Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Here in Griffin, we  have taken a few minutes to reflect on this year and those who are near and dear to us. I have enjoyed getting to know so many of you all over Georgia, learning about your projects and the things about gardening that are special to you.
This year has been a whirlwind for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. We have seen new policy updates from the University, and you are getting to know me as a new State Coordinator. We have had Advanced Training classes, newfangled communication tools (like this blog), and a few growing pains.

We appreciate the countless hours you have invested in partnering with Cooperative Extension to make your communities better places through landscaping and gardening. We thank you for staying with us as we explore new directions for our volunteer program.

We hope that you will keep growing with us in 2013! We have lots more trainings, trips, and fun new ways to learn and share coming in the new year.

May you each be blessed with happy, healthy New Year!

Sheri and Krissy
Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program
UGA - Griffin Campus

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cultivated Spaces

Do you ever look at a garden and wonder "why?" Why that garden? Why in that place? Why were the gardeners inspired to create that place? What do they want others to see or do because they built that garden? Do you wonder, "so what?" What is happening because of that garden?

One of my favorite reads was Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit. It was not because it was the story of a magnificent horse. Yes, Seabiscuit was great. But even more enthralling were all of the events and bits of history that created the horse's story. The "why," if you will.

When I look at gardens, I try to see the "why." As Extension educators, we are trained to look for indicators, to see needs that can be met through our teaching. Each of our gardens has a "why." For example, the Japanese Garden at Manito Park in Spokane, Washington, was built in 1974 to symbolize a friendship between Spokane, Washington, and Nishinomiya, Japan. There is a tremendous amount of history and culture behind each garden design decision in an effort to connect the two communities and cultures.

As Master Gardeners, we understand this on an intuitive level. We see a need and we respond. We can't always put into words what we are trying to do. Sometimes, the garden is about solving a problem. Sometimes the garden is about defining the space. Sometimes, the garden is about inspiring our neighbors to try something different, to do something differently. Sometimes, the garden is about making our communities a better place to live.

We are going to take a look at the "why" behind several different types of gardens this spring on our "Cultivated Spaces: The Gardens of St. Louis" MGEV trip. Join Krissy and myself on  April 29-May 4, 2013, as we explore several well-known gardens in the St. Louis area. We will be looking for the "why" and also the "so what?," reflecting on how this can help MGEVs reach out to Georgia communities. For those interested in completing a few extra steps, the trip will qualify for Advanced Training in the Youth and Community Gardens (YCG) category. Be sure to mark your calendars and save the date! We'll be sending more details soon!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Slats in a Trellis

So, we opened our blog a few months ago with a description of a trellis as support for garden plants and a place to showcase those plants. Sometimes a trellis needs some slats or woven wires or some bit of framework for the plants to grab hold of or weave themselves between. That's how we see the Advanced Training sessions we have begun to offer.

Are you asking "What is Advanced Training?" I am realizing that not all Georgia MGs are familiar with Advanced Training, so let me share some details! We also post more information on the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program website.

Advanced Training is a means for MGEVs to increase their skills and knowledge in several key subject areas. Those areas have been designated as Urban Forestry and Ecology, Youth and Community Gardens, Water Quality Management, Sustainable Garden and Landscape, and Diagnostics and Technology. There is also a "required" category that includes teaching, leadership, and communications. For each day of Extension conducted and approved Advanced Training, you collect a certificate. Once you reach the appropriate number of certificates, you can obtain Silver or Gold Star recognition.

Silver Star --  A current, active MGEV with 5 total training certificates, including 4 certificates from any subject area (listed above) and 1 "required" certificate

Gold Star -- A current, active MGEV with 6 total training certificates, including 3 certificates from the same subject area, 1 "required" certificate, and any additional 2 subject matter certificates. This recognition also includes completion of a project approved by the Extension agent.

To get you started on your Advanced Training quest, we offered "Creative Teaching Techniques" in October. This class was from the "required" category. We will offer it again on November 30 (contact your local Extension agent for a registration form).

