Rock garden, private garden, Western Massachusetts, photo by Nate McCullin

Last week I left work for a few days on an annual mini-sabbatical that always serves as a true inspiration. Each year, I feel this pull to find stimulus from other sources, search out new knowledge from others, and return to share it. This experience adds to the melting pot of me, gets the creative juices flowing, and pushes the work further. For most, this is known as professional development, and can often lead you to unexpected journeys in our work. Inspiration isn’t always linear. For those who work with the land, we often get more from a hike in the woods than a lecture in a classroom! 

My journey sent me west to the Berkshires, northwest Connecticut and eastern New York, where I accompanied my partner on a series of private garden tours. The trip provided the privilege of experiencing some of the most spectacular gardens I have ever seen. The tour format allowed for interaction with 50 other professionals in the field of horticulture.

Historic homes patios led to picture perfect vegetable gardens which spilled down grassy hills past wildflower meadows that raced down to the forest’s edge. Native woodlands thrived in the shade, albeit protected by nearly invisible deer fences encompassing acres of land to ensure it remained pristine. Colors, textures, plant combinations, sculpture, water features, art and unexpected surprises were all to be found.

Private garden, with stone and bone, photo by Nate McCullin

The low hum of Latin was pervasive both days, as everyone wandered in wonder on each property with camera and hand lens dangling around the neck. Trade secrets are shared with joy amongst this group and  future collaborations are plotted out. It will take a few weeks to fully process it all, but I have a full reserve of new ideas, concepts, knowledge…and whatever else will fit in my head.

Professional development is key to our work as stewards of the land. Our work is dynamic, ever-changing in new environments, and a constant learning process. We take pride in learning and collaborating with others. You can do this too, by taking classes with The Native Plant Trust, Ecological Landscape Alliance, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, and so many others. These organizations often offer education to the general public. I am ready to create and implement here in Westport and bring the best of these new experiences and what’s current to the Westport Land Conservation Trust!

The author, soaking up inspiration