By Alyssa Ford Morel, Certified Master Gardener
After 17 years as a co-coordinator in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, Judy Funderburk is stepping back from that leadership role in favor of simply enjoying gardening in it. Serving as a leader of the garden is demanding and time consuming, and Judy says she wants to focus on the aspects of the garden she enjoys the most.“I’m stepping down but not out,” says Judy. “I’m looking forward to continuing to mentor new Master Gardeners and working side by side with fellow gardeners where we both learn and nurture plant/people relationships. Teaching from the garden excites me. Showing people the red buckeye in the spring, and the colors of the fothergilla in fall brings me joy.”
A Master Gardener since 1996, Judy started working in the library garden in 1997. The Glencarlyn garden had originally been created in the 1930s by a garden club, then was updated in the early 90s as an Eagle Scout project by Josh Davis, incorporating native plants, adding benches, and creating the outline of what are currently the herb beds. Judy and Glencarlynite Paul Nuhn, also a Master Gardener, worked together informally to keep the garden maintained.
In 1999, Judy was asked by the Glencarlyn Citizens Association to put together a Small Parks Grant proposal to Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation asking for funds to improve the garden area, which had fallen into disrepair. She worked with a group of neighbors to submit a proposal and received a grant that paid for signage, arches for the entryways, and other improvements. At about that time, Glencarlyn resident Sue Zajac donated funds for the gazebo in memory of her husband.
With all the improvements and expansion of the garden, Judy and Paul were stretched trying to maintain it, even with help from neighbors. They went through a process of application and documentation to become an official demonstration garden, being approved by Virginia Cooperative Extension in 2003 and by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia in 2004. In 2013, Judy and Paul were joined by Alyssa Ford Morel as a third co-coordinator. Each week during the growing season, they lead a group of Master Gardeners to maintain the garden, supported by a group of community volunteers who each take responsibility for watering a section of the garden through the heat of the summer.
The garden hosts two fund-raising events each year, a plant sale in May, and AutumnFest in September. Proceeds from the events pay for the upkeep of the garden. The garden also hosts school groups from Campbell and Carlin Springs Elementary schools, Kenmore Middle School, and the Carlin Hall Creative Preschool.
With so much going on in the garden, Judy has racked up more than 6,000 volunteer hours over the years, and was recognized last year with the Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award.
Health challenges that she and J.Vic Funderburk, her husband of more than 50 years, faced recently, plus turning 75 this past summer, have made her think about priorities and what brings the most joy.
“The aging body complains more often,” she says with a chuckle. “But the amount of time I have had to spend behind the computer is what really makes me grumpy!”
“We’ve had to recruit two people to replace Judy,” said Paul Nuhn. Master Gardeners Elaine Mills and Wendy Mills (not related to each other) have agreed to join Paul and Alyssa as new co-coordinators. “Elaine and Wendy have both spent many hours volunteering in the garden and bring extensive experience and fresh ideas to our coordinating team.”
Judy will continue working with the children from the Carlin Hall preschool and will be involved in some of the herbal aspects of AutumnFest, including drying the herbs for AutumnFest’s sachet making. She is also updating labels in the garden before handing ongoing maintenance off to the new leadership team.
“I’ve always seen the garden as a place of rest and beauty that is restorative,” said Judy. “I’m looking forward to continuing the relationships I’ve built with people in the garden and enjoying the energy of the earth and the plants.”