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  

pre-post * Spring Garden Fair

Its that time of year, when every gardeners fancy turns to new plants, new artwork , a new project for the yard and garden.  Just in time for the annual Clackamas County Master Gardeners Spring Garden Fair.

And here I am, just 3 years after joining the group, working on the Spring Fair committee.  Did I ever mention that the reason that I wanted to become a Master Gardener™ was due to this annual event?  We have lived here for 20 years now, and every year I would take my wagon the few blocks to the fairgrounds and buy my little heart out; annuals, perennials, artwork to enhance my garden.  I can still look at the plants and things in my yard and know which ones came from the Spring Garden Fair.

The Fair takes a lot of planning, the committee numbers more than 25 volunteers that start planning in September.  It’s a great group, we are really committed to our event. A few members of this group have been volunteering at the Fair for over 10 years.   The set-up process takes about 4 days.  Today I was at the Fairgrounds where the set-up committee was measuring out the spaces for the 202 vendors, in the wind and rain.  The pots for the Potting Station were delivered, the sound guy was out there as I was leaving, setting up the speakers on the grounds.  And I was there sorting thru all the signs that we have made to direct vendor traffic, advertise our 10-Minute University™, and point out some of the great features we have at this years fair.

I love having a behind the scenes view.  And tomorrow I will share a glimpse of that with you, as we walk around and see how it all comes together, and I will begin my story of our 28th Annual Spring Garden Fair.



other posts in this series: 

Sunday @ the Spring Garden Fair*  

Saturday @ the Fair*  

Setting it all up* Spring Garden Fair  


Spring Garden Fair or The marriage of two passions

I am many things and wear many hats in my life. My most passionate interests are my garden, and my photography.  They don’t really compete, in fact, its really a good marriage.  The past week I have been able to really combine those passions for the benefit of more than just myself and my own portfolio.

I am an Oregon Master Gardener, our Clackamas Chapter holds a wonderful event each year, The Spring Garden Fair.  The Fair hosts vendors from all over the Pacific Northwest and over 10,000 attend every year in our small town.  In fact, I have been buying my plants at this Fair since we moved here almost 20 years ago … (another post, another day )  I was at the Fairgrounds beginning on Thursday, taking photos for the event.

Thursday was just us, setting things up for the vendors arrival beginning on Friday. I like the buzz on Thursday.  The teamwork and camaraderie   are a pleasure to be a part of.  Its a day of hard work, and sometimes problem solving too.  The photos taken this day are mostly of the site and the people that participate. After a few years of photographing this event, you would think the shots look the same each year, but they really don’t.  There are new faces and improvements to document. And of course the weather is the biggest variable.  This year we were working in a mist that tuned into a drizzle that sent me home a bit soggy.

On Friday things can get a bit … exciting.  I arrived at OMG o’clock to help with setting things up for the vendors arrival.  They begin lining up pretty early, because its a long long day for them as well, unloading their stock.  It was chilly but spirits were high and the mood was light. We (the volunteers) enjoy working together, so the work is not a chore at all.  After my job setting up is complete, I am free to “play”, which in Sharon-speak means it’s time to get out the camera !  I spent the better part of the afternoon walking around taking photos of the vendors as they arrived, the Master Gardeners that were still working on fine-tuning the set-up and of course, the plants!

The plants looked so beautiful, so fresh, it was a feast for the eye! If you live here in the Pacific NW with me, you know what I am talking about. Coming from the 3rd wettest April on record, it was so nice to see the colors, the greens and yellows and reds and ….  well you get the idea !  My own garden is just now waking up, so it was so wonderful to see Hosta’s that were healthy and full, Coleus full of color, Begonia’s in bloom and Sedums with lots of new babies trailing out of the pots.  And the trees! They were all sporting fresh, unfurled leaves, just asking to be taken home and planted.  The Fair is not just about the plants either.  The artwork that these vendors offer was one of a kind and so fresh to look at. My garden has a lot of green, like many PNW gardens.  I depend on some of my garden art to punctuate the green with a sassy red or blue where its needed.  And wind chimes…..  well, there is just no such thing as too many of those, is there?  The sun finally began peeking out late in the day Friday, so the photos of the plants and the wonderful garden art were really beginning to pop.  I left the Fairgrounds eager to return the next day and begin my own shopping … and watch as the weekend would unfold.

Saturday morning is all about the customer buzz.  Arrival is early for the volunteers, time to stretch our legs, wake up and get things in place to welcome our excited crowd.  Sharing an event like this with like-minded customers is very energizing! We have volunteers that have been putting this event on almost since it’s beginning.  The customers begin lining up well before the 9 a.m. opening.  They bring their friends, neighbors and relatives that share the passion for plants.  And their Red Wagons …. to tote their treasured finds. Its really quite cool, to see all the people lined up along the street with their radio flyer wagons, all ages, types and sizes.  There are the red ones, green ones, yellow ones, big, little, and every size in between.  They are empty when the arrive, and bulging / overflowing when they leave.  I began photographing the line around 8:30, amid all the excitement, hot coffee and hats and gloves.  It was overcast and chilly, but that didn’t matter. All that matters when you are waiting is getting in and buying that first plant, from your favorite vendor.

After that first rush is over, about 45 min after the gates open, I took a breath, looked around, and knew why I was there.  The energy is real, and intoxicating.  I spent the rest of Saturday happily walking around, photographing the wagons, the customers and the plants.  I had the chance to talk to many of the vendors and the Fairgoers too.  The nice thing about the camera, it opens doors for me and starts so many conversations.  Saturday afternoon we all left, excited to see what the next day would bring, but also a bit concerned about the frost warning that the weather service posted.

Sunday morning was very chilly, it was hard to believe that we would reach the 70 degrees that they were forecasting for the day.  The excited crowd was smaller, but still very dedicated.  And Sunday host’s a lot of repeat visitors. I have a friend that comes both days to shop, one day with a client of his and the other with his dad. I ran into them several times during my walks around the grounds.  And Sunday is the day for the volunteers families to come out too. My girls and Hubby came out to see me and walk around a bit. They don’t have the garden bug as much as I do, but its nice to have the support!  And the day did indeed reach the  potential of 70 degrees. It was a lovely afternoon, if you could see above the tree line our Mt. Hood was even clearly visible.  Sunday is also the day for some serious plant purchases. I was really good this year tho, and didn’t break the bank like I usually do. My finds included a beautiful Day Breaker Hosta, a cool letter A sedum planter, a wonderful purple double Columbine, some mirrored wind chimes and a string of stainless steel balls to hang from my deck arbor.

The gates closed at 4 p.m. on our 27th Annual Spring Garden Fair.  The remaining work of taking things down took a few hours, but went well since it was such a nice afternoon.  We were tired, but pleased and excited with the work that had been done. And I am sure I am not the only one already looking forward to next years event.

My work didn’t end when I came home. Naturally, I had plants to take care of. I also had over 1000 photos to sort thru and post on our new Facebook Page.  I love sorting thru the images of an event. It brings back memories of the conversations, the connections and the stories of the day.  You can see these pictures on our Facebook page Spring Garden Fair on Facebook .  I have some posted on our Clackamas County Master Gardeners Webpage as well: Spring Garden Fair 2011 

Now its time to sit back and enjoy my garden and the new plants / art I have added this year.  If you need me, I will be in the 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.