Message From a New Master Gardener

My journey with the Southside Master Gardeners began with a “Landscape for Life” class, taught by Kathy Cornell Conner and friends. For someone who knew nothing about gardening, it was an incredible class and I learned exactly what would work for our yard, and it did! Once I was comfortable with my new knowledge, I wanted to learn more and signed up for the Master Gardener class two years later.
The classes were wonderful and each topic was taught by an expert in that field. We had teachers from as far away as DC who also happened to be the Curator of the US National Arboretum. We had a total of 16 classes – most in the
classroom, and some as a field trip. There were just 9 of us in the class and we took turns cooking for each other and truly enjoyed each other. The text book is incredible and a wonderful resource for everything under the sun. We had an exam every 4 weeks – but they were open book and certainly not hard to pass. Our fearless leader is William McCaleb and he is truly a walking encyclopedia. And, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Part of the coursework requirements were 50 hours of education and 50 hours of volunteer work. Our educational hours were a given (in the classroom) so any classes we took counted towards volunteer time. You cannot imagine all of the educational events available in our area. “Spring to Green” is a wonderful educational program held in Danville each year. And “Grow the Good Life” is another great one held in Bedford annually. Great speakers and many vendors selling garden related goodies and artwork.
Our first “official” event was the annual SSMGA Plant Sale. Lots of people, lots of plants, lots of sales – and even a bake sale. I’m already looking forward to next year’s!
Agnes Gregory spoke to us at one of our classes about the Southern Virginia Botanical Garden and asked us to come help her. Several of us did and most of us continued through the summer. It’s located in Edmonds Park and includes a fenced
in area that was originally a test ground for plant varieties and now we maintain it and add to it. There is a lovely pergola area where weddings are often held that is in honor of members of the Gregory Family. She also maintains a Children’s Garden with raised beds of vegetables for kids to learn. There is a therapy garden under construction. A wonderful teacher at Halifax High School brings his students one day a week to help build sidewalks, mow, mulch, dig holes – you name it – and they were a wonderful help to Agnes. They planted a community garden that is doing very well. And he had a special group of 3 fine “interns” for the summer. Dan Shaw is a fabulous artist who has created a medicine wheel, a labyrinth, and has carved many beautiful sculptures and benches throughout the park and into the wooded trail. Agnes offered several classes this summer for children K-5 and it was such fun to see the gardens through their eyes and they enjoyed all of the mini classes taught by fellow Master Gardeners and Dan Shaw.
The SSMGA has created a cookbook this year “Thyme to Eat” that has over 450 wonderful recipes from all over the world. Sells for just $14 and makes a perfect gift!
Participate in Farmer’s Markets? Why yes we do. On the second Saturday from June – September at the Halifax Farmer’s Market, you will find Kathy Cornell Conner leading events such as Fairy Garden Contest, Dividing Perennials, Sharpening Tools, Hypertufa classes, and more! We have a really good time. You will also find Master Gardeners working a booth every Saturday at the South Boston Farmer’s Market.
Still to come is Yard Sale/Bake Sale fund raiser for the Therapy Gardens. It will be held Saturday, September 17th 7 am – 1 pm next to the Mexico Viejo in the Riverdale Shopping Center – South Boston. We are having our first Outdoor Fairy Garden Class – at the Botanical Gardens October 1st 12 pm – 2 pm. Our Class of 2016 is decorating the booth at the Halifax County Fair – our theme is “Contain Yourself” and you have to see it to appreciate it October 4th – 8th.
These are just some of the many things available to do as a Master Gardener. One could also continue education and become a Tree Stewart, Plant Stewart, etc. They have a Master Gardener College in June every year, which I hope to attend
next year. The sky is the limit and Bill McCaleb is so good at letting us know all the available programs and activities available to Master Gardeners throughout VA.
So, is it fun being a Master Gardener???? ABSOLUTELY!!! If you want to learn about plants and meet and get to know a fabulous group of people, sign up for the next class beginning in January of 2017. Contact:
Virginia Cooperative Extension
171 South Main Street
P.O. Box 757
Halifax, VA 24558