One year of volunteering in the Gardens at Turtle Bay

So, Facebook reminded me that February (2/20/17, to be exact), marked the one year anniversary of my first day of volunteering at Turtle Bay’s gardens & greenhouse! My great friend of almost 35 years, Sharon, and I had decided to leap into the volunteer world after a year of “retirement” and agreed that Turtle Bay would be ideal — especially in the nursery. We excitedly attended a volunteer information/recruitment meeting, then later reported for an orientation and interview with Lisa Endicott in the Nursery offices. (We later learned that Lisa is the Horticulture Manager, and here a year later, I have come to learn that she knows the Latin name for every plant, instantaneously. Without fail. She is amazing!)

Hilary and Sharon
Hilary and Sharon

Anyway, Sharon and I officially reported for duty on 2/20/16. We signed in excitedly in the gardens’ little office, selected our gloves (provided by the nursery) and headed to the greenhouse where we were greeted by Lynne Klocke (world’s best mentor and most patient person EVER). We were agog over the seedlings & plants in every stage of growth in the greenhouse. Lynne quickly put us to work. Our first assignment was… propagation! (Sharon & I looked at each other in astonishment and wonder and, yes… a little fear. What the heck?!) We learned that everything in the Turtle Bay Nursery & Gardens either comes from seeds, or through propagation (Webster’s definition: the breeding of specimens of a plant by root cuttings from the parent stock). No plants in Turtle Bay’s nursery or gardens are store bought. They’re all from seeds or via propagation; they’re drought-resistant, and California natives. We were amazed and impressed!

After a quick lesson on how to do it, Sharon & I went to work propagating a pile of Mexican Bush Sage cuttings and propagated away until all our little cuttings were done and placed in the perlite soil, per instructions. When we were done with that assignment (smiling and quite pleased with ourselves), Lynne loaded us up with a few flats of plants (16 plants per flat) ready to be transplanted into 1 gallon pots, and sent us outside to the table under the canopy covered with a mountain of the most beautiful soil ever, where we transplanted our hearts out for a couple more hours ’til we signed out that afternoon, tired and happy and looking forward to the following week.

Hilary in the gardensHere it is, a year later… and I hope those little propagated cuttings worked, grew to be transplanted into gallon pots that were purchased at the Spring or Fall Plant Sales, and are thriving at happy new homes… maybe even at your home!

More adventures and learning experiences to follow!


Hilary Gorrie

Turtle Bay Volunteer

Turtles Teach: Springtime Science!

The weather is warming up, the sun is starting to shine (sometimes) and flowers are starting to bloom! All of this makes a wonderful combination to do some science! In this project we’re going to create rainbow flowers.

White flowers Supplies

What you’ll need:

  • white flowers, like carnations
  • small jars
  • water
  • food coloring
  • paring knife or scissors
  • tape
  • adult assistance or supervision

Step One: Trim the Stems

Trim the stemsCut the stems of the flowers so they are 10-12 inches long. (Have an adult help!) Using a sharp knife carefully cut a 6 inch slit through the bottom of the stem. Remove any large leaves. Be sure to keep the cut edges moist since exposure to oxygen will make the flowers wilt at a faster rate.

Step Two: Add Dye

DyeFill your jars with water and add between 10-20 drops of food color (or more depending on your preference). Place each separate stem end into a cup of colored water. Prop up the flowers so they don’t fall over. We had some fancy mason jar covers, but tape should work as well to help prop the flowers.

Step Three: The Waiting Game

Waiting gamePlace the jars by a window and hopefully you will begin to see the first hints of color after a few hours, but wait 24 hours to see an even more dramatic change.

What’s Happening?

Flowers go through a process called transpiration, where it releases moisture into the atmosphere. As moisture is released, more water is pulled up through tiny tubes in the stem called xylem. Water molecules have the tendency to stick together, so as one water molecules leaves the flower, it brings another one up with it.


Did you like this activity? Then you might be interested in our single-day Spring Break Camp!

Turtle Bay will be offering single day camps April 11th – 13th for children 7-10. Campers can register for one, two, or all three days. Each day will be different from the next as we cover matter, energy, and forces. All camps will feature hands-on and self-led activities that encourage collaboration and innovation.

Tuesday, April 11th – Magnificent Matter

With all things hot and cold, campers will discover the states of matter and how they’re important to us. Some activities include changing milk into one of our favorite desserts to stacking liquids on top of each other!

Wednesday, April 12th – Energy in Action

Campers will explore the sights, sounds, and properties of energy in many forms. From discovering the power from the sun to watching the effects of sounds, we will be learning all about the power or power!

Thursday, April 13th – Fantastic Forces

Though our superhero forces may be lacking, there are still many super forces to be explored! Campers will check out the unseen forces of our Sundial Bridge and see if they can explain the mystery behind magnets.

