Public gardens like those at the Oklahoma City Zoo rely on a steady stream of volunteers to supplement regular garden staff and anyone from retired seniors interested in gardening to horticulture enthusiasts are invited to join the Zoo's botanic team any time of year. I recently visited the Oklahoma State University County Extension Office to speak with a local Master Gardener group regarding the Zoo's diverse volunteer opportunities, including the planting of tulip bulbs for our annual Zoo Blooms festival. The OSU County Extension Office offers a community service training program for Master Gardeners volunteers and provides horticulture-related work tasks and educational opportunities.
The volunteer presentation sparked the curiosity and excitement within the group, with many seasoned mentors making a commitment to assist the Zoo in planting tulip bulbs. In addition to recruiting new volunteers, the further discussion resulted in a partnership with the Oklahoma County Master Gardeners on a program that will provide skilled horticultural volunteers and make available conservation-related, horticulture educational programs to Zoo guests throughout the garden season.
As part of this partnership, the Master Gardener volunteers will work in a variety of Zoo gardens weekly from December through August each year, including a large portion of our butterfly and pollinator habitat. The Master Gardeners will also collaborate with the Zoo’s horticulture staff on a series of education classes for Zoo guests from May through September. Each month a new class will present a gardening class with emphasis on conservation and plants native to Oklahoma.
Next time you see the Zoo’s horticulture team working alongside the Oklahoma Master Gardener volunteers, stop and give them a shout of praise and thank them for their service to the community! Their dedicated involvement helps to bring the Zoo’s mission to life and make a lasting impact on the Zoo’s botanical garden.
-Lance Swearengin, Horticultural Curator