Topic: Horticulture and Churchill Downs
Matt Bizzell is the Director of Horticulture at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. He has a B.A. in Biology from Indiana University Southeast and started working for Churchill Downs shortly after graduating. He has a lifelong love of history, nature, and unusual plants. He resides in a historic house built by his ancestors in New Albany, Indiana.
Matt will tell us about Churchill Downs’ 12,000-square-foot Horticultural Center and what it takes to keep the grounds beautiful on Derby Day as well as year-round. Gardeners will love learning about the types of flowers and plants that are grown on-site, but also the care and history of the track’s gardens and surrounding property.
The greenhouse staff grows about 25,000 plants on site and displays more than 100 plant species inside Churchill Downs, including tropical flowers that are flown in right before the Derby.
Derby Week, Matt’s staff work 90 to 95 hours, arriving early in the morning to remove any damaged or bad flowers. They also work on the plants along the racetrack on race days. Matt tries to incorporate new plants each year so guests see something different when they visit.
Every year, trees are initially showcased in containers throughout the courtyards of Churchill Downs. Matt carefully curates the selections which are then recycled the following year into the arboretum on nearby Central Avenue.
Director of Horticulture