Whether you have enrolled into one of our camp programs before, or if this is your first time hearing about them, we invite you to check us out! For additional information and registration forms, visit We have a limited space, so hurry!


From our science journals to yours,

The Education Team at Turtle Bay

Green World All Around Us: Winter wonderland in the Botanical Gardens

This wasn’t the first year the botanical Gardens were under snow, but this year was incredibly beautiful because the depth of snow (not too much) left the silhouettes of most of these hardy plants visible while still making the gardens seem otherworldly, bright and oh-so-quiet.

While there isn’t much chance of snow again this winter, the next time it does snow, if you get out, bundle up and come down to the botanical gardens. You will see the gardens in a whole different, gorgeous dimension!

Hover your mouse over the photos below – some have extra information! 


Another Mediterranean Basin Garden denizen, this and the other Olive trees looked amazing, but like they could be in trouble from the weight of snow. With incredible flexibility, some branches bent almost in half, but no branches broke!


By Paul Rideout, one of two Pyramids, that portray local landscapes, in the California Garden. Snowy Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ Howard McMinn Manzanita makes a perfect backdrop
Coastal Redwood
No flocking necessary: Sequoia sempervirens Coastal Redwoods in the California Garden
Chinese Redbud
And the award goes to… this Chinese Redbud Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ for the most beautiful winter silhouette in the gardens

The next time it snows, come and enjoy; the gardens are always beautiful!

Happy Gardening from Turtle Bay’s Horticulture Staff!

Lisa Endicott – Horticulture Manager

Email for more information and/or questions.

Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery: open to the public year-round Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Visit our interactive Nursery inventory list at .

Green World All Around Us: After the Freeze – Beautiful Winter Foliage in the Botanical Gardens

Euphorbia chariacas in the Mediterranean Basin Garden. Whatever the species, Euphorbias always have interesting foliage.

Every year I am more impressed at how beautiful the botanical gardens are in winter here at Turtle Bay. Plants with evergreen (ever-gray, red, etc.) foliage really come into their own as herbaceous plants succumb to winter freezes and start their dormancy. (Some herbaceous plants, such as ornamental grasses, have interesting dry foliage and/or seed heads that we leave up throughout winter for their architectural and ornamental value.)

Santolina chamaecyparissus
Santolina chamaecyparissus: A great plant for under oaks and on dry banks – terrific texture!



A majority of the evergreen plants in the botanical gardens come from mediterranean climate zones that share similar climates: rainy winters and warm-hot dry summers. These regions include the Mediterranean Basin (15 countries on three continents), Australia, California, Chile and South Africa. The plants from these locales share similar adaptions to survive sometimes soggy winters and occasionally blistering hot summers: gray leaves that deflect sunlight, waxy leaves that conserve water, plants with tiny pine-like leaves that also conserve water, plants high in oils (often fragrant, like lavender) that help block leaf stomata, or pores, when temperatures rise to prevent water loss, geophytes (bulbs) that bloom when water is available and die back in the summer. These are just a few of the adaptions that plants from these regions share in common. Plants with evergreen leaves are also often an adaption shared by many of these plants. Growing a whole new set of leaves every season takes energy and, most importantly, water.

coyote brush
Tough, beautiful natives: coyote brush Baccharis pilularis consanguinea and toyon Heteromeles arbutifola.

Why the foliage of many of these plants is just spectacular to look at, I don’t know. It’s probably one reason why many found their way into cultivated gardens in the first place. Beautiful, evergreen and heat and drought-tolerant; plants just don’t get any better! (Okay, maybe I’m a little biased.)

Evergreen weeping Acacia Acacia pendula has weeping form and bright silver foliage.

Don’t miss this year’s winter foliage highlights in the botanical gardens – even better than last year! 










Mexican natives: two hardy Agaves, big Agave americana in the background and petite Agave parryi in the foreground.

Put layers on and come see these cold-hardy, heat-hardy beauties and many others for yourself. The gardens’ winter hours are 8am to 5pm/dusk.

Happy gardening from the horticulture staff at Turtle Bay!

Lisa Endicott – Horticulture Manager

Email for more information and/or questions.

Arboretum & Botanical Gardens Nursery: open to the public year-round Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Visit our interactive Nursery inventory list at .

Plant-a-Tree Community Planting Day

Raise a hand if you remember the Fountain Fire of 1992? One of the worst fires in our county in recorded history, devastated 100 square miles of land and claimed over 300 homes forty miles east of Redding.

In response, the Forest Council of Turtle Bay started the Plant-a-Tree program to help reforest an area lost adjacent to the Hillcrest Rest Area on Hwy 299. The first trees were purchased in 1997 and were planted at that location through 2008, when the site was fully planted out. Smaller sites were planted between 2006-2008 as well, including at the Knighton Road/I5 interchange and in the Turtle Bay Arboretum Savannah.

