A new type of volunteer position has been created at Rutgers Gardens. Called Garden Guardians, they are volunteers who have not adopted a bed in the Display Gardens but are responsible for a particular garden or area of the gardens. For instance, if you have visited Rutgers Gardens this summer, you will notice that the garden surrounding the entry kiosk is looking fantastic. This is thanks to a brand new volunteer who has assumed responsibility for maintaining that garden (which contains the wall that I photograph obsessively) and the garden at nearby Holly House (another of my favorite areas that I also frequently photograph).
The Display Gardens themselves are maintained by Adopt-A-Plot Volunteers who have adopted a flower and/or veggie plot and are also assigned another “committee plot” such as the year bed, that is tended by a team of Adopt-A-Plot Volunteers.
My committee bed for the past two years has been the Herb Bed. The Herb Bed committee has consisted of myself and another volunteer, a different one each year. The problem has been that the other half of my “committee” has either stopped volunteering or become ill or injured and I have been the sole gardener working on the bed.
It’s not an attractive bed to begin with. Not like the beautiful herb gardens you see so often. And this year it got really overgrown. The worse it looked, the less I wanted to work on it. But I felt guilty about neglecting my responsibilities. So I suggested to the Volunteer Coordinator who is also in charge of the Display Gardens (and is also the Head Hatter) that the Herb Bed be renovated. I would be willing to dedicate a couple of weekends this fall to digging and dividing the herbs. Extras could be wintered over in the greenhouse and sold at the spring sale. The rest could be re-planted in an attractive manner.
Plans could be made over the winter for the purchase of new herbs and I would begin work earlier in the spring than I have been, weeding, edging, and mulching. Extra work in the fall and spring means less maintenance over the summer when I will also be tending my plot.
The Head Hatter liked my idea so much that she decided to appoint me Garden Guardian of the Herb Bed. At first I was thrilled. Then I realized that I was going to be responsible for making something attractive and educational out of this:
What used to be weekly trips to the Gardens has become twice weekly trips. As plants are dying back for the winter, I am cutting them down and then aggressively weeding. Everything was so overgrown this summer that I wasn’t able to get in and weed effectively. The more weeds I can get rid of now, the fewer I will have to deal with in the spring. Next up will be measuring the beds and then studying the inventory of herbs so that a plan can be drawn up. Then the plants will be divided and replanted with space left for new herbs to be planted in the spring.
Ground hogs ate the tricolor and golden sages that were added this year. I have those same herbs in my “accidental” herb garden at home. I think they are big enough so that I can donate some as replacements to the gardens. One very exciting idea from the Head Hatter who likes to re-use plants from the theme beds, is to make a knot garden with the santolina being used in the year bed. And I’m toying with the ideas for new signage with “Fun Facts About Herbs”.
I hope that this time next year, the Herb Bed will look completely different. And a whole lot better.