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Master gardeners help you master your garden

By on April 23, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Sprinkling seeds of education among the growing community

Susan Copner, Lynn Palmer and Bobette Bush inspect the raised beds at the Community Education Garden in Wenatchee.

By Jaana Hatton

Have you ever stopped to admire the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at Wenatchee’s Riverfront Park and wondered who maintains it?

The healthy collection of 40 plants demonstrates a water-wise landscape ideal for our region.

The Xeriscape is one of the many display gardens designed, planted and continuously maintained by the Washington State University (WSU) Chelan County Master Gardeners.

Now are you curious to know who they are? The Master Gardeners are a group of volunteers who love being outdoors and playing in dirt. Besides the simple joy of making things grow out of the soil, they also like to sprinkle seeds of knowledge in the community.

According to Jennifer Marquis, the Master Gardeners Chelan/Douglas County Extension coordinator, “they teach sustainable landscape management for the protection of natural resources.” That is way beyond making tomatoes grow.

The Master Gardeners can help you diagnose plant diseases, assist in garden layout planning or give advice on fire-wise landscaping.

As a matter of fact, they are not only gardeners but also botanists, landscape specialists, environmentalists and most of all, educators. They do it for free, for the love of all things natural — including us.

In order to be educators, they first need an education themselves. A new volunteer must take the Basic Training Course (no push-ups required) with the WSU. After completion of the course the sprouting Master Gardener is required to volunteer 100 hours of community education over two years before they are fully-bloomed and certified.

The Master Gardener activity first started in the Chelan/Douglas region in 1996. The organization pruned the roses in front of the Chelan County Courthouse for the Salmon festival.

Now, 22 years later, the local Master Gardeners participate in maintaining several demonstration gardens on both sides of the river, conduct plant diagnosis clinics and give Third Saturday workshops at the Community Education Garden. The list goes on — and on.

Susan Copner, a retired nurse, has been a Master Gardener for 13 years.

“I live on Wenatchee Heights which is difficult to garden,” Susan said about her initial interest in the program. “I needed help.”

When she joined the Master Gardener organization, she found help, a meaningful activity and made new friends. Susan was president of the organization in 2017 and this year she is in charge of the raised beds at the Community Education Garden.

“We have an international theme for the raised beds this year,” Susan said.

The 10 raised beds will feature typical culinary plants from Italy and Scandinavia, for example. The public can learn what grows well in South America or in Europe, to mention a few, and what the plants look like.

“This Community Garden is open for people to visit at any time, not only during workshops,” Susan said. “I think the public doesn’t know that.”

Al Murphy and his wife, Nancy, man a Master Gardener table at the Pybus Public Market Fire-Wise Day in March.

Al Murphy entered the Master Gardener program because his wife, Nancy, did.

“I was hesitant at first,” Al said. “I thought you had to have a lot of pre-existing knowledge, like in a university, to enter a ‘masters’ program.”

Al soon relaxed as the classes started and he realized the lessons took off from root level. As a previous forester, he did have some accrued credits in his back pocket, though.

“The term ‘Master Gardener’ might be better expressed with ‘Master Steward of Horticulture,’” Al said. “We teach about sustainable landscaping on a small scale.”

Landscaping includes various aspects: botany, geology, knowledge of the surrounding natural area and the effects of climate and seasons. Yes, there is plenty of mastery in knowing all that.

Al specialized in fire-wise landscaping, giving workshops and lectures to the point it is almost full-time work. Only, he doesn’t regard it work — it is his passion.

“I give workshops to homeowners’ associations, to private people, and at various community events.”

He is keeping up with the required volunteer time quite well: Al exceeded the 100 hours within the month of January this year. In 2017, he offered over a 1,000 hours of volunteer hours in Master Gardeners program.

He is not tired, not one bit. He is enthusiastic. On March 10 Al was at Pybus Public Market with his wife Nancy to answer people’s questions about fire-wise landscaping. They were like pollinators of smart landscaping, leaving a dusting of information on anyone who came by.

“The best part of this work is when my words turn into somebody else’s actions,” Al said. “The message got through.”

Jaana Hatton is a freelance writer who lives in East Wenatchee with her husband and son. She enjoys digging in the dirt. Her big project this year is transforming their newly acquired property into a fire-wise yard with mostly native plants.


Resources and advice

The Wenatchee Convention Center is going to be a hub for gardeners on Sept. 26-29 where the “East Meets West — Sharing Our Roots” event takes place. They keynote speaker is Adam Schwerner from the Disneyland Resort in California. Find out more at www.sharingourroots.org.

It can save a homeowner — or a landscaper — a lot of frustration and money if they seek advice before tackling a yard project. There is free advice to be found, just call Jennifer Marquis at 667-6540 and she will guide you in the right direction. Their office is located at the WSU Extension building on 400 Washington Street, Wenatchee. The website is http://chelandouglas.wsy.edu/mg/.

The Master Gardener Program released a guidebook “Fire Resistant Plants for Chelan/Douglas County Washington” a few months ago. It is free and user-friendly with color photos of the featured plants.

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