Thelma Jack, a keen gardener and horticulturist, is one of 40
volunteers (around eight per day) at West Dean Gardens. She has
been helping out for over nine years and her dedication is noted by
all those around her.
"Thelma's a star," comments Jan, a fellow volunteer; "whatever
the weather, she comes once a week and if for some reason she
misses her day, she arranges another time to come and help
Having trained as a teacher, studied horticulture and taught
rural science for many years, Thelma certainly has a lot to offer.
On a typical day, she arrives at 9.20am and rather than finishing
at midday like most morning volunteers, stays until 2.30pm when she
has a cup of tea with the gardens team before heading home.
The companionship and camaraderie of volunteering is clearly
very important to Thelma, who now lives alone. The team spirit
between the staff and volunteers makes her feel like they are one
big family. Even on her 80th birthday she couldn't stay away and
celebrated with her fellow volunteers and friends by having a
picnic in the gardens.
Being able to work within the original set of
Victorian glasshouses is a real motivator for Thelma. She was
keen to broaden her gardening experience and to learn about the
growing processes inside and out of the glasshouses. Nine years on,
she says she's in awe of the work undertaken by our head gardener,
Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, who are steadily bringing the 13
glasshouses back from dereliction - an ongoing endeavour, which you
can read more about here.
Thelma's love of gardening shines through in all she does and
says. She is still learning new techniques and methods under the
expert tutelage of Sarah and Jim, who willingly share their
lifetime of knowledge with all volunteers.
The result is a beautifully tended garden that continues to
delight and inspire its visitors - all year round.
Thelma enthuses that there is something special about each
season in West Dean Gardens, for example: "In autumn, the sunlight
on the 'hot border' shows off the colours and in spring there are
thousands of bulbs that push up through the soil, reminding me of
planting the snowdrop bulbs. Plus the light is truly magical - all
Thelma also maintains a garden at home which, she admits
sometimes gets neglected - 'it is definitely not up to West Dean
standards!' she says.
Find out how to volunteer at West Dean Gardens
(Article: Discover more about life as a garden
volunteer first published Discover more, West Dean
Header image: Gardens Team, circa 1990s