Last week, Master Gardener Volunteers in Hancock County gathered at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office in Ellsworth. They arrived with steaming pots of baked beans, salads of every ilk, and trays of sweets, enough food to feed a group twice as large. The conference room was elbow-to-elbow, 50 fellow gardeners renewing old friendships and talking shop, sharing the pride and joy that comes from doing good work in the community.
Marjorie Peronto, coordinator for the Hancock County Master Gardener Volunteer Program, started the evening by giving each master gardener a yellow bandana listing the 16 community projects tackled by the group in 2009. As a teacher in the master gardener program, I received my own bandana and, like everyone else, wore it with pride as we walked through the line of serving dishes, filling our plates.
I have visited most of the projects created by these gardeners and understand the tremendous impact each is having in its community. Master Gardener Volunteers are helping those in need, promoting ecologically-friendly gardening, restoring the history of gardening, and supporting the mission of the UMaine Extension.
After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening reviewing accomplishments of the past year.
Garden projects that help those in need:
Master gardeners are feeding the hungry. Garden plots at the Woodlawn Community Garden in Ellsworth grew 150 pounds of vegetables for local food pantries in 2009 as part of the Plant-a-Row for the Hungry program coordinated statewide by Cooperative Extension. The garden also served as an outdoor classroom for the community as master gardeners taught workshops in composting, square-foot gardening, drip irrigation and edible flowers.
Demonstration gardens at the Extension office also did double-duty in 2009, providing fresh produce for local food pantries and a series of workshops on rain gardens, backyard composting, raised-bed gardening and landscaping with native plants.
Master gardeners working at Hospice of Hancock County in Ellsworth moved closer to their goal of creating a healing and meditative garden space for those coping with terminal illness, their families and their caretakers. And raised bed gardens at the Island Nursing Home in Deer Isle and at Gardner Commons in Bucksport provide spaces where elderly residents now enjoy gardening and visiting with their families.
Garden projects that foster ecologically friendly landscaping:
Master Gardener Volunteers care about the natural world. One group transformed the Extension office landscape into a native plant garden and outdoor classroom where gardeners can learn which native species do well in the area. And at Birdsacre Wildlife Sanctuary, also in Ellsworth, another group maintained their educational boardwalk through five different natural plant communities.
Volunteers at Rhoades Park Butterfly Garden in Southwest Harbor continued to provide local schools and gardeners with educational experiences in a beautiful garden setting. Master gardeners hold public educational sessions there every Thursday.
Master gardeners removed invasive plant species from the Buck Memorial Library landscape in Bucksport and are creating a native plant landscape for town residents and visitors.
And at Wild Gardens of Acadia, master gardeners labored to identify each species growing in the native fern garden so that they can plant additional species currently missing in the collection.
Garden projects restoring the history of gardening in Maine:
Five ongoing master gardener projects are devoted to restoring the horticultural history of Hancock County. In Salisbury Cove, master gardeners are restoring Beatrix Farrand’s terrace gardens at Garland Farm using the same plants that were originally growing in this historical garden. Other master gardeners have recreated period gardens at the old burial ground and at Birdsacre in Ellsworth and at Historical Societies in Stonington and Cranberry Island.
Garden projects supporting the Extension Horticulture mission:
Master gardeners staffed the Extension office garden hot-line, answering 157 requests for information, while others tested new methods for growing cut flowers and building raised beds.
In May, master gardeners held their perennial plant sale and open house at the Extension office in Ellsworth, an annual event for local gardeners. Proceeds from the plant sale provide scholarships for master gardener trainees and funds to support both volunteer projects and educational programs.
And to ensure the future of the Master Gardener Volunteer program, a Hancock County master gardener initiated a statewide Master Gardener Development Board with the goal of establishing an endowment fund.
Similar Master Gardener Volunteer programs exist throughout the state, feeding the hungry, nurturing biodiversity, keeping history alive, ensuring their own future. They give all Maine citizens good cause to join them in celebration of their accomplishments.
Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include name, address and telephone number.