Volunteer Reading Group: Community and Connection

Wisconsin Native Plant Garden in bloom

Wisconsin Native Plant Garden in bloom

What happens when eager, knowledgeable volunteers from different organizations are cooped up all winter and can’t work in the dirt? Book lovers coordinate a garden reading group series! Staff from several local programs teamed up to build on Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ ongoing garden book club and invited volunteers from our institutions as well as Allen Centennial Garden and Lakeshore Nature Preserve.

After icebreakers, the group talked about the following books over three sessions:

  • The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden, edited by Thomas Cooper
  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, by Florence Williams
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, by Peter Wohlleben

We also provided links to resources and information about each author. During our conversations, volunteers also shared stories of travel adventures and their favorite plants to grow. The sessions were well attended in person during the winter, and interest continued when we retooled and hosted an online session in April because of COVID-19.

We will continue our reading group collaboration in July with the book Buzz Sting Bite: Why We Need Insects, by Anne Sverdup. And in October, we will read Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart, by Carol Wall.

We are currently discussing the books we will read next winter. If you are an Arboretum volunteer, please feel free to join us! For more information, email Amy O’Shea.

—Marian Farrior, restoration work party manager at UW Arboretum, Karen Dunn, librarian at Steenbock Library, and Amy O’Shea, horticultural librarian at Olbrich Botanical Gardens