San Diego Botanic Garden offers docent training classes

Registration for the Spring 2015 Docent Training Program at San Diego Botanic Garden is under way and will extend up to the first day of class on Thursday, Jan. 29.

Eight classes covering diverse topics are held from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. every other Thursday, Jan. 29-May 7, in the gardens at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas.

What separates the SDBG docent training from others of its type is the enormous diversity of the garden. Covering 37 acres and encompassing more than 3,300 varieties of plants, the garden’s topography creates a variety of microclimates from a desert environment to a tropical rainforest.

No homework or testing is involved in the diverse courses, which are conducted in the field on topics such as Botany and Herbs, Succulents, Palms and Cycads, California Natives and Firescape Plantings, Bamboo and Subtropical Fruits, the Mediterranean Climate, Conservation, and Trees in the Garden. Classes are taught by experts in each field, many of them professionals and horticulturists.

Registration for Docent in Training classes is $50. To be eligible for the spring 2015 courses, interested people must complete 10 volunteer hours at SDBG, and contact Michelle Kinney at 760-436-3036 x206 or to begin.

“Docent classes explore the breadth and depth of plant and animal life here,” explains Docent Training Coordinator Linda Stewart, herself a docent and San Diego Master Gardener. “Docents get inspired by their classes, and their enthusiasm is contagious. That helps us support the goals of the Garden, to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature,” she adds.

While many docents lead tour groups after completing their training, they are not required to do so. They also cite the intrinsic value of their knowledge as one of the key gains from the classes and share that knowledge with visitors they meet while involved in garden beautification and organizing events.

“If you’re not sure what you’d like to do here, taking this training actually helps you define that and kind of find your own unique niche,” adds new docent Steve Chatelein. He completed the fall 2014 training and is active in several different capacities, including helping to orient first-time Garden visitors.

Friendship is also high on the list of benefits. “Docents bond with others of like interest in their training classes. Those friendships are pretty special and are part of what creates the feeling of a family here at the Botanic Garden,” Stewart explains. Chatelein agrees, and says, “Everyone in this family is awesome, and I really enjoy the people I see on a day-to-day basis.”