Growing Green Thumbs: Botany Club provides relaxing reprieve, connection with nature


Taking time to engage with the natural world is considered by many to be important, especially for a college student with a strenuous schedule. It’s because of this that the College of William and Mary’s Botany Club aims to provide students with the space to learn and grow both figuratively and literally. 

The club works to provide a relaxing space for students to hone their gardening skills and grow their botanical knowledge, while taking a break from their ever-present schoolwork. As a military child, Botany Club Secretary Cassandra Hanson ’26 explained that while she has had many changes throughout their life, gardening has remained a grounding activity.

“I’m a very big plant person,” Hanson said. I garden at home with my dad, we’ve gardened since I was a kid, we’ve had gardens everywhere we’ve moved. That’s been a pretty consistent thing that we do and a way to have some kind of consistency in the unstable moving situation.”

The club offers new experiences for new members, like AJ Bucy ‘27, while also accommodating students who are experienced gardeners.

Before joining Botany Club, I actually was not good at taking care of plants,” Bucy said. I wanted to get into [botany] in college because I really like being surrounded by plants and nature.”

Many people can be intimidated by gardening due to a self-proclaimed lack of a “green thumb.” Just like anything, however, caring for plants takes practice, which Bucy shared is not as difficult as some may think. 

“Really, water them enough; I feel like people think that they are, but they’re not. So I think that’s very important. And then providing them with sunlight. Plants are really easy to care for if you do those two things,” Bucy said. 

Club meetings help inexperienced members grow familiar with skills like proper watering, propagating and replanting. However, perhaps one of the most alluring prospects for new members is the club’s authorized access and frequent usage of the Integrated Science Center greenhouse, which is sometimes the reason students start attending the meetings. 

Botany Club Treasurer Chris Tillotson ’26 was already familiar with gardening at home, where he and his family grow vegetables and herbs. It was on a Green and Gold Day that he first caught sight of the greenhouse and was given a tour of it by a professor. 

“That’s when I decided I had to find my way back there at some point when I actually came to school,” Tillotson said.

While the greenhouse reels in new members, the club strives to keep its attendees returning with varied and interesting botany-themed events.

“The scavenger hunt we did was by far one of my favorite [events],” Hanson said. “It was a really creative one for us, and I think it was really engaging for everyone because it was also kind of a competition, which I think everyone loves.”

The club is led by co-presidents Jacqueline Zimmerman ’24 and Celeste Phillips ’24, who both have an extensive knowledge of plants which is shared through events like the scavenger hunt and informational nature walks. 

“We do nature walks where we just go for a walk around campus and look at the local nature. I know Jacqui is really well-versed in what grows locally,” Tillotson said.

Perhaps the club activity most visible to the campus community is the end-of-semester plant sale, in which the organization sells some of the plants they have spent the semester propagating in greenhouse and garden meetings. These sales raise funds that allow the club to provide materials and host future events without charging members dues. Tillotson said this lack of fees helps to keep the club fun and engaging while also being relaxing and low-commitment, as Botany Club seeks to remain a sanctuary for students involved in other clubs that have grown increasingly involved and taxing. 

I think Botany club is a great space to relax and kind of get away from the hectic school life or whatever’s going on in my life, and just focus on relaxing and enjoying yourself,” Tillotson said. “I think one of the strengths of Botany Club is that it’s more low-key. So you aren’t required to do a lot. I see a lot of other clubs around me and they try to do too much. It’s a burden on exec and on the members who really just want to show up and have fun with things. And as long as we maintain that core part, I think we’re fine. I don’t think there’s much that needs to change.”

This important aspect is recognized and appreciated by others in the Botany Club as a welcome change of pace.

 “It’s a very comfortable, come-and-go-as-you-please type of club, which I think is really relaxing and important while being here, because it doesn’t put stress on you,” Bucy said. “You can just go and have fun for the day and be around plants.”

Many students are very aware that adequate relaxation time is important but also struggle to step away from their schoolwork. But this club, which meets on Sundays at 2:00 p.m. in the ISC 1 lobby, seeks to provide their members with a much needed break. 

“It’s something to look forward to. It also gives me a designated time to take a break,” Hanson said. “It’s really just for people who are looking for a break and just want to enjoy some plants, and that’s about it. It’s not much more than that, and I don’t think it needs to be.”

Bucy reflected on how Botany Club also provides students with a much needed reprieve from screen time and the opportunity to connect with nature. 

“Being at school can be hard and stressful, so being away from technology and sometimes mass groups of people is nice when you’re in Botany Club, because you can really just focus on nothing but the plants,” Bucy said. 

In the end, Bucy emphasized that Botany Club hopes to share a connection and love for the natural world with new members regardless of their prior experiences with gardening. 

“I really think you should give it a try,” said Bucy. “If you’re not sure if you’re going to like it, come to the events anyway, because you never know unless you try it. And that’s with every club, but especially with botany, because it’s something that you can learn from for the future.”


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