Mickey Rathbun: Smith College Botanic Garden seeking volunteers

Published: 9/15/2016 7:23:04 PM

Although we are surrounded by plants and depend on them for our lives and livelihoods, many of us know practically nothing about plants and what they do for us. The Lyman Conservatory at the Botanic Garden of Smith College helps address this unfortunate lack of knowledge by opening its doors to more than 1,300 schoolchildren every year.

As school groups tour Smith’s greenhouses, they learn about how plants all over the world adapt to climates and geographic regions very different from our New England habitat. They also learn about why plants are so important to human life; they see living examples of plants that provide us with oxygen, food, medicines, building materials and much more.

Smith College’s first president, L. Clarke Seelye, founded the Botanic Garden over 100 years ago, expressing his hope that the whole campus could be developed as a botanic garden so that it might be of scientific as well as aesthetic value. Seelye’s vision has been met. The mission of the Botanic Garden of Smith College is to foster education about the science, beauty and importance of the plant kingdom through the use of outdoor and conservatory plant collections, gardens, displays, and exhibitions, and to preserve and maintain the historic campus landscape designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Today the Botanic Garden serves as a living museum of plants native to New England and areas all around the globe. The garden includes thousands of plants, including those grown under glass in the Lyman Conservatory and outdoors in the campus arboretum and various specialty gardens around campus.

The staff at Smith’s Botanic Garden could not do this valuable work without the help of community volunteers. Through them, Smith’s wonderful collection of plants from around the world comes alive for the local students who visit on field trips. Trained volunteers provide tours for kindergarten through grade 12 classes, often working with teachers to connect the tours with what the students are learning in the classroom.

Each January, the Botanic Garden offers an intensive three-day training program to those interested in volunteering. In addition to leading tours, volunteers staff the reception desk on weekends and during the Spring Bulb Show, help with developing thematic tours, assist with exhibitions, and provide hospitality for special events. Volunteers are not involved in any hands-on horticulture work.

The next training session will be held at the Botanic Garden on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, Jan.18, 19, and 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. These sessions will be followed by additional monthly meetings and training tours. The training includes a history of the Botanic Garden; tours of conservatories; some basic botany and horticulture; commercial, medicinal and food plants of the Lyman Plant House; and how to guide visitors and school groups.

In exchange for the training, volunteers are required to volunteer at the Botanic Garden for at least one full year and attend monthly meetings. Pre-registration is required for the training.

Anyone interested in volunteering may download an application from the Botanic Garden website: https://www.smith.edu/garden/Friends/volunteers.html, request one by phone at 585-2742, or email: garden@smith.edu.

This is a wonderful opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about one of the foremost botanic gardens in our area and to connect with local school children and their exceptional teachers.

Autumn Plant Sale in Easthampton

Pascommuck Conservation Trust, Easthampton’s land conservation trust, will have its annual fall plant sale and raffle on Sept. 24. The sale will take place in the Big E’s Foodland parking lot in Easthampton from 8 a.m. till 1 p.m. There will be ornamental grasses, shrubs, trees and more for sale and several raffle prizes.

Plant donations can be made at the event at 8 a.m. Information will be available about the PCT’s grand opening of its Mutter Field accessible trail project on Oct. 8. Proceeds from the plant sale go to the PCT’s work preserving open space for all in Easthampton.

The festival that stinks

The 18th annual North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival will take place on Sept. 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. at Forsters Farm, 60 Chestnut Hill Road in Orange. The festival will feature farm fresh products, garlic cuisine and chef demos, music and performances, healing arts, family activities and more. Admission: Adults: $5 per day, $8 for the weekend. Children under 12: free.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.


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