Monica Hamill: Finding Community in Gardening
Monica Hamill has been volunteering with the Ambler Arboretum for three years.
James F. Duffy

Throughout her life, Ambler Arboretum volunteer Monica Hamill has surrounded herself with plants and flowers and the people that love them.

"My father was a wonderful gardener. I grew up truly appreciating nature and flowers and the outdoors," said Hamill, an Upper Dublin resident who has been volunteering with the Ambler Arboretum for three years. "I've always enjoyed and been involved in gardening but I think I've improved a lot since I'm been at the Arboretum. I have several close friends who are master gardeners, who also provide a great deal of inspiration."

Hamill said she often would bring friends and neighbors over to the Ambler Arboretum "to show them what a treasure we have right in our neighborhood."

"Everyone always enjoyed accompanying me on those visits and I enjoyed introducing them to it. I think the Arboretum is a wonderful gem in our region," she said. "There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for the Arboretum post-tornado."

Hamill said people should take the opportunity to visit the Arboretum gardens and consider volunteering. After retiring from a fulfilling career as an early intervention service coordinator in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, primarily working with children with disabilities, Hamill felt she finally had the time to provide hands-on support to the Arboretum.

"I had always wanted to volunteer in the Ambler Arboretum — I've lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. Because of work, however, I was never able to do that," said Hamill. "I first became directly involved with the Arboretum in 2019 — I did a little public relations work for the summer concert series at that time, manning an Ambler Arboretum table. I also have a passion for photography, which is a great compliment to gardening, so I've been occasionally posting photos to the Arboretum's Instagram page."

Making the transition to working within the gardens, Hamill said, was the obvious next step.

"On my first day volunteering, I felt so incredibly welcomed. Everyone I've met on campus is very kind — I feel so lucky to have this place within walking distance," she said. "As a volunteer, I've been learning a lot. I really feel like my gardening skills have been greatly enhanced because of what I've been learning from (Arboretum Director) Kathy Salisbury, Michelle Lapp and the rest of the Arboretum staff — I feel much more confident in my gardening skills."

Hamill is additionally assisting with the Temple Ambler in Bloom committee.

Ambler in Bloom is the Ambler Arboretum's Annual Garden Party Fundraiser. This year, the Arboretum will be celebrating on Saturday, September 10, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. with a "There's No Place Like Ambler!" theme. Explore the gardens, enjoy a cocktail, eat some tasty food, participate in our raffle, listen to live music and share our stories. Register for the event online.

Hamill said she is personally in the process of "reinventing her home gardens," after the tornado on September 1, 2021, severely damaged her neighborhood.

"I'm working on establishing a different kind of landscape — we lost of a lot of trees and shrubs. Helping the Arboretum recover after the tornado means I'm helping myself recover too," said Hamill, who volunteers on campus two times a week. "We went through the same process at the same time — assessing the damage, determining what could be saved and what couldn't, planning the future of our property and garden spaces. I have an understanding of what the Arboretum went through to some extent."

There are a lot of opportunities, Hamill said, "for the community to develop partnerships with the Arboretum."

"For others thinking about volunteering, I would say come on out, take a look. Reach out and take the opportunity. I think all of the people that I work with at the Arboretum are incredibly talented and gifted," she said. "I have developed some wonderful new friendships and I'm getting a lot of exercise. At the same time, I find being out in nature very meditative and soothing. I've also met a lot of really great Temple students working with them in the Arboretum — they are all very bright and interesting and willing to share their knowledge."

Volunteer with Ambler Arboretum

Ambler Arboretum volunteers are invited to drop in on Tuesdays or sign up for a weekly shift. The energy and creativity of volunteers provide essential support to our Ambler Arboretum gardens and programs.

Drop in on Tuesdays, 1 to 3 p.m.

The Arboretum welcomes volunteers with an interest in plants to help Horticulture staff maintain the Arboretum's gardens. Learn more about volunteering.