Update: I received an email from Mt. Cuba today and they want ya’ll to know that they are open to the public far more often than they used to be. Here’s what Jeannette Zipf, Mt. Cuba’s Communications Coordinator, told me:
“We are open for public garden tours in spring, summer and fall. Spring tours, which begin on April 12, 2012, are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10AM, and Saturday and Sunday at 1PM. Summer Twilight tours, Wednesdays and Thursdays, are at 5:30 pm, starting on May 30, 2012. All tours are just $5 per person – isn’t that a bargain? We do recommend reservations as we strive to have enough docents on hand to keep the tour groups small and personal.”
Sounds good to me!
I’ve never been to the Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, but it’s certainly something I’m dying to do. One of the things that makes a visit difficult is that, since it is primarily a research facility, Mt. Cuba is open to the public on a limited basis only.
However, as I was perusing their website, I stumbled upon a delightful surprise. Mt. Cuba is now offering a series of plants classes through their Distance Learning program. Cool!
For $40, you can enroll in either a Native Ferns class or Hummingbirds for Your Garden, with Moss Gardening and Meadow Plants coming soon. Everything is self-paced. Just yesterday I enrolled in the Native Ferns class, and though I’ve only just begun to explore the offerings, my impression so far is quite favorable.
Once you’ve paid your fee, Mt. Cuba allows you access to a series of videos, handouts, and other reference materials on the topic you’ve signed up for. For example, in the ferns class, there are videos covering the fern collection at Mt. Cuba, fern biology, spore propagation, using ferns in the garden, and companion plants. It’s a fern-nerd’s wonderland!
The quality of the videos is good to excellent, and the level of detail and difficulty seems just right for the “serious amateur” (or the “seriously amateur” if you prefer.) Now, the videos are only accessible for 45 days, but all of the handouts are printer-friendly, so you can totally geek out and make yourself a nifty little Fern Notebook for future reference.
Sadly, there are no quizzes, so you won’t be able to show off your horticultural genius to anybody but yourself. Too bad.
Arguably, you could purchase a nice, glossy fern reference book for less than $40, to which you’d have permanent access. It’s a nice change to receive information in a different format from time to time, though, and I like that this fern course focuses on native ferns that are all suited to my neck of the woods here in the Piedmont.
I tried to embed the nice video overview of the available courses, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. View it here on Mt. Cuba’s Distance Learning page.