Clip, dig, and laugh

Tom Brinda

Tom Brinda, VMFA horticulturist

As a veteran docent of twelve years, I thought no experience at VMFA could rival time spent in the galleries. One of my greatest joys is researching and learning about the art and conversing about it with visitors.

This July I was pleasantly surprised to find just how enjoyable volunteering in the sculpture garden could be. On my first day I met a good friend, Tina and Tom Brinda,  VMFA horticulturist, at 9:00 am at the Captain Nemo sculpture. Our first task was to trim the artemisia on the slope that leads up the water staircase to the top of the parking garage. I took this as a good omen since Venus and Cupid by Artemisia Gentileschi is one of my favorite pieces in the European collection.  Tom gave us careful instructions, but I still felt as nervous as a hairdresser doing her first cut.  Luckily Tom is a gentle coach as well as teacher, and I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to do any irreparable damage. I relaxed and enjoyed the breeze, the tickle of the herb on my legs and its delicious fresh scent, and time flew.

When the sun got too hot (it was one of those days when the temperature reached 95 by 10:00 a.m.), we moved to the cherry laurel in front of the 1936 façade. Tom showed us how to layer back the hedge on three levels. Soon I felt like an expert pruner. Tom shared information about the plantings while Tina and I laughed and talked about our families. We were so determined to finish our half of the hedge we didn’t want to take a break, and before we knew it a satisfying and peaceful morning at the museum was over, and the hedge looked great!

Interested in learning more about horticulture, the VMFA garden and a wonderful volunteer opportunity? Please plan to attend  a Sculpture Garden Volunteer Recruitment Event Friday, September 21st from 10:00 to 11:00 am. We’ll meet Tom, tour the garden and adjourn to Best Cafe for lemonade.

Mary Ann Peppiatt