Horticulturists reporting to work at Opryland Hotel to take care of fish and 50,000 plants at resort

Posted at 7:32 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 08:45:15-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort may be temporarily closed, but horticulturists are reporting to the hotel to keep the plants and fish alive.

There are 50,000 plants in the hotel's three massive atriums.

"We've got multiple different species of palm trees, banana trees, all the ground cover," said Brooks O'Brien, horticulturist leader at the resort.

Normally, the horticultural staff is comprised of 20 people, but there have been cuts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They got laid off or furloughed and it's truly to make sure our company can get through to the end," O'Brien said.

For nearly eight weeks, O'Brien has been going to work in the empty hotel. Just two other people are helping him water and prune the plants, as well as feed the fish.

"For me to be able to be here for 8 hours a day and see maybe two people walk through, it's very, very different," he said.

O'Brien's staff has had to scale back.

"We're truly, truly keeping things watered and yellow-leafed and that's about as far as we can go right now," he said.

O'Brien misses interacting with guests while he works.

"A guest will walk by, and there will be times [I spend] two or three minutes explaining the type of plant. You'll get somebody coming from the north asking if that specific plant can grow up there. You get to coach them and teach them," he said.

Without guests, his crew doesn't have to spend as much time mopping water off paths for safety, but O'Brien is longing for that.

"We can't wait until we open back up and get the folks back in here because that is what makes this job so much more fun. And my fellow horticulture stars, I can't wait until they get back and they can see that we maintained pretty good, but we needed them here," he said.

The resort has not announced a reopening date at this time.