Miss Sam’s Thoughts

I first met Miss Sam in January of 2012. Who was this tiny woman with the large glasses? She was so polite and quiet spoken and knew a wealth of knowledge, whatever was she doing in the Master Gardener class? She should have been teaching it! What a wonderful relationship I have had with her since. I asked her  after her Master Gardener class experience to write her thoughts down. I found her  article and wanted to share it, so now here it is in its entirety, so sit back and enjoy!

Until August 1991, I had never performed any yard work in any of the locations where Dick and I lived. Too many other interests knocked at my door and there was always someone to do what needed to be done in the yard – our two boys, gardeners and the occasional hired  person – always with Dick’s guidance and help. As teenagers, the boys had a love-hate relationship with Saturdays when Dad would wake us all up at o-dark thirty so we could have a huge breakfast of pancakes,eggs and bacon, sausage, ham, fruit and etc. at our favorite morning spot. Breakfast was finished just at opening time of Dick’s favorite plant store – something like Petals from the Past. After loading the trunk of the car with plants, we headed home where the boys and Dick worked most of the day planting, weeding,and  cutting grass.At most of the locations, we had neighbors who won “Yard of the Month” awards, so motivation was high.

My involvement began in Verbena when Dick retired and we bought a house with 17 acres. Dick had visions of the Biltmore gardens and set to without the help of sons who had gardens of their own by this time, without the help of gardeners and mostly without the help of paid workers. The kudzu, bamboo and privet were plentiful; the oak trees and winged elm were huge and beautiful. We were blessed with sassafras, paw-paw, beech-nut, sweet-gum, hickory-nut, persimmon, mimosa and honeysuckle. Dick hired Collins Nursery to plant dozens of pine trees near the road and plant the foundation areas around the house. This added blue -rug junipers, and nandinas, camellias, Bradford Pears, several varieties of holly bushes (now trees), pyracantha, ilex, yews, and cotoneasters. You get the drift. Did I tell you about the crepe myrtles alternating with wax myrtles lining both sides of the driveway?  Their limbs reach out to welcome all vehicles.

I am and have always tended toward the “green” side of life. Rarely do I kill any living thing, choosing to move the offender to a less-offending place. Kudzu we got rid of mostly because I found a good use for the vine; I made and sold wreaths.  Too late, I learned that jelly could be made from the flowers.  The honeysuckle adorned the fences and privet grew beside. During the blooming season,the sight was beautiful   and the smell, heavenly – enough to make you swoon from pleasure. I can only imagine what neighbors thought when I naively enumerated the blessings and uses of privet in the landscape, if controlled wisely. We have both whacked bamboo down and used the poles for scaffolding, tepees for vines, fencing, plant supports, decorations, flower arranging, wall covering and fishing poles. In spite of every use, the bamboo is ahead of us. Mimosa blooms dance across the landscape. A blight has wiped out most of the trees.

Of course, I added to the mix with wisteria and trumpet vine. A dear friend brought me cuttings of roses from Randolph County, where I was born, and a potted baby magnolia. The roses are taking over the parking pad and the magnolia is now 30-40 feet tall. Mother gave me irises and arborvitaes. Because of childhood memories of my Grandma’s front porch edged with boxwood; I insisted that we have boxwood hedges lining the pool surround. Birds planted dogwood, blackberries, and red bud hither and yon. Mama, Mia!

We have a friend that took one of the first Master Gardener classes given in new Bern, NC. Her prior experience was flower arranging. She now has a beautiful garden filled with plants blooming, growing, multiplying in a very orderly , proper fashion. if a plant does not live up to her expectations, she digs it up, move it to another spot and it thrives. This kind of gardening is for me.

When I stared seeing the notices for Master Gardener classes in Clanton, I would groan because I had no time. I admired the projects around town attributed to the Master Gardeners. Newspaper pictures always showed smiling faces of the worker-bees. Looked like an interesting group of people having fun and beautifying the area. I overheard conversations about how much could be learned in the classes, but no time, not time, always running late.

This year (2012) I decided that I had better take the class while I could still garden. Dick was interested too; couldn’t be better. Couples save a little on class fees. First day, we are usually punctual, so we arrived a few minutes before 9:00 am. The classroom was full of early-birders and this was the way it was until the end. I felt like a first grader, waiting eagerly for my book. What a book! Carrying that book is great strength training by the time all the handouts have been incorporated into the book, it will certainly serve as a muscle builder for the brain and your hoeing arm.

Most of the people enrolled I had never met in  the 20 years of living in this area, but a more congenial group will be hard to find. as the class progressed, I learned that his is typical of all the classes. Our class Coordinators were responsible for our good cheer and our sense of accomplishment; they are so cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable. the speakers were excellent and stayed on topic. Even though we were in class 6  hours each Wednesday for 13 weeks , covering a chapter weekly, there’s still plenty in The Book to study because it covers almost every aspect of gardening: selecting plants, planting,fertilizing, weeding, spraying, propagating growing turf , etc.

When the Facilitator mentioned “tests” everyone froze: certainly more than I had bargained for. We lost our “deer in the headlights” look when she announced that they would be open book tests. Sometimes, you have to study more for an open-book test!

Not only did previous students, now Master Gardeners, prepare lunch for us for a month; they audited some of the classes and invited us (interns) to meetings which are held once a month. We enjoyed wonderful programs and speakers on coffee beans, hummingbirds and poultry,not to mention the food. The Army is said to travel on its stomach;Master Gardeners do their best work around lunch and snacks prepared by a roster of volunteers. We should have been weighed before and after the classes.

There were and are plenty of opportunities to put our new knowledge into practice; in fact, there is a requirement for 50 hours of volunteer work. Plants had to be potted; plant sales manned, clean up performed at the Experiment Station, pruning – beginning to sound like serous gardening- but the camaraderie made it fun gardening. Does this strike you as a little bit like Tom Sawyer?

The highlight of the classes and the end was the Interns’ Garden Tour Day when we visited five interns’ gardens and one of the Facilitators’ garden. All were absolutely amazing, gorgeous, different and made me want to come home and start GARDENING. The requirement for volunteer hours has eased the separation pangs we class members have suffered. we had so much fun, we did not want the classes to end. thank goodness for the opportunity to get together to make things pretty. Future meetings and activities will keep us busy. Master of the garden? some are, most especially , the interns who shared their gardens; some are aspiring to be. Me? Still having a hard time calling some plants ‘weeds’. That’s like saying “off with their head!”