Mt Cuba Center
Mt Cuba Center
Back to News Updates – December 8, 2020


Botany for Gardeners

Mt. Cuba Center’s Ecological Gardening Certificate Program offers learning at a higher level — for anyone from the backyard gardener to the professional horticulturist. This winter, take one of our certificate courses, Botany for Gardeners, to expand your gardening knowledge. This eight-hour course provides information on the growth and development of plants. Students will also explore symbiotic relationships and learn basic plant identification skills. This class is an ideal starting point for the Certificate program, or just to build foundational information for successful gardening.

Read on to learn about this botany class to pursue your passion or enhance your profession. Then join instructor Michele Christiano for Botany for Gardeners on January 14, 21, 28 and February 4.

Get up close and personal with plants


Mt. Cuba Center: You have a degree in biology and Certificate of Merit in Ornamental Plants from Longwood Gardens. When did you realize that you wanted to become a biologist and study plants?

Michele Christiano: While in college I worked at J. Franklin Styer Nurseries (now terrain at Styers). At first, I thought of it as a college job where I was able to work outside and learn a bit about plants. All my classes were geared toward animal biology as I was thinking about going to veterinary school at the time. After working at Styers for several seasons and taking certificate classes at Longwood I realized I love working with plants, particularly container garden design.

Mt. Cuba Center: Why do you think it’s important for a gardener to have at least a basic understanding of botany?

Michele Christiano: Every gardener should have a basic knowledge of botany to increase awareness of what is happening in their garden. The course encompasses many aspects of botany that will be incredibly useful to gardeners. Learning plant nomenclature, how and why a plant is named, can make choosing plants at the nursery a little easier. And knowing the basics of how a plant grows may help troubleshoot problems in the garden. My goal is for botany students to leave with a little more practical knowledge about the how and why of gardening.

Mt. Cuba Center: This class takes place over four classes in four weeks, can you tell us what makes each week unique?

Michele Christiano: Each week we will talk about a different topic of botany. The class is broken down in digestible chunks of information in areas such as nomenclature, plant structure, photosynthesis and respiration. The class is unique because botany can often be laden with technical terms and maybe even seem a bit boring. (Crazy, I know!) While this class does contain information and terms that are in botany courses everywhere, I will try to talk about the topics from a gardening perspective giving the student more knowledge about what the plants are doing in their garden rather than throwing terms at them without context.

Mt. Cuba Center: What will surprise students in this course?

Michele Christiano: My hope is that students will be surprised with how much information they receive from the class and how easily they can apply it while gardening. I am a gardener, but I also am fascinated to learn about how and why things in nature and the natural world work. I hope to convey this to the students and excite them with how much they learn.

Mt. Cuba Center: Why is winter a great time to be taking a course about gardening?

Michele Christiano: Yes, it is very easy to forget about plants in January, but I have found that all gardeners love to think about the garden no matter the season. This is the perfect time for botany because it gives the student a chance to continue to think about the garden while it is asleep. From personal experience, I have found that taking classes and workshops in the winter inspires me to think more about the garden and become inspired as winter can be sometimes unmotivating for a gardener.

About Michele Christiano:
Michele Christiano is currently a gardener at a private estate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from West Chester University and a Certificate of Merit in Ornamental Plants at Longwood Gardens. She has worked in public gardens for most of her career, including Winterthur and Longwood Gardens.

Botany for Gardeners
Four Thursdays from January 14 to February 4, 10 am-12 pm
Explore and Engage Members receive 10% off this class.
Space is limited. Register today!

Register Here

Members Register Here