PARIS — Jennifer O’Rourke was first drawn to the historic McLaughlin Garden homestead by her aspirations to start her own garden. O’Rourke grew up in central New York, went to school in Boston and Philadelphia, and worked for 10 years in interior design. She and her husband had a summer home in Maine, and moved to the area in May of 2009. When former McLaughlin Garden Director Michael Desplaines left the position to become director of Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, N.H., O’Rourke took up the reigns as the interim head of the garden.
What sort of work did you do in interior design? Aircraft interiors for Teague Aviation Studio in Everett, Washington; also office space planning.
How did you become involved with the McLaughlin Garden? I began volunteering at the garden last May. My husband and I had just moved from a north suburb of Chicago to the area and I wanted to become involved in the community.
How has your work experience helped you there? I’ve had various experiences and opportunities that combined help bring both a practical and a creative aspect to my work here. I like to take on new challenges, problem solve, assist in finding solutions and creating an enjoyable environment.
What is your favorite part about the garden and homestead? Many things, the history, the garden’s serenity … it’s a hidden treasure that you can escape to off of Main Street.
How did you become the interim director? Former Executive Director Michael Desplaines recommended me as the interim director to assist the garden team through the upcoming season.
What’s your favorite flower, and why? I’ll have to choose more than one favorite. They include dahlias, poppies, peonies and hydrangeas. They would be my favorites because of the memories they evoke. Poppies seem like happy flowers. Peonies I love the scent (but not the ants), Dahlias remind me of Seattle, and hydrangeas remind me of my time in Switzerland.
Regarding lilacs: If you could only have one lilac color, would you choose white or traditional light-purple-like color? Or make up your own? Definitely a traditional light purple. They remind me of the ones we had in our backyard growing up.
Given your aviation interior design background, are you the one we can blame for the cramped seating and mundane fabric choices when we fly? No comment … actually our focus was on creating and presenting aesthetically pleasing interiors that worked with each airline’s brand identity. Color psychology was often used to help create a sense of spaciousness and calmness.
What are your hopes for the garden this summer? To welcome many new visitors, and encourage them to explore the many benefits that becoming a member and supporter of McLaughlin Garden offers. I’d like to work with the staff on exploring and implementing new ideas, while continuing to expand the wonderful traditions of the garden. There’s an excitement that is blooming around here as we all prepare for the summer season. We’re all looking forward to a wonderful season!