Catherine began volunteering to lead adult tours and youth programs for the UW Botanic Gardens in 2006 and in 2011, she received the Brian Mulligan volunteer of the year award.
More recently, she became employed part-time as a Tour Program Assistant, leading tours, training and coordinating volunteer guides, and contributing to the UW Botanic Gardens blogs. Adding to her long list of skills, Catherine also now helps with the adult education program, setting up private group tours, driving the tram and helping to lead youth and family programs.
Catherine and her family moved to the area in 1974 and she grew up on San Juan Island. After obtaining a B.A. in Greek Culture and History at Western Washington University in Bellingham, she moved to Seattle to enroll in a Horticulture program at Lake Washington Technical College, graduating in 2005 as a certified horticulturist. She now has her own business, focusing on long term garden care for clients.
“I love the variety of work I do at the UW Botanic Gardens, ” says Nelson enthusiastically, “I especially enjoy interacting with visitors and sharing the great wonders of the Arboretum with them–plants, botany and horticulture.” But, she adds, she also learns a great deal from visitors who come from many different states and countries around the world.
A friend of Catherine’s from the UW Botanic Gardens Education department enticed Catherine to volunteer. Although she was initially intimidated by the training, she instantly became excited about being a part of such a great Arboretum.
Catherine’s favorite place here is the grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum in the Pinetum.
“Its so quiet there, I feel as if I am in a natural cathedral encircled by giant towering trees,” and, she admits, “I take visitors there as often as possible to see the 100 foot tall trees that are really still just babies.”
When Nelson is not driving trams or sharing her wealth of botanic knowledge, she loves to read, watch movies or enjoy the outdoors camping, playing softball and having barbecues. She doesn’t have a favorite plant, but is smitten by conifers and loves the Ericaceae family, and she adores plants with large, showy flowers.