Temple Square's Master Gardner Retiring

Temple Square's Master Gardner Retiring

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Religion Specialist Carole Mikita reporting One of Utah's most popular attractions is now in full bloom. The award-winning floral gardens on and around Temple Square are again exploding in an orchestration of brilliant colors.

But this year's planting is significant for another reason -- it's the last planting designed by Master Gardner Peter Lassig, who is about to retire.

"I'm crazy about tulips. I have to say, they're probably my favorite," he says. "They remind me of a ballerina twirling in a tutu."

To Peter Lassig, flowers have personalities and blending them in the right way makes for more than a beautiful garden. It's like creating a sculpture or a symphony.

He spent 14 years as an apprentice and then 32 as master gardener for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his staff of 40 and hundreds of volunteers have just finished spring planting. Listen to what they do every year, in just five days.

"It's a massive project because we plant 165,000 flowers, every six months. And these 165,000 flowers are distributed to 250 different flower beds within the 35 acres that are here at downtown," Lassig explains.

He speaks from a knowledge of not just the 725 varieties of plants, but how to design them, an art form that is first drawn in abstract.

The results are award-winning gardens, adding, he hopes, to the memorable visit millions of tourists make each year to Temple Square and surrounding properties.

He describes how one of his designers has mixed hyacinths with English daisies and pansies, making the arrangement pleasing to the eye.

"To make the sweet, more sweet, she has rolled into the sour on this side. That really calls attention to how sweet it is. The sour, of course, is modified by the purple, so that these all work together."

Many describe music as the universal language. Lassig says all human beings, no matter their culture, also feel a natural connection to life that springs from the Earth.

"They were arranged in blotchy colors, if you squint, so that you can hardly see them, you can almost see the blotchy shadows that fall across the flower beds when the sun is shining."

Were he not a gardener, he would undoubtedly be a painter. But here, nature is his palette. Now Lassig is looking forward to tending his own garden. It's a little smaller, he says, but no less important in the grand scheme.

Peter Lassig's collegues are honoring him with a special retirement celebration April 14th.

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