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Green Thumbs Aren't Required

January 08, 1994|SHARON COHOON

Here are some of the volunteer opportunities at six public gardens in Orange County:


On Associated Road at the northern end of the Cal State Fullerton campus, Fullerton. Call: (714) 773-3579.

With more than 20 acres under cultivation, the Fullerton Arboretum is the county's largest public garden. It also offers the greatest variety of volunteer opportunities.

For hands-in-the-dirt experience, there's the plant propagation program or grounds maintenance chores. No gardening background is required. The arboretum will provide all training. More experienced gardeners could take on developmental roles--helping create the new children's or herb garden sections, for example.

Nature guides are always needed to conduct garden tours. More docents for the Heritage House (the Victorian residence on the arboretum grounds) would also be welcomed.

The arboretum's gift shop is inaugurating a program of growing plant material specifically for sale at the shop. Volunteers are needed to help maintain this garden, dry the plant materials and/or craft them into wreaths and swags.

Assistants with construction or electrical backgrounds would be prized, and the arboretum can always use more help at weekend plant sales and special events.

UCI Arboretum

On Campus Drive near Jamboree, Irvine. Call: (714) 856-5833. An exhausting 900 hours of volunteer work goes into preparing for the UCI Arboretum bulb sale in August, a major fund-raiser for the facility. Lifting, cleaning, packaging and labeling bulbs are part of the workload.

Volunteers are needed year-round for general garden care.

Persons with grading or other landscape skills can assist the arboretum in making the area around the gazebo a more wedding-worthy site.

The arboretum is also trying to increase its visibility by scheduling more public events and will need volunteers to manage them.

Sherman Gardens

At East Coast Highway and Dahlia Avenue, Corona del Mar. Call: (714) 673-2261. Volunteers find docent duty at this oasis so attractive they tend to serve long terms; turnovers do occur regularly nevertheless, and new docent training programs are offered.

Volunteers are also needed to staff the gift shop, host the luncheons it serves to Friends of the Gardens two afternoons a week and help plant, groom and maintain its many annual beds.

Gardeners with expertise on the care of roses, bromeliads, orchids and cactus and succulents--all among the Sherman Gardens' collections--are also being sought to take over maintenance responsibilities for these sections.

Wade Roberts, garden director, says handyman talents would also be welcome.

Environmental Nature Center

1601 16th St., Newport Beach. Call: (714) 645-8489. This 2 1/2-acre nature center is a very popular field trip destination for students. Staff and docents guided more than 6,000 students through its nature trails last year. But the center would like to do more. It has to turn down class tour requests due to lack of staff; with more docents, that wouldn't be necessary.

Volunteers are also needed to help with after-school science classes, to help maintain the trails and to weed and groom the grounds.

Creative assistants are desired to help develop educational programs and design interpretive displays.

Niguel Botanical Preserve

29751 Crown Valley Parkway, Laguna Niguel. Call: (714) 362-4300 and ask for the Niguel Botanical Preserve Voicemail; leave your name and phone number. The Niguel Botanical Preserve is a 20-acre demonstration and testing garden for drought-tolerant plants. Because it is especially important that drought-tolerant plants have an opportunity to develop their root systems before the winter rains, fall is a particularly busy time at the preserve.

A native plant propagation program, scheduled for inauguration this spring, will also require additional volunteers.

The small but dedicated group, the Friends of the Preserve, would welcome assistance in planting trees and shrubs.

The Hortense Miller Garden

In Boat Canyon, Laguna Beach. Call: (714) 494-1391. This 2.5-acre garden carved into the hillside near the crest of Boat Canyon is the creation of one master gardener, Hortense Miller. It was not damaged in the Oct. 27 fire that burned the surrounding area. Miller, now in her 80s, has put 30 years into the creation of this garden, and the property demonstrates the unique beauty of a fully matured garden--a rare sight in Southern California, where property typically changes hands frequently.

The docent program, led by Ginny Worthington, conducts tours through the property three days a week. More tours guides are needed.

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