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Volunteer Spotlight: Marin Master Gardeners at Falkirk Cultural Center

Posted on November 23, 2016


The Marin Master Gardeners (MMG) began working in the gardens at the Falkirk Cultural Center in 2002. MMG are volunteers trained by University of California Cooperative Extension and have since formed a partnership with Falkirk Cultural Center and the City of San Rafael that has proven to be beneficial and beautiful. There are now more gardens and volunteers working on the grounds than ever before!

MMG have created eight Demonstration Gardens where historic gardens had been destroyed or razed. They completely renovated the greenhouse, which was built in 1927. It is now used for propagating and growing vegetables. The gardens and greenhouse are designed to illustrate various horticultural practices such as water conservation, demonstrating drought tolerant species and planting to provide habitats for beneficial creatures in the garden. Without the MMG, the gardens would lose their splendor.

Meet Kathy Taraban and Connie Pelissero, two Master Gardener volunteers who devote their time and sweat to this labor of love.

Describe your volunteer activity with San Rafael?

Kathy: “I work in the California Diversity Garden which is located in front of the greenhouse. I care for existing plants: pruning, shaping, feeding as well as rotating plants throughout the year to help add color and variety. I also enjoy educating members of the community who visit the garden. I have been volunteering 10 to 15 hours per month for three years.”

Connie: “I started volunteering in February 2015 and I have put in over 260 hours! I oversee the Habitat Garden next to the greenhouse.”

Why did you choose to volunteer for San Rafael?

Kathy: “I was impressed with the beauty of the gardens and once I started working with the public and other Master Gardeners I was hooked. Everyone that volunteers there is so caring, thoughtful, generous, wise and creative.”

Connie: “I like Marin’s historical buildings and I thought what a privilege it would be to volunteer in the gardens of one of San Rafael’s most beautiful mansions. I also knew some of the dedicated Master Gardeners that volunteer at Falkirk and thought it would be good fun to join them.”

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer work?

Kathy: “I enjoy the feeling and spirit that is part of the gardens with the sharing of knowledge and joy of creating beauty.”

Connie: “I love working with the other gardeners. They are a dedicated group of individuals who appreciate the many seasons and cycles of nature.”

What accomplishment are you most proud of as a volunteer?

Kathy: “Helping to make the gardens a beautiful place to visit.”

Connie: “I am most proud of creating a garden with year around color, nectar, pollen and food for all the creatures that visit the garden.”

What other activities do you enjoy?

Kathy: “I also volunteer at Ceres, a non-profit that provides free organic healthy meals for people undergoing cancer treatments and their families. An executive chef works with adults and teenagers to prepare the meals and deliver them to people’s homes. It’s so wonderful to see the teenagers learn about healthy eating, learning to cook and giving back to the community.”

Connie: “I enjoy learning folk art techniques from around the world. This last summer I was able to spend a month in Norway on a folk art pilgrimage tour.”

What do you suggest to those considering volunteering with the City?

Kathy: “If you want to volunteer at the Falkirk Gardens: bring a smile, work gloves and your pruners. Prepare to have fun!”

Connie: “You will leave energized and happy, perhaps a tad tired, but pleased that you just spent time doing something that made a difference in your community.”

In a few words, describe your volunteer experience.

Kathy: “A fun, creative and rewarding opportunity to help educate the public about gardening.”

Connie: “delighted, amazed, and captivated!”

You too can work in the Falkirk Gardens! Come on the second Saturday of each month from 10 am to noon. You do not need to be a MMG. Gail Mason who is Co-Coordinator (along with Jessica Wasserman) for the Master Gardeners says: “There is a steady core group of about 20 volunteers (Marin Master Gardeners and members of the public) plus another 10 to 15 people at Saturday work parties. Friendships blossom! Volunteers go on field trips to nurseries or other gardens, coordinate hikes and we have a couple of potluck parties each year. Join us! Click to learn more.

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