First Day of Class

This coming Wednesday, I will be attending my first ever botany class, the first of ten classes that form the Master Gardener program at Chicago Botanic Garden. Assuming I pass the exams and don’t miss classes because I got snowed under by, well, snow, I will not be anything approaching a master gardener. But I will have some background, some tools, and the opportunity to develop. I will also begin training as a volunteer in the Public Information area, the group that answers questions from the public.

If you had told me as recently as a few years ago that I would consider such a program, I would’ve pushed back. I enjoyed working in the yard because I was outside, in the fresh air, moving around, but taking courses? Studying? That’s indoor stuff. I truly felt at that time that my classroom days were over.

Then I rejoined the Sierra Club a couple of years ago, and met people who knew a lot about native plants and the local terrain. I started taking note of the wildflowers I encountered during morning walks, photographing them and checking out the wildflower websites in order to identify them. I began encouraging the wildflowers that popped up in various parts of my yard: the trout lilies, trillium, and wood anemones that appeared in the shady side yard, the spring beauty that bloomed in an unlikely spot alongside my driveway. I sought out native plants that would attract bees and hummingbirds: fragrant sumac, cardinal flowers, bee balm, columbine. Eventually, I decided I wanted to learn more about landscaping, proper planting practices, various types of trees and shrubs. Yes, I could look up stuff online, but I sometimes found conflicting information or information that didn’t apply to my part of the country.

So, for the next couple of months, I will be spending one day a week at Chicago Botanic Garden. And even though it will be cold and possibly snowy, any day I get the chance to walk through the dwarf conifer garden is a good day.


About Kristine Smith

Kristine Smith is the author of the Jani Kilian series and a number of SF and fantasy short stories, and is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She worked as a pharmaceutical process development scientist for 26 years, but now writes full-time. She also writes supernatural thrillers under the name Alex Gordon. Check out her BVC bookshelf


First Day of Class — 5 Comments

    • I am looking forward to it. This is a new field of study for me–I took no life science courses in school. It was all chemistry/physics/math.

  1. Already counting on you to discern the Hairy from the Hoary in the Poccun sightings coming this Spring…kudos to your energy and curiosity.

    • I am looking forward to learning what to look for when it comes to identifying flowers. I know we’re probably going to fly through it in class, but I’ll have the manual.

  2. It sounds exciting! We’ve done “seat of our pants” restoration of native plants in our yard and creek ravine — always evolving. It’s very satisfying.