Master Gardener Volunteers are vital to the function of Secrest Arboretum, one of Ohio State University’s two arboreta, located in Wooster. While Secrest Arboretum has been supported by Friends of Secrest (a non-profit organization) and local volunteers for many years, Master Gardeners have always played a crucial role. Their assistance was especially impactful following the 2010 tornado.
Current Secrest Arboretum volunteers include individuals who volunteered at Secrest prior to the inception of the Secrest Master Gardener training program in 2016. After training became available, many of these volunteers enrolled and found that program participation enhanced their knowledge and ongoing work. Others from the Secrest Master Gardener class were motivated to volunteer following graduation because, through their weekly visits, they had fallen in love with the arboretum and gardens.
When asked about their experience with the program at Secrest, Master Gardeners say they are blessed to have taken a MG class in such a beautiful location, taught by a variety of expert instructors from Secrest and OARDC.
While volunteer activities take place year-round, the nature of work varies with the seasons. One constant though, is the fun and educational experience of working alongside Paul Snyder, Program Coordinator, and Matt Shultzman, Plant Materials Specialist. Snyder and Shultzman are extremely supportive and knowledgeable. MGVs sometimes work in tandem with student employees, many attending the adjacent Ohio State University Agricultural and Technical Institute. It’s encouraging to see young people so interested in plants and trees.
Over the winter months, educational classes are offered bi-weekly to refresh and expand volunteer skills. In late winter and early spring, pruning woody plant collections is the primary activity. On occasion, garden volunteers are asked to assist greenhouse volunteers in transplanting and potting trees and shrubs. In late spring and early summer, the pace picks up with spring bed clean-up, planting, and weeding. It is during this time that the gardens change from week to week, and everyone is amazed as plants wake up from their winter dormancy. Weeding and pruning continue into late summer / early fall.
Late fall calls for a final garden clean-up in preparation for winter. Once fall cleanup is complete, MGVs help prepare beautiful bags of winterberry and a variety of evergreen boughs as an arboretum fundraiser. Much cutting down is needed before the final bagging, which is like an assembly line, albeit with laughter and comradery.
In addition to garden and greenhouse duties, MGVs assist with many aspects, including set-up and tear-down of Plant Discovery Day, the annual spring plant sale sponsored by Friends of Secrest Arboretum. The danger of the sale, of course, is the temptation to buy unusual, hard-to-find, plants that you don’t have room for! There is also a smaller Autumn Discovery Day Plant Sale, in which MGVs participate.
Throughout the year there are opportunities to participate in various community outreach initiatives, especially those targeting underprivileged children. The goal, is to introduce children and parents to the world of nature.
The partnership between Secrest Arboretum and Master Gardener Volunteers has been strong over the years, and will continue to make Secrest a garden showplace, bringing joy to young and old. For more information on Secrest Arboretum and Secrest Master Gardeners visit secrest.osu.edu.
Written by: Bob Everett, Paul Snyder, and Gwen Zimmerly