This month’s featured volunteers are a group of individuals who are envied by many. It is a highly requested task at the Arboretum – working in the greenhouse. Groups of three to four volunteers work daily, doing tasks necessary to cultivate and care for plants that will later be distributed in the gardens. Our greenhouse volunteers are:
- Mondays – Jerry Colwell, Anne Schurman and Kate Pettijohn
- Tuesdays – Troy Brasher, Caroline Bromley and Leon Smith
- Thursdays – Susan Berlinski, Peggy Kupfer and Sandy Knight
- Fridays – Maureen Purcell, Sally Williams and Maggie Rudzik
- Wedesdays – Sue Beamer, Irene Parsons, Jane Jones and Karen Thurston
Many new volunteers inquire about working in the greenhouse; what you may not know, however, is all the tedious, non-glamorous work that these folks do.
As you probably know, Anne is a perfectionist when it comes to her job – she wants nothing but a clean, fresh start for her babies. Our loyal, greenhouse volunteers spend hours washing and cleaning pots to get ready for planting. They also help disinfect, scrub and sanitize crucial areas in the greenhouse – all key in producing healthy plants. Once things start blooming, they are charged with transplanting seedlings and plugs; they groom the plants, water the plants, talk sweet to the plants and watch them grow until they are able to go out into the Arboretum and be planted. And, although temperatures in the greenhouse are maintained within a certain range, it can still be very chilly in the winter and hot and humid in the summer.
Not only does their bounty make its way into our beautiful Arboretum, but this year, their harvest produced 150 flats that were sent to the plant sale.
It is interesting what each volunteer takes away from their experience in the greenhouse. In their own words, this is why several of them love it:
Jane Jones. “ The greenhouse is a great way to be involved and not be out in the elements. It puts the growing process into perspective, because you see how the plants go from seeds to the beautiful colors that go in the gardens. It’s not too strenuous, stools are provided. It gives me another way to visit with friends, and to spend time with Anne. I can’t say pot washing is my favorite chore, but I can see why it’s beneficial. It is a good feeling to know that I had a behind the scenes hand in the beautiful plants we later plant.”
Maggie Rudzik. “ It’s a social as well as a learning experience. Anne is so knowledgeable and easy to work for. My time spent with her and Maureen and Sally is a real pleasure. I like watching the seeds grow, so I had to start my own version of a ‘greenhouse’ at home. Yep… lots of seed starter trays all over the house – lol!”
Sally Williams. “Washing the pots in the heat of th summer is so worth the time otherwise spent in the greenhouse. (of course we don’t need to wash pots in the heat. We can wait until it’s cooler) Both duties are spent with friends chatting away as we work. Being called in to start planting is a sign of hope that Spring is really coming. I get very excited. I look at the process as raising children. We plant the seeds, watch for the seedlings to emerge and then continually provide bigger ‘shoes’ (pots) for their roots to grow. Then one day our babies are big enough to go out into the world and show off their beauty! Walking through the gardens I see them in all
their glory and know I had a little something to do with that. Of course, working with Anne is such a treat. We get updates on what is happening in the Arb, what new exciting flowers she has for the gardens….always willing to answer our personal gardening questions. She is organized and works right alongside us. She makes us feel welcomed and appreciated. I always leave feeling good about my time volunteering.” Sally also adds, “ Oh, I decided that washing the pots is like changing diapers for my kids. It’s just part of caring for them. Lol.”
Sue Beamer. “ Why do I like volunteering in the greenhouse? There’s a rhythm there like no place else. Anne has her week-by-week germinating schedule. At the appropriate time [Jan-Feb] greenhouse workers can transplant them up in pot size and weeks later they are carted out to the gardening crews. Whenever the 1st flats of cold weather annuals start leaving the greenhouse (Mar 1-31) we know they will return as empty pots to wash. And the cycle begins… clean pots, fill pots, clean, fill. This will continue through July albeit with only pot washing in the last few weeks. One tip- The greenhouse temps and fans are set for the plants, not humans. In February while the seedings sit on heated mats you may be in gloves and layers. On a sunny 50 degree day you may feel the heat amplified and dress down to short sleeves.”
Maureen Purcell. “When I was just an Arboretum visitor, I would witness laughter and close bonds among the volunteers and staff. I wanted to be part of that! I’m happy to say, I have found that laughter and camaraderie in the Arboretum Greenhouse. Anne Wildeboor creates a meaningful and rich experience for her volunteers. What a joy to be able to play in the greenhouse with kindred spirits, watch the plants grow and find their garden homes. It is worth all those pot scrubbing and hot days to be a part of it all.”
Troy Brasher. “It’s the fruition of my planternal instincts.” 🙂
Karen Thurston. “ During the cold of winter it feels good to get your hands in the potting mixture and look forward to spring. The best part however is the transplanting and watching the future plants and flowers grow. Being inside the greenhouse on a sunny cold day with people you enjoy is a plus.”
Irene Parsons. “I volunteered in the greenhouse to learn more about flowers and how to grow them. I fell in love with the process of transplanting seedlings, which can be a very peaceful and relaxing job, with a huge payoff a few weeks later when they flourish in the greenhouse and then are planted in the gardens. I feel very proud to walk around the Arb and see all the color blooming from our efforts. The fun of spending time in the greenhouse with my fellow volunteers is a big bonus, too.”
Kate Pettijohn. “I enjoy working in the greenhouse because we get to plant and transplant the flowers that make the botanical gardens beautiful.”
Susan Berlinski. “Just a few of the reasons why I love the greenhouse: By late winter I have read all the plant catalogs and am itching to get started in the garden. It is so satisfying to be in the greenhouse with my hands in the soil, watching all those little seeds germinate and flowers pop while it is still cold outside! I love the smells, the sounds, the sights and the feel of the greenhouse. There is nothing like a sunny spring day, watching as hummingbirds and butterflies fly around the flowers (inside and out!), and hearing the birds and tree frogs chip! I have learned so much about the flowers growing in the Arboretum – annuals and perennials – what their leaves look like, how they grow, how they smell, the height and texture, etc., and plant names. And it is such a joy to see ‘my flowers’ growing in the gardens!”
Caroline Bromley. “I enjoy working with plants and playing in the dirt – I don’t have to get on my knees; my knees can’t do that anymore.”
Leon Smith. “I like to see the plants grow – see the beauty of God’s creation. I also enjoy the people I work with.”
Jerry Colwell. “There are so many reasons why I enjoy volunteering in the greenhouse I don’t know where to start. As a kid I grew up on 5 acres. We had an orchard of 28 fruit trees and among the trees we had a very large garden. Red and black raspberries and boysenberries, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lima beans and, of course, tomatoes. We raised our own tomato plants. We raised our own beef, pork and chicken. Guess the rural area has stuck with me. Being in the greenhouse is working in dirt with plants. Seeing the flowers grow and bloom in the Arboretum is an act of work. To be in the greenhouse in February and March is like an early Spring. Last, but not least, are the people. Anne Wildeboor is so nice to us and also a lot of fun. I am very happy that I have the opportunity to volunteer in the greenhouse.”
As you can see, the common theme is that working in the greenhouse is a pretty good gig – that the good times far outweigh the bad. We are so appreciative of the work these dedicated volunteers do. Thank you.