Arboretum searching for volunteers

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It’s no secret spring flowers can chase away the winter blahs.

People craving a sneak peek of Mother Nature’s colorful show are invited to volunteer their energy to prepare the Wood County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens for spring visitors. 

“Regardless of your level of gardening experience, you can learn something new and put it to work either in your own gardens or at the arboretum,” said Deanna Caldwell, president of non-profit Friends of the Arboretum, which oversees the grounds.

The 23-acre arboretum at 175 Governor Hogg Pkwy. offers an array of attractions, including a walking trail, gazebo, sensory garden and new way station for monarch butterflies. 

The centerpiece of the venue is the 1869 Stinson House, originally built in the Speer Community by James A. Stinson, whose daughter Sallie married Jim Hogg, first native born Texas governor. 

The structure was moved in 1968 to its current location and later incorporated into the arboretum where it is available by appointment for tours and private events.

The arboretum and the historic house are tended by volunteers, and it takes plenty of helpers to manage the upkeep.

“The opportunities to volunteer are not limited to gardening,” Caldwell said. “If you are interested in maintaining and showcasing an historic structure, or in the administrative tasks associated with running a non-profit, we can use your help. We provide a lovely atmosphere to work in and lots of talented, friendly people to work with.”

Volunteers gather from 9 a.m.-noon each Wednesday to care for the grounds, performing routine garden tasks such as mulching, weeding, trimming and planting. During hot months, participants gather from 8-11 a.m.

Volunteers are encouraged to participate at their own pace and level of ability for projects.

“Some supporters, who don’t have time to attend workdays, prefer to donate materials or monetary resources instead,” said Lin Grado, garden manager.

“We were outlining a bed in old bricks one time and needed about 300 bricks to finish,” Grado said. “One volunteer mentioned that there were old bricks at her ranch and invited us to come get them. Her family donated 1,200 antique bricks, and so we built a paved patio within the new bed.”

Occasional classes and special events at the arboretum can prompt a spark of unexpected creativity, such as decorating efforts extended recently by Ann Fair-Irby, an artist and Wood County Master Gardener who lives at Holly Lake Ranch.

The former retail designer developed the Christmas décor for the arboretum’s annual holiday open house. She said volunteering boosts her spirits, creativity and knowledge.

“I grew up in California and spent the last 20 years in Las Vegas, so I knew nothing about the area,” she said. “I love going to the arboretum because I learn so much from my fellow gardeners. It’s a great place to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and get some exercise. The Stinson House is a great place to learn some local history too.”

Grado said Irby and her merry band of volunteers helped create a memorable and magical evening for the community.

“We had a wonderful turnout and people really enjoyed it,” Grado said. “Volunteers are not just free labor – they bring passion and ideas and skills.”

People who want to learn more about supporting the arboretum, or gardening in general, are invited to attend a Wednesday morning work session or register for free monthly mini-workshops offered throughout the spring at the Stinson house. 

Workshops are 9-10:30 a.m. on scheduled Saturdays, featuring these topics and dates: Rose Pruning with Heirloom Propagation, Feb. 22; Texas Gardening 101, March 21; Building a Container Garden, April 25; Butterfly Gardening and Release, May 16; and Worm Composting, June 20.

For information and workshop sign-ups, visit www.woodcountyarbo.org or email woodcountyarbo@gmail.com.

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