Volunteer gardeners make others' lives flower


August 10, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PERHAPS your favorite shrub is wilting, or your zinnias are covered with white powder.

Do the the leaves of your apples have orange bumps? Are fuzzy blotches tucked between the stems and leaves of your house plants?

If anything like this exists in your home or garden, you may want to take samples of the distressed plants to a plant clinic staffed by volunteer master gardeners.

The clinics are held on Saturday mornings at three branches of the Howard County library: the Miller branch, the Savage branch and the central library in Columbia. The Miller branch also has a clinic Monday evenings.

At the clinics, master gardeners answer questions: whether a plant has a disease or insect damage; why tomatoes aren't growing; how to make a yard or garden better.

The gardeners identify weeds, trees, shrubs, flowers, diseases and insects.

Gordon Bishop and Mary Proffitt coordinate the clinics at the Miller branch, held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays and from 7 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. Mondays.

When Proffitt last volunteered at the clinic, a couple brought in cuttings from every tree on the lot of their new home.

The husband wanted to clear the property, but did not know which trees were valuable.

Proffitt and Mary Gold, another volunteer, identified the trees from the cuttings.

Another couple brought in a lily with small black dots at the base of its leaves, worried that the lovely flower might have a disease.

Those are seeds forming, the gardeners said.

Cy Swett, a master gardener who often works at the plant clinics, says people come with a little bit of everything -- pieces of plants that are turning bronze-colored, plants and weeds to identify, descriptions of insect damage.

Georgia Eacker, coordinator of the Master Gardener Program in Howard County, has organized training for more than 150 volunteer gardeners over the past five years.

The training, which includes 40 hours of classroom instruction, takes place in winter.

To remain certified, master gardeners must volunteer 20 hours each year and attend at least 10 hours of educational programs.

Last year, about 100 master gardeners contributed more than 4,200 hours of community service.

They educated adults and children, tended demonstration gardens and compost bins, led nature walks, and built and staffed exhibits and clinics.

They also consult with homeowners on a one-to-one basis about soil testing, composting, proper selection of plants, fertilization techniques and lawn care.

Master gardeners implemented the Bay-Wise Landscape Management Demonstration Site Program in Howard County.

Ellicott City resident Betsy Kelley coordinates the program, which encourages property owners to use landscaping practices that preserve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

Eighteen residents have participated, and Eacker hopes the program will expand. Five sites in Ellicott City have adopted Bay-Wise practices.

One is the Swett home on MacAlpine Road in Ellicott City.

Swett's yard has been certified as a Bay-Wise Demonstration Site because he follows simple practices that help the bay: He mows his lawn higher than is customary, composts, and uses fertilizers and pesticides selectively.

He has also developed butterfly and water gardens.

Other Ellicott City master gardeners pursue a variety of interests.

Louisa Thomspon leads nature walks and writes and lectures about native plants.

Barbara Sieg and Ellen Oppenheimer have supervised the restoration of the Whipps Cemetery in the St. John's Lane community.

Carroll Barrack lectures about maintaining trees and lawns.

Terry Schaffer is creating an exhibit for this year's Howard County Fair, "Gardening on the Internet," which describes how to find gardening information. Included in her directory of resources is the Howard County master gardener's home page, the Garden Bench, at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/mg.

Another volunteer, Michelle Wright, will schedule gardeners to staff the display at the fair.

"We'll answer questions and talk about bugs," says Eacker, "but the display will not have a computer."

Other volunteers from Ellicott City include David Barylski, Virginia Bruce, Brian Cannon, Walter and Marion Carlson, Kathy Davis, Katherine Duck, Jim Eacker, Leisa Hidey, Sharon Koury, Barbara Langridge, Jean Leslie, Mary Opitz, Cookie Oppliger, Rondie Reeser, Sandra Roemer, Elaine Schmitz, Joan St. Ours, Mary Strem, Ellen Sutton, Lisha Utt, Barbara White and Donna White.

Barbara Kerr and this reporter are master gardeners from Elkridge, as is Paul Rutter Sr., who tends an extensive rose garden, lectures on the care of roses -- and makes delicious coffee cakes and cobblers.

In the fall, the volunteers will lead three seminars from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays at the Cooperative Extension Service office, 3525 Ellicott Mills Drive, Suite L, Ellicott City.

On Sept. 26, the gardeners will explain how to plant bulbs, perennials, trees and shrubs.

The Oct. 3 session will include talks about fall lawn care, composting and preparing the garden for winter.

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