Getting back in the Demonstration Gardens is a delight
It has been a joy for me to be back working in the demonstration gardens over the past few weeks. Because I was a mentor in the Practicum last spring, where I and my students started some of the native plants from seeds or cuttings, I chose to volunteer in the native plant nursery. We are trying to catch up with moving each seedling or cutting into bigger pots before they die from overcrowding. But besides the satisfaction of saving all those plants, there is delight in catching up with old friends and making new ones, while still observing COVID-19 protocols like social distancing.
Volunteer Susan Koenig noted that it seemed quiet at Extension compared with previous years, because we are limited to 20 persons on campus at a time rather than everyone showing up on Wednesday mornings. Nonetheless, she and Margaret Saydah were glad to get their hands dirty in the wheelbarrows of transplant mix under the direction of GEM Lynn Kunstman. (GEM means Garden Education Mentor. They guide and assist each of the volunteers who work in “their” gardens.)
For the 2020 students, working in the Demonstration Gardens is the first chance they’ve had (other than the Practicum) for some hands-on application of what they learned in their Wednesday (or on-line) classes. Romina Ramos said she loves learning about bees and butterflies from Lynn. We watched Lynn rescue a swallowtail butterfly that had flown into Greenhouse 2 where it was sure to die from the heat. Lynn used her cap in place of a net to capture it and return it to the outdoors.
Barbara Low is learning about daylilies with GEM Marsha Waite. She said the book learning was fine, and the class speakers were really good, but that it’s been hard not to put that learning to practical use, and especially not being able to work in the Plant Clinic. Her sister Linda Lowe is working with GEM Jane Sawall in the Dahlia Garden. Putting a positive spin on it, they’ve learned which dahlia bulbs are the survivors.
Frank Larson, who moved to the Rogue Valley from Bend, was glad to be earning volunteer hours towards graduation. He thinks the social aspects of working in the Demonstration Gardens are really important too, as he chatted with GEMs Jane Moyer and Marcie Katz in the Wanda Hauser Garden, where they did a lot of weed pulling. Marcie’s usual garden is Birds, Bees, and Butterflies right next to Greenhouse 1. On her first day back she discovered that the plantings there had grown so dense between March and July that the weeds were crowded out.
Another with few weeds was the Perennials Garden, which GEM Doug Kirby had mulched 3” deep last summer and fall. A lesson for all of us: mulch, mulch, mulch. His assistant Char McKee, who was happily pruning and dead-heading, said that getting out and working with plants makes her day. There were gorgeous blooms throughout the Perennials Garden, but Doug said he missed seeing the early spring blossoms.
Two of the gardens where the weeds had grown thick and tall were the Orchard and the Rose Garden. Sean Cawley, another 2020 student, noted that the Orchard “needs help” and was glad to assist Joe Alvord to get the irrigation system going again.
I’m told that the weeds in the Rose Garden had grown 7’ tall while we were closed. Randy Costello said that on her first day back she kept saying “ow, ow, ow” and went home with her hands shredded and bloody because the rose bushes were so overgrown. Diane Reiling said it was like “going after big game.” But by the time I visited, most of the weeds had been removed and rose lovers Linda Moran and Ann Sloan said they were really enjoying themselves pruning the shrubs into shape, and that it was wonderful to be back.
If you’d like to volunteer in the Demonstration Gardens, I’m told there are still opportunities on Monday and Thursday mornings. The first step is to contact the GEM for the garden where you’d like to work. For a list of the gardens and GEMs, see page 36 of the 2020 JCMGA Directory.