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Be a docent at botanical gardens

NCINITAS — Registration for the Fall 2014 Docent Training Program at San Diego Botanic Garden is underway and will extend up to the first day of class Sept. 11. Eight classes, covering a wide variety of topics, will be held every other Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 11 through Dec. 18. All docent classes will take place in the San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive.

Registration for Docent in Training classes costs $50. To be eligible for the fall 2014 courses, individuals need to complete 10 hours of volunteer training at the garden. Contact Michelle Kinney at (760) 436-3036.  Ext. 206 or e-mail

What separates the garden’s docent training from others of its type is the 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.

“With the breadth and depth of plant and animal life here, the docents are the first ones to get inspired. Their enthusiasm is contagious — it spreads to everyone they meet,” said Docent Training Coordinator Linda Stewart, herself a docent and San Diego Master Gardener. “That helps us support the goals of the garden, to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature.”

No homework or testing is involved in the diverse courses which are conducted in the field on topics including botany and herbs, succulents, palms and cycads, California natives and firescape plantings, bamboo and subtropical fruits, the Mediterranean climate, and trees in the garden.

While most docents lead tour groups after completing their training, they are not required to do so. Many cite the 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.

“In addition, 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 said.