Gardeners with Heart: Demonstrating Teamwork and Leadership at Falkirk Cultural Center

Apr 20, 2020

Gardeners with Heart: Demonstrating Teamwork and Leadership at Falkirk Cultural Center

Apr 20, 2020
“Everybody should be involved in community service,” says Gail Mason, UC Master Gardener volunteer in Marin County. Gail shares her commitment to community impact and passion for helping people with friend and fellow UC Master Gardener volunteer, Jessica Wasserman. Over the past 12 years, Gail and Jessica have spearheaded the transformation of barren earth into seven distinct demonstration gardens located at the Falkirk Cultural Center in San Rafael. Starting with one garden each, the duo created a rich network of learning landscapes. 

A longtime elementary school teacher with a love of succulents, Jessica was attracted to the UC Master Gardener Program by a desire to share her interest in unusual plants and her experience in education. Jessica and a team of UC Master Gardener volunteers created an oasis of succulents with paths, benches, and educational signage. Jessica approaches every walk through the garden as an opportunity for a visitor to learn. As one volunteer observed, “Jessica is incredibly good at educating as she goes. Just working alongside her in the garden you learn a lot."  

An avid researcher, Gail designed the stunning Mediterranean garden to incorporate plants from each of the world's five Mediterranean climate regions. In addition, Gail's team-building skills and enthusiasm for land-based learning inspired other UC Master Gardener volunteers to help envision and create additional Falkirk Cultural Center gardens. “When you make something together, you have more fun!” says Gail.

In addition to the original Mediterranean and succulent gardens, the ever-evolving demonstration gardens currently include a California native plant garden; a fragrant bee garden; a habitat garden with an emphasis on pollinators and beneficial insects; a diversity garden demonstrating water-wise practices and a moon garden - a quiet refuge of grey and white foliage designed to reflect the light of the moon in the dark of night. Along the way, Gail and Jessica have combined their strengths and unique skills to develop the teaching gardens, and assembled teams of enthusiastic UC Master Gardener volunteers to continue to support the project's needs.  

Thanks to Gail and Jessica, the Falkirk Cultural Center demonstration gardens have become an interactive educational space where UC Master Gardeners conduct workshops and host educational events for the public. Using the seven gardens as an outdoor classroom, UC Master Gardener volunteers teach Marin residents about a wide variety of sustainable gardening practices.

Even though Gail and Jessica and their team have built seven demonstration gardens, they are not finished. Gail is currently designing an eighth garden at the Falkirk Cultural Center to demonstrate landscapes that help reduce the risks presented by wildfires. Jessica continues to educate new volunteers about succulent propagation and care – feeding a sense of wonder and curiosity that these volunteers will, in turn, share with Marin residents. Gail and Jessica's story of collaboration is further proof of Gail's sentiment -- that making something together IS more fun!

About Gardeners with Heart

During National Volunteer Week (April 19 – 25), the UC Master Gardener Program celebrates the contributions of its 6,000 incredible volunteers. The UC Master Gardener Program is excited to share stories of special volunteers Gardeners with Heart from across the state. Gardener's with Heart volunteers were nominated by their local county leadership for their creativity, strategic thinking, passion for the program's mission and commitment to program delivery. To nominate a Gardener with Heart in your program or county complete this online survey.

Gardeners with Heart will be celebrated throughout the year on social media, in blog posts, on our website, and in the 2019 annual report!

Thank you to UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County Co-Presidents Kathy Hunting and Rod Kerr for submitting Gail and Jessica for Gardeners with Heart recognition. Look out for more great stories of Gardeners with Heart throughout National Volunteer Week (April 19 – 25, 2020).