Green Scene

Help a Good Cause While Becoming a Better Gardener

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By Joel M. Lerner
Saturday, October 10, 2009

If you want to learn more about gardening, there's no substitute for getting your hands dirty, and one of the best ways to pick up that practical experience is by volunteering at a local garden.

Aspiring gardeners in the Washington area can find some excellent opportunities at nearby public gardens and arboretums. These places depend heavily on amateur horticulturalists to manage their workloads and welcome volunteers with any level of experience.

Depending on your horticultural interests, there are also some wonderful courses and exhibits available for free, covering garden maintenance, plant installation and greenhouse management, just to name a few. Here you'll find a list of some of the best learning opportunities in our area.

Year-Round Programs

-- The U.S. National Arboretum teaches volunteers how to keep its sprawling grounds in order. Training classes are required. Call the special events office at 202-245-4565 for program information or go to http://www.usna.usda.gov to find out more about the arboretum's free, self-guided learning programs. 3501 New York Ave. NE, Washington.

-- Hillwood Museum and Gardens is a 25-acre estate that was home to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Hillwood is recruiting volunteers now for positions in its greenhouse and on the grounds. The grounds feature many types of garden, including the formal entry, French parterre, woodland, rose, friendship and Japanese garden. There even are a pet cemetery, a putting green and an orchid house. Volunteer training is conducted on the job, with sessions and plant-identification walks held monthly. For more information, call 202-243-3927 or go to http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/opportunities.htm. 4155 Linnean Ave. NW, Washington.

-- The U.S. Botanic Garden offers volunteer opportunities in the shadow of the Capitol and close to the Metro. Learn at your convenience on weekdays or weekends in the conservatory, National Garden or Bartholdi Park. Anyone who loves horticulture and is willing to commit to minimum scheduling requirements is encouraged to apply. Garden staff and current volunteers train new volunteers. For more information, call 202-226-1047 or go to http://www.usbg.gov/education/get-involved.cfm. On the National Mall at First Street and Independence Avenue SW, Washington.

-- Green Spring Gardens is recruiting volunteers who want to learn gardening. For a complete description of what is available, call 703-642-5173 or go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/PARKS/gsgp and click the "Volunteering" link on the left. 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria.

-- Meadowlark Gardens focuses on diversity of, conservation and design of, and information about native plants. To volunteer, call the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, 703-255-3631, and follow the phone prompts to the department where you would want to help. You can also go to http://www.nvrpa.org/parks/meadowlark for more information. 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna.


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