Monday, October 3, 2011

Michael Dirr at The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Blackrock Farm is a great place to work for a lot of reasons, but one that sticks out for me this week is the field trips.  As long as you’re a lover of learning and enthusiastic about the subject and destination of the trip, Helene makes sure to get you on board.  Last Wednesday six members of Blackrock woke up early and drove to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to attend a “walk and talk” lecture of sorts by tree and shrub rock star Michael Dirr.  You can find more information on him here.  For almost four hours we had the honor of walking the grounds of the CMBG with him, learning what makes certain specimens work in the landscape, what makes them remarkable, or simply just the history of their species.  If you’re a woody plant fanatic Michael Dirr is a must see and a must read.  
We got home to Kennebunkport at around five o’clock, but the day really flew by despite its length. 
It’s a lot of fun to get out there and break up the workweek with a trip like this, but I believe (and I think Helene does too) that part of what allows a little nursery like ours survive is the enthusiasm of the employees.  Grinding out weeks of maintenance and installations can really take the spirit out of you, but getaways like this recharge us and help us to remember why we stick with this work when we’re tired and sometimes, I’ll admit, bored. 
There was nothing boring about Michael Dirr.  His knowledge was vast, but he was never boring as we walked with him and a few of the curators of the Botanical Gardens.  He does not talk at you, but with you, and demands interaction and participation.  He constantly refers to ‘the quiz’ that will be administered at the end of the walk, but with good humor.  He encourages questions and never seems to be stumped by one.  Put simply, I was amazed; I didn’t say much, as I was way out of my league, but as we walked I often reflected on the value of seeing and talking with such a knowledgeable member of our field. 
On Sunday afternoon I got a frantic call from Helene, and through her excitement she told me Michael Dirr had come by Blackrock to visit the nursery and walk around a bit.  I’ll make sure she posts about it, so I won’t go into details, but his visit marks what is probably the most important person in the plant industry ever to walk our modest grounds.  More to come from Helene.