commentary on being a Master Gardener * something near and dear to my heart

The other day I was innocently looking thru my news feed on Facebook, when a post by the OSU (Oregon) Master Gardener Program caught my eye and got me reading.  She had shared this blog post  So, what do we think of “Master Gardeners”?.  In reading along the discussion quickly got interesting.  The topic went from downright bashing towards the Master Gardener community to passionate explanations and defense of the group by its supporters and members. And you know me, I couldn’t resist giving my two cents worth.  In response to another comment I wrote the following:

” if you need help ask an MG because if they don’t know it they surely can direct you to it.”

Tim, I think you have boiled down the entire organization’s purpose in one sentence. We are volunteers, dedicated to helping our Extension service by providing the support they need to help the public with home gardening questions and problems.

As with any organization, there are different personalities and not everyone will see eye-to-eye. That’s a given.

My question and problem with this whole conversation is the idea of changing the organizations name. Obviously most of us that are Master Gardener Volunteers now weren’t around when the program was founded. The name must have been chosen for a reason, and was given value by the work that was done under that name. Changing the name won’t fix the problems that have been voiced here, it will only confuse the public that is used to the name. (remember “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” ?)

Where I hail from the MG’s have earned their respect by providing positive support to our communities with various activities that include telephone hotlines, Q & A clinics at local events and farmers markets, and public outreach programs like Garden Discovery Day intended to educate the public on best practices for sustainable gardening.

I never assume that the training I received as a MG could replace someone that has been working in the field a lifetime, or someone that has University credentials in horticulture. I really believe it takes all of us as a community to reach out to the public with scientific and researched based info. And just remember that even the methods Thomas Jefferson practiced in his day were cutting edge, our world is continually evolving. Today’s best practices may not be tomorrows.

So much of what is right with this crazy world we live in is provided by the people that take their time to volunteer in their communities. Instead of bashing the organization as a whole, why not take the time to improve it if you are a member, or if not become a member and walk in the shoes of those of us that have given of our time (which is not renewable) and money (to become Master Gardener’s), in the hope of helping to create a better world for our kids and grand kids, as a way to become involved in our communities, and a place to make life-long friendships.

And for those of you who came before me as Master Gardener Volunteers, Thank you for your time and service to your communities.

Many of you know that I am pretty active in the Master Gardener Association in my county.  I am pretty passionate about the things that our group has accomplished over the years, and am very humbled by the footsteps I find myself following in.  I make no pretense about who I am, what education I have and what I offer to the community as a Master Gardener Volunteer.  I believe that my biggest asset is my willingness to learn, and my willingness to work, and share what I AM good at.  I see this echoed in every member of our group, and count my blessings for the friends that I have made since taking my training 5 years ago.

And don’t forget, the next time you have the chance, thank the un-paid volunteer working in your community, from the Mom’s and Dad’s that support scouting, the 4-H volunteers, Master Gardener Volunteers, and anyone that I haven’t listed.  Because our world is made better by those that spend their time volunteering.

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. Ghandi

The breeze, the trees, the honey bees – All volunteers! Juliet Carinreap

Today when I sat down at my computer I had planned to show you photos of the plants in my garden waking up for spring.  And I will put those photos up later. Today I would like to leave you with a few links, so you can learn more about this worthwhile organization and all that we as a group have accomplished as VOLUNTEERS.

OSU Extension Service Master Gardener™ Program  this link goes to my Alma Mater as it were, Oregon State

American Horticultural Society map of Master Gardener organizations in the U.S.  pretty nice resource

Oregon Master Gardener Association (OMGA)  another Oregon group I support

OSU Master Gardener Online

Clackamas County Master Gardeners  my own group’s webpage, where we post coming events and activities open to the public.

If you would like to see our chapter in action, head over to a few of my past postings about our annual Spring Garden Fair.

Sunday @ the Spring Garden Fair*  

Saturday @ the Fair*  

Setting it all up* Spring Garden Fair  

Pre post * Spring Garden Fair  






Sunday @ the Spring Garden Fair *

Sunday dawned with blue skies and the promise of a much warmer day!  We did have a short scare when some fog blew over the Fairgrounds, but fortunately it left almost as quickly as it arrived.

