Meet Abbe Cullen!
The CSJ value of caring for the earth is ‘deeply planted’ at Bethany Hill Place, where gardening is a much loved pastime, a therapeutic effort, a means to providing affordable healthy food, and a metaphor for our growth as individuals and as a community. I chatted with Abbe Cullen, Bethany Hill Place’s new Assistant Program Director. One of Abbe’s interesting personal attributes that came up during her interview is that she is a master gardener!
TA: How and why did you become a master gardener?
AC: I love nature inside and out and wanted to learn more about it. When I was living in Connecticut I had a large backyard. The yard was like a blank slate, and I took the course to understand what was in it and what I could do with it. I wanted to educate myself about plants and how to get a “green thumb. I took the Master Gardening course at the UCONN Torrington Extension Program and it taught me about soil quality, micro climates, the species of plants, beneficial and not-so-beneficial bugs and pests, and about invasive plants. Ugh. I learned the hard way about invasives! The course also required that we give back to the community through internship projects. Mine was to enhance and beautify the entrance to a residential community; we cleaned out and started several new gardens. It was a great experience for me.
TA: Why do you think gardening is so important – and why at Bethany Hill?
AC: Gardening is very therapeutic. I love it for the peace and tranquility of watching things grow, and learning how and where plants thrive best within the yard. Gardening is easy and at the same time its hard work and yet nature has its way of making things happen with you or without you! (laughs) I was really drawn to Bethany Hill because it has a community garden. Residents here can grow their own food and see firsthand the fruits of their labor. I wanted to be able to share in all of the benefits I get out of planting and nurturing plants. I believe we can be the tenders of the earth, that this is borrowed space, and to do what I can do for the environment on my “watch.”
TA: What do you hope for this year’s garden at BHP?
AC: I just love to play in the dirt. For me its more about getting as many people involved and excited about planting and watching it grow, especially the kids. There’s such gratitude in sharing a harvest and watching teamwork evolve through gardening. I also really enjoy cottage gardening and it might be nice to do some ‘companion’ planting mixing flowers and vegetables. I’ve never grown asparagus and would like to give that a try if anyone’s interested.
TA: Final question – Flowers or Vegetables?
AC: Flowers – I can’t help it! I love them. My home and office would look like a nursery if I could!
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