Image of 5 nursery caretakers at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery.
Nursery Caretaker team photo. From left: John Connolly, team leader Abbey Hart, Rand Herbert, Ellen Zagory and Ann Filmer. Missing: Karen Friis. (Photo by Rand Herbert.)

Nursery Caretakers

Volunteer Team Spotlight

Picture the same five people eagerly spending a few hours each week transplanting small seedlings and cuttings to 2- or 3-inch pots. These Nursery Caretaker volunteers work under the guidance of Abbey Hart, the Arboretum and Public Garden’s Assistant Nursery Manager. Their work is meticulous, but never boring. They learn new plant species each week, share knowledge ranging from plant anatomy and physiology to environmental needs of plants, and await the day to see each species in bloom.

“These volunteers transplant up to 300 seedlings and cuttings each week,” said Hart. “Most of the plants go to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery, where they are grown until ready for the plant sales. The same group also helps grow landscape plants for planting throughout the Arboretum and Public Garden on campus, and participates with APG’s staff Horticulturists’ projects on trialing climate-ready trees and other plant species.”

With diverse backgrounds, the volunteers also help Hart and other staff with special campus and community projects. A current project is providing specific plant species for natural dye production at Cruess Hall, a new GATEway Garden. Coordinated by APG staff Emily Griswold, Rachel Davis, and Ryan Deering, the project partners with the UC Davis Design department’s students who create natural fabric dyes for textiles.

An important component of the Nursery Caretaker team is to fastidiously maintain digital propagation records for tracking every step in the plant production line. This includes recording accurate identification of plant taxa and nomenclature, the location and dates of plant accessions, and recording propagation treatments. UC Davis is a top tier research and teaching university, so accuracy in plant production and plant collection records is important when information is shared with other universities, arboreta, botanical gardens, nurseries and customers.

When asked what she likes about this volunteer group, Abbey Hart said, “Everyone in this group is independent, and has the skill to see what needs to happen with the plants, from transplanting, to labelling, to maintaining our critical propagation records. We’re a great team.”

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