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Meet BBG Member Jackie Del Rossi

Meet BBG Member Jackie Del Rossi

Her garden, her beloved garden — there it is, up on a hillside behind her condominium in Lenox, Mass. She admits, “You have to be a mountain goat to be up there. But it’s not beyond me at this point.”

Jackie Del Rossi counts her many blessings in part by counting her flora: That’s hydrangeas, anemone and coneflower; nepeta and yellow yarrow; early blooming spirias and phlox; alliums and coreopsis.

And she has another garden just down the road: Berkshire Botanical Garden, in Stockbridge.

“I call BBG ‘my garden,’” says Jackie, a retired information technology professional who has been a BBG student and steadfast volunteer dating back to the early 1990s. She delights in sharing Berkshire Botanical Garden with others. During the season, she leads tours for visitors. Her BBG tours have become the gold standard. 

She focuses on the details that have inspired her the most — such as the way the Proctor Mixed-Border Garden was designed to feel like a comfortable, enclosed room, with its upper canopy, understory and herbaceous layers.

“What I explain to people is how they, too, can create an ‘enclosed room’ in their own backyard or garden, even if it’s a small space,” Jackie says. “You can make these spaces comfortable and create these natural walls as opposed to a typical fence.

“There are a lot of little lessons in the Garden as we go through the spaces,” she says. “You know what else I love? Maybe it’s a silly little thing, but I love the narrow entrance from the Center House to the Vista Garden, where it’s just kind of a cut out in the shrubbery. I love how the entrance is simply this inviting path that draws you in with an air of mystery.”

If it sounds like Jackie has spent a lot of time considering the intricacies of garden design, she has. Before downsizing to her Lenox condo in 2016, she and her late husband, Lewis Friedman, owned a home on 100 acres in nearby Chatham, N.Y., where Jackie gardened on a grander scale. 

Amidst successfully battling invasives on that property, including purple loosestrife and multiflora rose, she had earned a horticulture certificate from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y. (This was before BBG had begun its own horticulture certificate program. In fact, Jackie had offered early encouragement to BBG to found its now renowned horticulture certificate program, a non-credit, adult enrichment program designed for the professional, aspiring professional or serious home gardener.)

Jackie also would go on to earn a graduate landscape design certificate from Radcliffe College. 

“I just enjoy landscapes,” she said. “That’s why I started doing tours and other things at the Garden.”

“I had long heard that Jackie gives great BBG tours, and as a tour guide, myself, I thought I could learn something from her,” said Lauretta Harris, president of the BBG Volunteer Association. “The rumors are true! Jackie is wonderfully informative about the Garden and has a lot of botanical expertise. It’s always a real pleasure spending time with her.”

Having the opportunity to share her expertise is only one reason Jackie loves volunteering at BBG.

“The big thing for me is, it’s all about community,” she says. “There are so many of us who volunteer, and we get to know each other. It’s an important community base for many of us. We all enjoy the outdoors. We share a certain aesthetic about manmade landscape — that we want it to be done as naturally as possible — and we all want to give back. It’s really a tight, little community.”

With her husband, Lewis, who died last year following a long illness, Jackie had enjoyed traveling the world. She had originally imagined that, following his death, she would move back into a house. She has since changed her mind, opting instead to put her energies into volunteering and continuing her travels. She wants to visit Patagonia and Japan during cherry blossom season, among other places.  

That all requires limiting her gardening to that hillside that’s she’s transformed into a wondrous pallet that’s home to critical species of pollinators.

“I mean, even this,” she says of her downsized garden, “it’s a lot of work! I love it — but a lot of work!”




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