You’ve been a member since 2009. How did you hear about the UDBG?
I think I first heard about UDBG through classes that I took through cooperative Extension, provided by Master Gardeners. I had also heard about it from the plant sale at Ag Day although I must admit that having gone to Ag Day for 20 years, it was only in the last few years that I started going to the plant sale.
You’re a passionate gardener. Have you always been one? What/who sparked your interest?
I grew up in a rural area in a very nature-oriented family, so I spent a lot of time in the woods and fields. My father had several veggie gardens, so of course, every morning in the summer I got the dreaded list of chores to be completed before he arrived home precisely at 5:20! When I was 12 he said I could use an acre of his land to grow things to sell if I tilled it and took care of it. I grew sweet corn and pumpkins that year and made a good profit at my roadside stand. My grandmother, who lived next door, had beautiful rock, cutting and wildflower gardens. I grew up as a 4H kid, so often grew flowers to enter at the county fair. As a young adult I rented a small house from my grandmother so had a great space for vegetable and flower gardening. For the past 27 years, I have been creating gardens at our home in Arbour Park. Gardening in some form has always been a part of my life. However, until the past three years, I was always a solitary gardener. I really didn’t have enough discretionary time to even think about doing anything other than maintaining my own gardens.
How do you fuel your passion?
I fuel my passion on a regular basis by attending classes, reading and volunteering. I love to learn and I am a sucker for just about any gardening class. I really got hooked in the spring of 2010 when I read an article in the paper about a Native Spring Wildflower class being taught for the first time at Longwood in partnership with Mt. Cuba. At that point I knew nothing about the Continuing Education Program at Longwood. I didn’t know what to expect, and was a bit startled when I attended the first class and realized that “this is a REAL series of classes, with an exam and everything!” It was an amazing class, and once I saw all that Longwood had to offer there was no turning back. These classes are a great way to learn, meet other gardeners from all walks of life and spend lots of time at Longwood – the Plant ID labs are the best! I will complete the first level Ornamental Horticulture certificate this fall. I have also started on the Landscape Design certificate (have to get that right brain working) and will be starting the second level of Ornamental Horticulture in 2013. I recently began volunteering one day a week at Longwood and my first assignment is on a plant breeding project. So much fun! I have also attended the many lectures, workshops and classes offered by UDBG. The guest lecturers are always inspiring and frequently give me a boost to try something new or different in my garden, even if it is on a small scale. The Small Flowering Shrubs class and lab which Dr. Frett taught this winter was great – even though the lab was in the snow. I am also fueling my passion by taking on a couple of Garden Maintenance clients. What better way to expand your horizons than by working in a garden other than your own! Plus, it allows me to take more classes and buy more plants!
You’ve been volunteering since the spring sale of 2010. What made you decide to get involved?
I always thought that when my daughter graduated from high school and my PTA/Sports Booster volunteering ended, that I would become a Master Gardener. However, there wasn’t going to be a class that year, so in the interim I decided to give UDBG volunteering a try. I immediately fell in love with this great group of people. So many kindred spirits with so many of the same interests! I have NEVER seen a better-run volunteer organization and Valann makes me feel like I had abused the many volunteers who worked for me in years past. In all seriousness, I feel like my time is appreciated and valued. When you show up to work for two hours, there is always something that needs to be done and you go right to work. One of my pet peeves is to show up to volunteer somewhere and being left to stand around. I feel like my volunteering at UDBG makes a difference. I also love the fact that I can volunteer as my schedule allows and whatever time I can give is really appreciated. If you aren’t available to help out, no one lays a guilt trip on you.
What types of activities do you assist the UDBG with? Garden? Sales? Potting?
I help UDBG with outside gardening, prepping for the plant sale, working the holding area at the plant sale, and in the winter, with the potting. I prefer to be outside so even in winter I am one of the first to volunteer to go out to take cuttings!
What’s it like to volunteer? Any regrets?
Volunteering at UDBG is like gardening with your best friends – many of whom just happen to have an amazing amount of knowledge about some horticultural topic. If you ever have an ID question, or wonder whether anyone has killed a plant as many times as you have, just ask and you are likely to get an answer. Wonder if anyone has ever tried a certain product or tool? Someone usually has. I have learned so much from the hands-on work that we do!
Another advantage to volunteering is when Dr. Frett stops by and ends up giving an impromptu lecture on work we are doing or answering question. Seldom do I leave a volunteer session without having learned something. I have also found that UDBG volunteering is a great complement to the classes I take at Longwood. This spring while we were in the midst of prepping for the plant sale, I was taking the Small Flowering Trees class. Learning to ID 60 – 70 plants in a class is a lot easier when you are actually working with these plants and observing them throughout the growing season. When I was taking the Longwood Plant Science Propagation course, at UDBG we were taking cuttings to start plants for future plant sales.
And finally, volunteering for UDBG is all about the gardens. If we as volunteers don’t do the work, then most of it won’t get done. When things look great, I can take pride that I helped make it look that way. The work can be hard, dirty and sweaty – but no regrets. It’s worth it.