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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: A Truly Passionate Plant Addict!

Terry Chamberlin at the 2017 San Diego County Fair Garden Exhibit awards ceremony.

By Karen Krugman.

Terry Chamberlin is a native Californian whose life has always encompassed nature. Born on a military base just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, California, Terry spent her youth in Lakeside, then Oceanside.

One of her earliest memories is when she was five: “I remember visiting the flowers in my mom’s beautiful flower garden each morning and making the snapdragons 'talk'. My dad grew fruits and veggies and I recall eating strawberries just as they turned red.”

As a young girl, Terry would ride her bike around their Oceanside neighborhood checking out neighbors’ gardens. “I remember a neighbor’s massive Southern magnolia tree which started my love for the brilliant white fragrant flowers and leathery leaves with velvety soft undersides.”

In 2010, she and her husband Jack purchased their home in a small, quiet Lakeside neighborhood surrounded by the Lakeside Linkage Preserve, which is a native plant community featuring chaparral and coastal sage scrub plants. Here, Terry gets to live out her passion and apply the knowledge that she garnered in the late 1980s from an ornamental horticulture program at Cuyamaca College under the direction of Brad Monroe.

"The house came with four mature trees and not much else, so I went a bit crazy planting trees," Terry reports. (Might she have been remembering that lovely magnolia tree of her youth?) Shortly after moving in, she visited a local nursery and found a small cypress-like tree which had a sign declaring it was 'rare'. “That was enough for me to take home my first Cuyamaca cypress (Hesperocyparis stephensonii), which is now over twenty feet tall and is home to many generations of birds.

Besides my tree affliction, my Lakeside garden was mostly roses and flowering perennials which I began changing over to California natives and other plants that can endure hot, dry conditions. The dry side of my driveway went from growing weeds to becoming my 'Cat-Suc' garden featuring cacti and succulents inspired by my experience with the Horticultural Society. Our secondary back yard has areas of full sun to partial shade and has become the beginnings of my California native plant garden."

When not enjoying the sensory pleasures of the garden, Terry works hard to help people live longer, healthier lives. Backed by a degree in clinical psychology from SDSU, she is currently the director of clinical trial operations for a small biopharmaceutical company investigating the safety and effectiveness of vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine) in destroying cancer cells. She is currently overseeing trials in advanced ovarian cancer, solid tumors, and a type of blood cancer.

Terry joined SDHS in October, 2016. Seeking people like herself who are ”truly passionate plant addicts,” she found camaraderie amongst the members she has met. I had the pleasure of working with Terry last year on the SDHS garden for the San Diego County Fair. Under her leadership, the team garnered over $8,000 and ten awards for SDHS. I can’t wait to see what she has planned for this year. Meet Terry at the June 11 SDHS Night at the Fair.

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