In 2008, Turtle Bay joined forces with the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District to select new sites, meeting scientific criteria as areas of high need for rehabilitation. The first site was the historic Phillip Brothers Mill near Oak Run, California. Known as “America’s Last Steam Mill”, this special site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out their website to learn more about this amazing place… and schedule a tour!

In 2014, the first trees were planted at a new site on public lands – Lower Clear Creek’s China Gardens, Bureau of Land Management land accessed off Hwy. 273 southwest of Redding. This area was damaged by gold and aggregate mining and Whiskeytown Dam and is now part of a comprehensive plan to improve the riparian and floodplain habitat through restoration, ultimately aimed at improving the salmon population. For more on this area, check out this half-hour movie “From Devastation to Restoration – The Rebirth of Lower Clear Creek

People purchase trees through this program for many occasions: weddings, births, holidays… but most trees are in memoriam. In 2014, we were honored to respond to requests to allow loved ones to participate in the plantings with our first Community Planting Day, held Nov. xx. Due to the drought in 2015, we were unable to plant, however, after a better year, we are pleased to offer our second Community Planting Day on Oct. 29 from 10-noon… and YOU are welcome to join us! Trees will be available for purchase on site, or anyone who has purchased or received a tree since Fall 2014 is welcome to join in. WSRCD will provide seedlings, shovels, and instruction.

Photo by Andreas Fuhrmann; Record Searchlight
Photo by Andreas Fuhrmann; Record Searchlight

Interested in checking out the site? It’s a lovely spot for a fall picnic. To get there…

  1. Take Highway 273
  2. Turn onto Clear Creek Road; go approx. 1 mile.
  3. Park at the 1st BLM gate on the left (the gate is yellow)
  4. Walk in and down the road about a quarter mile. You will see the tree tubes to the right.



Many groups have been memorializing their members through the Plant-a-Tree program. Special shout-outs to Redding Newcomers, Redding Elks Traildusters RV Club, Redding Emblem Club #515, Nor-Cal Chapter III Women’s Army Corps Veteran’s Association, Redding Elks Lodge #1073, Shasta County Assessor-Recorder Staff, Redding Rambling A’s, Redding Moose Lodge, Redding League of Women Voters, Doughty-Lewis Chapter for City of Hope, among many others, for their long-time support!



For more information on Plant-a-Tree and the organizations involved, here are some links:

A Volunteer Day in the Gardens

Nicole Harris, Teen Volunteer

Nicole Harris, the author of this post, has been a Teen Volunteer since June 2014 and currently serves as a Teen Volunteer representative on the Board here at Turtle Bay.  She actively volunteers in our Education Department as well as at Special Events.

The Teen Volunteer Program is presented by Shasta College/”Doing What Matters” and United Way of Northern California.

On a recent Saturday morning, a group of teenagers got together to spend the early morning volunteering at the Turtle Bay McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Most teens might sleep until noon on a Saturday, but for this group of dedicated students from Shasta High School’s Key Club and Botanical Society Club this Saturday morning was a time to get up early, put on their gloves, and get to work pulling weeds.

img_20161008_085634504-jpgEighteen teen volunteers came together from these two different clubs and joined forces to help weed a planter bed inside the Gardens. In just two hours these 18 teens accomplished a lot! As one teen volunteer, Erica Bade, put it, “It feels good to have helped out here in the Gardens, because you can see the difference you are making.”

img_20161008_085355571-jpgAs a Teen Volunteer at Turtle Bay and a member of both the Key Club and Botanical Society, it was a rewarding experience to have the opportunity to work alongside this group of teens in the Gardens. Everyone who was there seemed to enjoy the work they were doing. When asked if they would be interested in volunteering in the Gardens again, there was a resounding “Yes” in response. Through this experience we were able to meet new people, learn about native plants, and learn the values of hard work. One thing that really stood out to me was that some of these teen volunteers had never seen the Gardens before, but were still willing to put in their time and effort by giving up their Saturday morning to help their community.

When we had finished our work for the day, not only did we leave with a sense of accomplishment, but also with new friends and a better sense of community. I am proud to be able to say that I took part in organizing this event and gathering the volunteers needed to make this happen. I think we all took away more than we had expected from this experience, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Make a Difference Day is this Saturday!  This Saturday, October 22nd, volunteers from across the country will be making a difference in one of the largest annual single-days of service nationwide. Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans volunteer? We are thankful for our amazing group of Volunteers that make a difference daily here at Turtle Bay – thank you for serving your community and supporting Turtle Bay through your Volunteerism!

