Volunteer Profile: Herb Stein
How long have you been a NYBG volunteer and what was the inspiration for becoming one?
I have been volunteering at NYBG for more than 25 years and have worked in many areas, including the Native Plant Garden, Perennial Garden, and the Nolen Greenhouses. I joined as a volunteer after seeing a mention of the NYBG Volunteer program in the brochure for an evening concert that my wife and I attended many years ago.
Did you have horticultural/gardening experience beforehand?
I used to work in the manufacturing industry so I do not have any formal training, but have definitely improved my skills as an amateur home gardener using the knowledge I have gained as a volunteer. I do admit I get some help in my home garden but still do some of the more detailed and skilled work myself to make sure that the plants are pruned with the proper techniques that I have learned through volunteering.
What is the most rewarding part of your work or a particular experience?
The most rewarding part of volunteering at the Nolen Greenhouses is watching the progress of the plants that I help the staff pot and care for. Seeing the plants growing from seedlings, getting potted up into larger pots, and finally blooming is always interesting. Looking back at the enormous amount of work we are able to accomplish is very rewarding and impressive.
What might surprise people about the work you do here?
The thing that might surprise people is how much effort goes into producing plants. It does not matter whether it is a viola or a special Japanese chrysanthemum—every plant receives expert care and the focus is on the quality as much as the quantity. Volunteering with the team of people who grow plants for the gardens and exhibitions requires a lot of dedication and hard work to produce the thousands of plants you see around the Garden.
Do you have a favorite plant/s in the Greenhouses?
I do not think you could say that I have a favorite plant as much as a favorite type of work that I really enjoy, which is the production of the thousands of violas and the hundreds of chrysanthemums that are grown each year. Looking at the plants, watching them grow, and seeing how many plants we have potted is gratifying. Even walking through the finished exhibitions looking at all of the flowers, I can take pride in my work that helped the staff grow such beautiful plants.
What is your favorite outdoor garden at NYBG?
I think that over the years one of my most favorite places that I have volunteered is in the Native Plant Garden. The plants are interesting, and there was a diverse set of tasks and challenges each time I came to the garden. What made working in the Native Plant Garden enjoyable was the staff I worked with, and even now it is the staff and what I learn from them that make volunteering educational and so much fun.
This article originally appeared as part of a series on responsible citizenry in the 2018–2019 issue of Garden News, NYBG’s seasonal newsletter. For further reading, view the issue online and discover a sampling of stories about our current efforts and activities that promote, engage, and support active and responsible citizenry on local, regional, and global levels.