There are times when being alone in the garden is sublime. Just after dawn on a summer day, coffee in hand and birdsong in the air, sitting alone on a garden bench is to be as close to paradise as anyone could wish. In fact, the word paradise comes from an Iranian word that the Greeks modified into “paradeisos,” meaning “enclosed park.” But most of the time gardeners are a gregarious lot, as witnessed by the number of garden clubs and groups that exist in Maine. If you’d like to share your gardening skills and knowledge with others or are a neophyte wanting to learn more, there are many organizations that would welcome your participation. Now, while snow still blankets the ground, is a good time to think about ways to expand your gardening circle once warmer weather has arrived.

Some organizations support gardens and gardening initiatives in your community. If you’re the organizing type,  you might want to learn more about America in Bloom, a nonprofit  that promotes beautification projects by encouraging the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental enhancements. Founded in 2001, AIB is modeled after successful programs around the world, particularly in Europe and Canada. I’m always fascinated by the videos the group provides that show the transforming plantings and parks that are created by people and groups of all ages within its participating towns. The framework for AIB is a nationwide competition in which towns, city neighborhoods or college campuses are judged in six areas — floral displays, landscaped areas, urban forestry, environmental efforts, heritage preservation, and overall impression — by a visiting team of judges. It doesn’t really seem to matter whether your town wins this competition; the visible improvements in the civic surroundings and bonding between community group volunteers are reward enough, in my opinion. 

If you feel you’d like to pass your love of growing on to young gardeners, the Maine School Garden Network would welcome your input. The nonprofit helps new programs find start-up information and connections they need to become viable and existing programs and to find the support they need to thrive. If you believe in the importance of teaching children to garden, and the value of adding a gardening curriculum to schools, you can volunteer to be a local resource for teachers or otherwise get involved in the group’s work by contacting them at info@msgn.org.



Not all gardening organizations require active participation, but your membership fees help them in their continuing efforts. Becoming a member of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, for example, costs just $55 a year ($25 students) and in return gives you free admission to the Gardens for one adult, one guest pass and — a real bonus — free admission and/or discounts at approximately 300 gardens across the U.S. and Canada through the American Horticultural Society reciprocal benefits program. There are also member-exclusive events and programs at the Gardens and members’ discounts on events and programs, as well as The Botanical Thymes e-newsletter. If you’d like a more active role at CMBG, there are always new volunteer positions opening, including those as a youth education steward or helping with special programs for youth and families. To stay abreast of volunteer opportunities, contact Jo Gammans at jgammans@mainegardens.org.

The above-mentioned American Horticultural Society, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2022, offers, for a $35 annual membership fee, excellent gardening information through its The American Gardener magazine, free entry to 300 public gardens and arboreta and, through its tours, access to private gardens rarely open to the public, along with major sights in Japan, Scotland, Italy, Argentina and New Zealand. For over 50 years AHS has sponsored and coordinated a seed exchange among its members so that gardeners throughout the United States have an opportunity to try growing a wide variety of new and heirloom plants.

Last, but not least, membership in Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, best known as MOFGA, supports and puts you in touch with other members of the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country, formed in 1971. Many of MOFGA’s services and benefits are available to anyone, but if you join, for your $40 membership you receive free admission to the Common Ground Fair, held every year on the third weekend after Labor Day. For a family membership of $60, the whole family gets in for free. Every three months, members receive an issue of MOFGA’s award-winning newspaper, full of farming and gardening news and information; opinion pieces; book reviews; directories of local, organic food producers and more. Members also receive regular updates about educational programs, conferences, workshops and social events at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity and around the state. If you want to do more and volunteer, opportunities range from helping to set the programming and policy agendas for the association to putting in a workday in the Maine Heritage Orchard or pulling weeds from the perennial beds. For more information on volunteering, e-mail alibby@mofga.org.