 Click here to find out more about Make a Difference Day

Click here to learn more about volunteering at Turtle Bay

Poison vs. Venom

How many times have I heard someone say, “Look, it’s a poisonous snake!”? Too many to count! Most people do not know the difference between poisonous and venomous, but there are some fundamental things you should know about these toxic terms.


Poison Oak
Poison Oak

Poison is defined as any toxic substance harmful to a living organism. For our purposes, we are focusing on the poison produced by plants and animals.

In the animal and plant world, poison is a toxin that must be ingested (such as eating something) or absorbed (such as through the skin). Poisons can have many potential effects, from simple skin irritation and burning, to stopping specific processes within the body.


Golden frog
The Golden frog, Phyllobates terribillis, the most poisonous frog in the world

There are many examples of poisonous organisms. Numerous plant species use poison as a way to protect themselves from animals that may want to eat them. There are plants all around us that are poisonous. The most obvious, locally, being poison oak, which can cause blisters and skin irritation upon contact. There are many ornamental plants that we may not even realize are toxic, including the oleander plant we see all up and down I-5, which possesses poison in every part of the plant including the flowers and the stalks. There are even poisons in many of the plants that you eat, just in small enough amounts that it will not cause harm to humans.

The Pitohui is a small bird native to New Guinea. They carry a neurotoxic poison in their skin and feathers.

Poison in animals is generally used for the same thing, to protect the animal from predators or pests. Many insects are poisonous, such as beetles, caterpillars, and millipedes. The Monarch butterfly and Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly are poisonous if ingested. Amphibians, including frogs, toads, salamanders and newts, sometimes secrete poison from their permeable skin, some only mildly toxic, others incredibly deadly such as the poison dart frogs. There are some birds that are poisonous to the touch, such as the pitohuis – a bird native to New Guinea that secretes poison through its skin and feathers. Some of these poisonous animals do not actually make the poison themselves, instead getting it from the insects or plants that they eat.



Venom is a toxin that is delivered via a sting or bite. Venom must be introduced into the blood stream and carried through the vascular system to be effective. Venom can safely be swallowed without having any effect, as long as there is no cut in the mouth or ulcer in the stomach that the venom can go through, and the stomach acids will break down the proteins same as they do any other food.

Venom is a mixture of enzymes and proteins, chains of small molecules called amino acids found in living organisms. These chains are diverse in the pattern of the amino acids, causing the strands to be different and therefore causing a variety of effects to happen in the body. There are two types of venom. Neurotoxic venom affects the nervous system, cutting off the transmitters that send messages between the nerves and causing paralysis. Hemotoxic venom affects the vascular system, breaking down the tissue and causing hemorrhaging throughout the body. Many types of venom are a mixture of neurotoxins and hemotoxins.

Blue-ringed octopus
Blue-ringed octopus, a highly venomous octopus that can fit in your palm

In the animal world venom is quite common. Insects, such as ant, bees, and wasps, have a venomous sting that is mostly used for defense in these small animals. Arachnids (spiders and scorpions) are notorious for their venom that they use to subdue their prey – spiders via fangs and scorpions via stingers. Fish can be venomous. The beautiful lionfish is covered in spines with venom-tipped ends, while stingrays deliver their venom through a barbed tail tip. Many aquatic Mollusks (octopi, squid, and snails) and Cnidarians (jellyfish) use venom to incapacitate quick moving underwater prey.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Snuggles, Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
By Carli Davidson

Reptiles may be the animals that come to mind most often when we think of venomous creatures. Many snakes use venom to kill prey, and even begin digestion before the snake ingests the prey item. Some snakes have such mild venom you wouldn’t know it if you were bit, such as the garter snake. Other snakes have highly adapted venom delivery systems that use movable, hypodermic-like fangs to inject potent, fast-acting venom, such as rattlesnakes. Lizards can be venomous too; the Beaded lizard and Gila monster of the southwest United States and Mexican deserts have strong jaws with serrated teeth that they use to chew the venom into the prey, and may help in defense against predators in these slow moving lizards. Recent studies show that monitor lizards, such as the Komodo Dragon, also have venomous saliva.

Duck-billed Platypus
Duck-billed Platypus

The most surprising venomous animal is the Playtpus, a marsupial mammal native to Australia that looks like a cross between a duck and a beaver. The males in this unique species have spurs on their back feet that are used to deliver painful venom. It is thought that the venom is used during breeding season in an offensive manner to assert dominance over other male platypi.

Toxic substances are found throughout nature. It can be an effective way to protect both plants and animals, and are used by animals to subdue and even begin digestion of prey. Educate yourself about the species around you to keep yourself safe and avoid any dangerous plants and animals in your area. If an encounter occurs with any toxic organism, seek medical assistance. None of these plants or animals are out to get humans; we must learn to coexist with all parts of the natural world.

Adrienne John, Head Animal Trainer