Walking around on Sunday morning before the Fair opens is relaxing, one of the things I love about this volunteer gig.  Took care of some clean up with my signs and then started snapping photos!  The low sun shining thru the big tree on the Main Lawn is a favorite view thru my lens.  The empty rows rolling past the vendor booths whisper for foot and wagon traffic; the sign of a successful event.

Gates open, the crowd is smaller on Sunday.  It’s a peaceful day, for a moment.  Wheels roll past on the pavement as the chatter of excited shoppers begins to rise.  My goal for the day was to walk the rows in order, not zig zag the way I did it Saturday;  of course the plan was to wait for buying until later in the day, but I ended my walk with a small flat in one arm and my camera in the other!

Artwork sparkles in the sunshine, and the plants are plentiful.  Conversations are easy early in the day.  I checked in with a grower that brought in some plants for me, and talked to a few artists, calling out comments to some in passing about some of the photos I have taken. My thoughts were “Sunday is going to be a good day!”

Cheerful shoppers, friends and family walk around us. Parents and kids walk together, I saw several families chatting away, and my family came by too.  For Hubby’s mom we chose a beautiful fuchsia basket for her patio, and my granddaughter was walking around with a big grin, holding a pepper plant she had talked her dad into buying.

As the day grew later, the air was warm enough to shed the coats I had been wearing every day since the set-up began.  What a pleasure the sun is!  Vendors and volunteers look a bit bedraggled by mid-afternoon, and we all start to think about the tasks ahead; putting it all away for another year.  Putting on this event is a much bigger job than I had ever realized as a shopper.

I usually had Hubby drive me over with my wagon. I would walk the rows, choosing my plants for the year then walk the few blocks home.  It seemed like Sunday was a better day to go, less crowds if I got there early enough.  But it would really depend on the weather which day I chose to attend.  I don’t believe I ever had to shop in the rain.  The real work for me then was planting my new purchases when I got home.  I never dreamed that many of the people I walked past all those years would later become friends.

Around 3:15 it’s obvious that things are winding down.  Rumors of a vendor selling all their hanging baskets for $20.00 circulate among the Master Gardeners.  The vendors begin to line up their trucks in anticipation of loading up and leaving.  My job is to collect all the signs that I put up around the grounds. I have a helper for this task, which was really nice after two long days of walking around.  We drive the cart around the late shoppers. Each sign we take down makes the grounds look less like ours; for two days now it has been home to the Clackamas County Master Gardeners.  I enjoy staying busy, and pitching in when there is work to be done.  I think that is why I like taking care of the signs.  I do take most the photos for the group, and help with the webpage and more … but when it comes to hands-on projects, I am usually just taking pics.  On Sunday afternoon I feel like I am really part of the group, not just a recorder in the wings, and doing my share of what needs to be done.

By 6:00 most of the vendors are gone, and its just us left to tie up loose ends.  We smile tired smiles at one another, because we know the job we have done really makes a difference; to the vendors that offer their wares, to the shoppers looking for that special plant, or just the begonia that they get every year from that vendor in row A.  In a world of changes and fast pace living, our “little” Spring Fair is an event our shoppers have come to count on for a relaxing time; from buying plants to learning more about gardening, to the simple fellowship with like minded people.  Remember, we are all friends here!

Now there is more to the story, as there always is. Let the pictures tell their tale …. as we close the gates on the 28th Annual Spring Garden Fair.  We have the memories, and the plants to prove we were here!

(if you click the first photo a carousel will open to view the images larger) 

I want to thank my family and my friends for all the support you give me, allowing me to give so much to this event.  I will see you all next year, May 4 and 5, 2013

other posts in this series: 

Saturday @ the Fair*  

Setting it all up* Spring Garden Fair  

Pre post * Spring Garden Fair  

Saturday @ the Fair *

The big day has finally arrived! The sky is white with cloud cover, and it’s a bit chilly out. But neither rain nor sleet nor the gloom of an Oregon day will deter the dedicated plant shopper from their task!

Two gates opened at 9 am, and in they came, pulling their wagons of all colors (mostly red).  Spirits are high as everyone makes their way to a favorite nursery or activity.  I think the thing that I like the most is all the chit chat and talking that goes one. We are all friends here, after all.

