds, pulling weeds, pulling weeds. That’s what I do. I do all the planting, like all these tulips, but that’s just a seasonal thing. There is a ton of planting, but only for a couple weeks. After that, I’m completely buried in pulling weeds. Very exciting work.

Q: What gardening tips do you have for our members?
A: Pay attention to the soil. Make sure that you are purchasing the right soil when you’re ready to plant. If you just dig a hole in your yard and try to put plants in, you can get very frustrated.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside?
A: I love to run. I have run barefoot for a long time. To me, it seems every 20 years or so, it becomes a fad, and I’ve been doing it through a few of those fads. It seems like a few years ago it kind of picked up and I would run races with one or two other barefoot runners, but now I’m the only one. So, I guess the fad has faded, but I am a staunch believer. Other than not having to buy expensive running shoes, it will add intensity to your workout, and it is a great feeling. It’s also a great conversation starter.

Gilcrease Gardens
Enjoy 23 acres of themed gardens only five minutes from downtown Tulsa. The Gilcrease Gardens are a perfect location for date night, photography, picnics, bird watching and so much more. Free public tours of the gardens are given Saturdays in the spring and fall (April, May, June, September and October), and the grounds are open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.