Our 2023 Como Park Volunteer of the Year started gardening in retirement.
Did you grow up gardening?
No. I grew up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. I remember always being outdoors. When we moved to the mainland, New York specifically, we enjoyed the beautiful parks in the boroughs. My window box in various condos was the closest I got to gardening as a young person. Eventually, my family and I moved to Minnesota, where I was a Clinical Nurse with my specialty and Master’s in Adult Mental Health. Although I wasn’t a gardener yet, my family and schooling strongly emphasized the importance of volunteering. Upon retirement, I began volunteering at the Como Park Conservatory. It was a treat because gardening was new, and I love learning. I have been gardening at the Conservatory for seventeen years and counting. In short, this is your sign to take up a new hobby. The staff at the Como Park Conservatory are lovely and genuinely value their volunteers.
What drew you towards the Como Park Conservatory?
I have fond memories of my mom visiting me from the tropics, and we’d go to the Conservatory together. It’s a lovely addition to the parks system and a tourist attraction. Whenever I have friends visit me, I always take them there. Because it is a tourist attraction, I enjoy connecting with people from around the United States and the world. My career allowed me to interact with many people. It is rewarding to continue engaging with the many people visiting the Conservatory.
Additionally, the beautiful gardens in the Conservatory allowed me to develop a passion for flower cutting.
What has been particularly rewarding for you?
Learning and meeting new people. Furthermore, in the northern garden at the Conservatory, they have spices and seasonings, like cinnamon, star fruit, banana trees, and vanilla bean orchids, all of which are food I enjoy eating. I love tropical fruit, especially. To see this food in its natural form and help grow and preserve it is fun and highly gratifying.
Are you an avid home gardener?
I sure am. The skills I developed at the Conservatory have allowed me to have a beautiful and large garden at home. The Conservatory’s gift shop also has some cheaper bulbs than in stores. I have added Minnesota Hardy bulbs and Asiatic Lilies to my home garden, and because I love making large “showy” boutiques, these beautiful flowers are a great addition.
Lastly, how does it feel to be the 2023 Como Park Volunteer of the Year? It was such a shock. My family told me we were going to a picnic and then surprised me. We had three generations present at the Party for the Parks. Once you retire, you do not expect to receive any awards; the recognition was such a treat and something I’ll never forget. Thank you.