My job on this day is really much more like play than work as I walk around visiting with Fair-goers and snapping shots of what I see.  In sorting thru the photos I took today I am struck by the look of this years Fair.  There is most certainly a lot of red; red wagons and red plants.  And the green that we earn after months of rain, and a few warm days that make the trees and grasses at the fairgrounds so bright and fresh.  The cloud cover made the shadows soft, tho I would have preferred to see more sun brakes; I like the way the sunshine makes things sparkle.

And as I walked around today I found myself thinking about the past years I had spent, walking the same ground and buying from the same vendors.  Then I was just another shopper in the crowd.  My point of view has changed. After years of shopping this event I can now see both sides of the window, looking out and looking in. I walked down the aisle and into the booth where every year for countless years I have bought the coleus and impatiens for my deck pots.  This year I added a cool sage green colored fern to the flat of plants I bought.  Later in the afternoon I had a conversation with a vendor about how sales were going and if he liked his new booth space.  This was the conversation of an insider, and I enjoy that viewpoint.

Walking over to the Main Lawn vendor area, I am pleased to see so many shoppers have followed the signs and announcements to  find the booths located there.  And of course the food court!  The scent of that kettle korn was tempting me all day long, and I finally gave in late in the afternoon and bought a small bag to much on while sorting pics for this post.  Talking with shoppers is always fun, and I always seem to pick one wagon that I keep seeing as we both make our way around.

Saturday was a good day at the Fair. No rain, no wind, and plants galore.  I brought home a few too many today, and I am sure that there will be more tomorrow.

Enjoy the photos as they take you thru my walk, and don’t forget to read the captions that tell the rest of the story.

My next post will be about Sunday at the Fair.  Its usually a quieter day.  The weather man is promising some sunshine, I sure hope he is right!  After a full day at the fair, on Sunday night we take everything down and visit for a while.  It will be a long day and a late night, so the next post will be on Monday for you.

Thank you for walking thru Saturday at the Fair with me and my camera.



other posts in this series: 

Sunday @ the Spring Garden Fair*  

Setting it all up* Spring Garden Fair  

Pre post * Spring Garden Fair  


setting it all up * Spring Garden Fair

I think I like Friday the best of the Fair days.  It’s the day we begin to see the results of all our work, and its the day the plants arrive!!  Now I don’t know a single gardener that wont be excited seeing all those perfect little plants ready to find a permanent home.

My day began at 8 am in a drizzly rain. It was cold, in fact I am still pretty chilled.  I had to complete my job placing signs around the grounds, and see what other details needed my attention.  The sun came and went, it got hot then cold, wet then dry.  But we all went about our work, undaunted by the weather.  At 11 am the vendors begin to pull on to the tarmac and unload their wares.  It gets pretty crazy out there, all those trucks and trailers.  I was cruising around in one of the golf carts, finishing up most of the afternoon.  (and I have to say, my poor feet were grateful for the cart to drive around)

By  mid-afternoon the signs were all taken care of; it was time to get the camera out and take a look at the place thru my lens.  This is something I never tire of.  Each time I walk those aisles I see something different, and each year my focus changes.   Last year I remember being struck by how fresh and new everything looked. This year the textures of the leaves and the play of the light in the colors of the blooms really got my attention.  The light was constantly shifting thanks to the clouds that never stood still all day long.  And the wind was moving things around, tossing the potted trees on the ground and rustling the leaves of the perennials.  You would think that with all that wind, it would have been a loud day. But this year everyone seemed quieter, more focused on the task at hand. And just like that, the long day was coming to an end.  I was talking to some friends and tweaking some of the signs just a bit, and I noticed that most the vendors were done, and gone until the morning.  Just as the light was dropping below the rooftops, we closed the gate with everyone (mostly) ready for opening day; Saturday at 9 am.

Here are just a few of the things that me and my lens saw this afternoon. Click the first image to open the carousel of larger images.

Until tomorrow …. when I will bring you the opening day of our Fair!



other posts in this series: 

Sunday @ the Spring Garden Fair*  

Saturday @ the Fair*  

Pre post * Spring Garden Fair  

in her garden * Bee’s garden 2010

The last week in June Bee Smith would open her garden to visitors from Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and Clackamas County Master Gardeners.

As a freshly minted member of the Clackamas County Master Gardeners, I first met Bee in her garden that beautiful June day.  My walk around her Blue garden is captured in the photos that follow.

click on the first thumbnail image to open the gallery and view the photos with captions 

Thank you Bee, for opening your garden, and your heart, to us all. 

