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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Knowledge-Seeking Plant Lover

By Karen Krugman.

If you have ever attended a workshop offered by SDHS, there is a very good chance that you have met Kathryn Blankinship. Kathryn is a long-standing member of SDHS and is an original member of the Free Workshop Committee formed by Susi Torre-Bueno.

Sharing knowledge is in her blood. While her boys were in elementary and high school, Kathryn taught parent education courses for Pasadena City College and served for twelve years as an elected member of the San Gabriel Unified School District. Later, she taught sixth grade in Escondido. Before retiring, she also taught for San Diego County as a contract teacher.

When her sons attended college, Kathryn attended Whittier College of Law, where she received her law degree. She later earned an Alternate Dispute Resolution certificate from Pepperdine College of Law. She worked in the field of alternate dispute resolution doing training as well as arbitration and mediation until 2004.

Kathryn took her first formal gardening class at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in 1973. That started a chain of events that included her joining the California Rare Fruit Growers in 2005 "because I wanted to plant the best varieties of fruit trees for my micro climate." This led to her becoming a docent and volunteering at the San Diego Botanic Garden's Subtropical Fruit Garden. She is also a Master Gardener, and along the way, Kathryn joined the Camellia Society and has grown her collection of camellias to over thirty plants. She volunteers with each organization she is involved in, resulting in over 300 volunteer hours a year!

When asked if she had a favorite plant, Kathryn said, "No, I love each plant for its special characteristics and continue to refine my knowledge of how to best nurture each plant."

Her experience working with plants goes back to elementary school, when she received honorable mentions at the Los Angeles County Fair Flower Show when she was about ten years old. She loved bringing flowers to her teachers in elementary school, especially hydrangeas. The large flower heads of the hydrangeas drew her in and she still has a couple of them in her yard. "I love to propagate plants and I still have plants grown from cuttings of my mother's house plants."

When asked what kinds of plants she has in her garden, she responded, "I have about twenty fruit trees in the ground and a number more in pots. I also have about fifty feet of assorted berry plants. In addition to fruit trees and camellias, I grow quite a few members of the bromeliad family. I have had some of my potted plants for close to fifty years. I just drag them along wherever I go! Because I love to propagate plants, I grow about 300 plants each year for the SDBG and San Diego Master Gardener plant sales. I take cuttings, make divisions and grow a few from seed. Then I tuck plants all around the yard as they grow to be ready for plant sales." Look for Kathryn’s plants the next time you attend one of these events!

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