Volunteers cause Arboretum to bloom
Kris Krioske is not just your typical tour guide. His unique job description includes much more than driving Dallas Arboretum customers around in a golf cart.
“I like to sing to the clients that I am driving, and encourage them to join in. People love it,” says the eight-year veteran volunteer.
His favorite song to serenade patrons with is “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”, which makes sense since there were over 500,000 tulips, daffodils and hyacinths planted this past December to prepare for the Arboretum’s spring season.
On any given day, the Dallas Arboretum is blooming with over 100 types of spring flowers. Although the beauty of this botanical garden on Garland Road is obvious, what is less obvious is who is behind all of the scenery that makes this place so extraordinary.
It’s people like Krioske that make a trip to the Dallas Arboretum so unique. Not only is the beauty of the 66-acre garden striking, the volunteers who work there are truly committed to making it better and better with every season.
The Dallas Arboretum currently has 500 volunteers, 40 of whom work specifically in horticulture, the study of plant cultivation for human use. Thanks to the hard work of these individuals, the Arboretum doesn’t employ any of its work force, which saves the garden about $1.2 million dollars in labor costs every year. According to Olsen, the money saved can then be directed toward helping the Arboretum continue to grow and expand.
Parking has become a problem at the garden as its popularity has grown. However, a new parking garage opening in fall 2014 that will provide 1,200 additional spaces for visitors. In addition, it will be attached to an underground walkway to make it easier for sightseers to get to and from the Arboretum.
The enthusiasm of the volunteers is apparent from the very moment that visitors approach the garden. They are waiting to greet you and eagerly answer any questions that you may have. Many of them have returned as volunteers year after year, and hold a special connection to this floral sanctuary.
Volunteer Jerry Chandler says that he first fell in love with the 66-acre garden when his newborn grandson was photographed there shortly after leaving the hospital five years ago. He has been an active volunteer ever since.
“My favorite part about working here is the people,” he says. “They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t love it.”
The rapidly expanding arboretum features 19 different gardens, which accommodate over 950,000 visitors per year.
Volunteers can choose which area they would like to work, anywhere from leading information sessions to giving tour guides. Many of them also teach children’s programs at the Arboretum’s newly renovated Rory Meyer’s Children’s Garden. Ten year volunteer Sarah Hatfield has explored many of these options throughout her time at the Arboretum.
“I originally came here to work with the children,” she says, “and my work here has since evolved from there.”
Another volunteer, Al Olsen, took his passion for gardening to a new level 11 years ago when he first began volunteering at the Arboretum.
“I love how the community really supports the Arboretum, and how engaged our clients have become with it,” he says.
Since then, Olsen’s role at the garden has continued to grow. He is currently the Festival Chairman of the Dallas Blooms, the garden’s popular spring exhibit. The display features over 500,000 blooming spring flowers along with activities for people of all ages
Olsen’s job at the Arboretum is an important one; the Dallas Blooms display is the second most popular event of the year. Currently, the theme is “Birds of Paradise”. To prepare for the display, volunteers began stuffing bird shaped wire structures with peat moss in February.
Now, just a month later, the remarkable 13-foot tall birds are blooming with over 11,000 grasses and 22,000 viola flowers. All of this would not be possible if it weren’t for the volunteers.
“We quite simply would not operate without them,” says Olsen.
The Birds of Paradise exhibit has been very well received by Arboretum goers. Individuals, couples, and families with children of all ages explore the arboretum daily, marveling at everything that it has to offer.
“The birds are absolutely breathtaking,” says observer Samantha Scheer. “It’s amazing how they were able to make all of this from scratch.”
Interested in becoming a volunteer at the Dallas Arboretum? Applications are available online at http://www.dallasarboretum.org/contact/volunteer-contact. People of all ages are welcome.