Bee’s Garden * today

If you are a member of the PNW gardening community, the name Bee Smith brings to mind two things: That particular shade of blue she loved, and her amazing Blue garden.  When Bee died this summer we lost a beautiful, amazing gardener, artist, and friend.

“Have you seen Bee’s garden? It’s amazing !”  This was my first introduction to Bee.  I was a new Master Gardener, getting to know the lay of the land.  I had recently raised my hand at the request of Rodger for someone to take over the duties of Chapter Photographer.  It was Open Garden season and I was going to dutifully take my camera and get some snapshots for the chapter.  Her garden was my unforgettable introduction to some of the most picturesque and personal gardens in this gardening world I was just beginning to explore.

You could use a lot of adjectives to describe her garden, beginning with amazing.  But after seeing, feeling and touching the garden, you walk away with a quiet regard for the woman, and her vision.  Some things that struck me about the garden and gardener who was also an artist;  this was a complete, but ever evolving body of work that she shared with anyone who would ask.  The care given, and the scope of the grounds, were impressive of course. But even more so I was impressed by knowing that the lady of 80 plus years was able to tend her garden daily, even embark on new ideas / projects that would leave a 30 something exhausted.  And I also saw the little girl in the lady.  Her playfulness, her regard for imagination, her inclusion of whimsy in her palette.  I have recently reviewed those photos I took in 2010, and will follow today’s post with some of those images to help complete the story being told.

I suppose this is the place where a writer “should” put in more details, like a bio, about Bee.  The truth is, I don’t believe that she was someone that you can limit to words in print.  I didn’t know her that well, we only spoke a few times.  But then …  I did know her, thru her garden, and thru her friends and the loving stories told about her.  And that is how I would like you to meet her, if you never had the chance, or to remember her, if you were so privileged.

Her close friend Meredith met me at her garden last week, so I could take these photos for her family, and to share with you.  I think we were both struck by the appearance of a usually tidy garden, missing her loving gardeners.  Since it is so late in the season, there is not much in the way of flowers blooming now, and the grasses are ripe and golden.  But the soul of the garden remains.  The color blue, the artwork and the amazing collection of trees and perennials.  As I walked around alone after Meredith left me, I could feel Bee’s presence  in the changing light.  The garden colors evolved as the sun moved across the sky to kiss the plants, the carefully placed art and Her collection of Blue bottles.

please join me in my walk though her garden ….

* click on the first thumbnail image to open the gallery carousel, to view the captions click  Permalink on the bottom right of the photos. this opens the photos on their own page, allowing you to scroll thru them one at a time and read the descriptions.    

A walk through Dulcy’s Garden

The family and friends of Dulcy Mahar opened her garden for a public memorial on July 23, 2011.  It would be a chance to view the garden of the beloved writer one more time, and share with those closest to her.    The day was one of those amazing sunny July days, no wind and not too hot.  I was there with around 2500 fans of her column, her garden, and just Dulcy.

The cars lined the streets, the neighborhood was decked in Pink Flamingos, and my  fellow gardeners waited patiently in line, chatting and remembering. Everyone had a favorite story from her column, and a personal reason to be there.  Doug (the wonder guy) was surrounded by visitors with questions and comments.  Her friends were also available for questions and just casual sharing.  Many, like me, had camera’s in hand as they explored her space.

My tour thru the garden was backwards, having entered from the side to avoid the crowds.  As I walked in, I was greeted by a friend of mine and her husband who also came to pay their respects.  (In all I saw a handful of friends from our Master Gardeners group. ) The mood was quiet and respectful, visitors with camera’s were allowed the courtesy of taking their time for a special shot. Because at almost every turn, there was something new to see. An unexpected garden ornament, a rare and thus very cool plant wonder over, or just a really nice view to admire.

Over the years her garden has become an amazing collection: of plants, of art, whimsical garden ornaments, and pets like her cats and the most recent pup, Ernie.   I say this because the longer I walked around, the more it became clear to me; Dulcy was a collector.  And her garden was the home to that collection.

From here I will let the photo’s I took tell the rest of the story for me.

* click on the first thumbnail image to open the gallery carousel, to view the captions click  Permalink on the bottom right of the photos. this opens the photos on their own page, allowing you to scroll thru them one at a time and read the descriptions.    

Thank you for reading my story, and walking thru the garden with me.