PPA Profiles: Janis Napoli

April 14, 2015

Janis Napoli, Prospect Park Alliance’s Horticultural Supervisor, is the Park’s flower guru. She oversees a team of four gardeners that care for its flowering plants. At first glance, Prospect Park seems to be dominated by trees and shrubs, but there are dozens of flowering plants throughout the landscape, including Park entrances and arches, and a few formal gardens, including Carmen’s Garden at the Litchfield Villa and the berms at Grand Army Plaza.

Janis has had a green thumb her whole life. She propagated plants as a teenager before earning a degree in Horticulture and a prestigious internship with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Upon completion of her internship, Janis was offered the rare opportunity to become an Assistant Gardener, where she learned a great deal of the skills that Prospect Park benefits from today.

Janis joined the Alliance as Horticulture Supervisor last year, and handles her monumental task with aplomb. With a very small crew, she is responsible for the health and beauty of the all of the Park’s flowering plants, which are spread over 585 acres. As spring approaches, the horticulture crew tends to hundreds of acres of landscapes, with flowering trees to prune, paths to clear and bulbs to plant.

Even before this work begins, every plot must be carefully inspected and assessed. Janis and her team have a lot to consider when creating public floral spaces, such as access to sunlight, flowering behavior and the environment. She even examines aerial photos to learn how landscapes receive sunlight and shade throughout the year, and observes how visitors interact with the space. 

“Areas that are open to the public or are in highly trafficked throughways generally host hardier plants,” Janis explained, “while those that are protected by fencing or thick underbrush allow for more delicate blooms.” 

One of Janis’ favorite destinations in the Park is Carmen’s Garden, and one of her favorite flowering plants is Edgeworthia, or paper bush, which glistens in the sunlight all winter and blooms gorgeous creamy yellow buds in the spring. You can see these blossoms later this spring near the 9th Street entrance of the Park. Check out our spring bloom guide for other great spots to see the horticulture team’s work in action.