We are also planning additional subject matter Advanced Trainings in 2013. Be sure to watch the Georgia MGEV Program website for updates and details!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ear to the Ground

September marked the first meeting of the MG Advisory Panel here in Griffin. This panel is an essential listening piece for understanding what happens in MG programs across the state. Sixteen agents, program assistants, and MG volunteers gathered at the Research and Education Garden to take a good look at the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program.
The main points of the work session were the priorities identified for the coming year:

1.       Policies and procedures -- clarification, consistent implementation
2.       Training MGs -- both Introductory and Advanced
3.       Marketing and branding
4.       Recordkeeping
5.       Support for programs in counties without FT agents

So, in light of the input received from panel participants, we were particularly excited to announce the ADVANCED TRAINING offered in Griffin last week, and that a second "Creative Teaching Techniques" class will be offered November 30, 2013. Be sure to contact your local Extension agent or program coordinator for a registration form and more details!

PSSSSTTT...We're also planning an ADVANCED TRAINING intensive session, Master Gardener University, in June 2013! Mark your calendar for June 6-8, 2013!

Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On the Other Side of the Garden Fence

Every once and a while there is profound merit in checking out what is on the other side of our "garden fence." We find new plants, new building materials, new ideas, and new concepts that we can bring back to our own gardens. Just incorporating one of those new things into our own garden can sometimes feel like we're in a whole new space.

That was very evident to me last week as I explored Manito Gardens in Spokane, WA, as part of a pre-conference event for the National Master Gardener Coordinator's Conference. I saw new plants, like this spruce whose identity I neglected to record.

I saw familiar plants combined in ways that seemed new and different.

I saw old favorites that suddenly and surprisingly made me homesick for my Virginia garden.

While it was in part refreshing to see new colors and textures, it was overwhelming to realize there is still so much to learn! There was a lesson to be learned in this garden visit -- we have to be careful to avoid staying so long in our own garden that we forget there is a whole wide world out there!

And so it was for the National MG Coordinator's Conference. The opportunity to visit with other state program coordinators opened my eyes to the possibilities we have for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. I brought back great resources to share with agents and program coordinators that will strengthen how we manage and administer our volunteer programs. Hearing from local program managers that attended the conference reminded me of the things we do well, our connection to people and plants in our communities, and the passion that we all share for gardening.

So, when you have ventured beyond you own garden fence, don't you tend to come home, walk around your own little corner of the world, and contemplate? You see the things that are wonderful and special to you, like the flowering almond that was my dad's mother's or the daffodils from my mother's mother. Then there are the surprises that have really worked well in the soil and light that you have, like the saponaria that thrives in the cracks of the garden wall or the clematis that climbs the serviceberry. There may be a few things that really don't belong in the garden any more, maybe some plants that have never been in the right place, like the blue hollies under the oak tree. Sometimes, we even realize that our garden is just right. Regardless, we don't know until we gain perspective. Have you been on the other side of your garden fence lately?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vines of Change

Solanum wendlandii
I was on the UGA Athens campus yesterday during Extension's Program Planning Week. I had a few minutes to check out the UGA Trial Garden. There were several vines growing in the garden that caught my attention. I think my favorite was a potato vine, Solanum wendlandii. I admired the distinctly solanaceous blue flowers (that my camera does not do justice), the leaves that contrast to nearly everything in my (imaginary) garden, and the evident vigor of the vine (easily 12' with thick stem sections and lots of flowers). I didn't notice the short thorns that Allan Armitage notes in his Herbaceous Perennial Plants book, but that's not to say they are not there.

There are so many plants new to me since my move to Georgia. So many things that used to work fine in my Virginia garden, but are poor choices here. So many new plants to choose from for color in parts of the seasons that I did not know was possible.

So it is with the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. There are so many things that used to work fine, but now there are changes. So many things that are new and offer uncharted possibility...

On Tuesday, I sent out clarifications about the updated UGA Volunteer Policy. I have been receiving some great feedback from MGs and Agents across the state. Thank you for taking the time to forward your comments.

I think we can all recognize the change in the air for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. Take a look back at Chapter 29 in your Georgia Master Gardener Handbook. The chapter takes us through the stages of group development. When I read the chapter the first time, this sentence grabbed my attention:

"By identifying the stage a group is at (or about to enter), a leader can time interventions so that the group will be ready at the appropriate time to move forward."

I find encouragement in the words "so that the group will be ready at the appropriate time to move forward". The Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program will be ready to move forward. 

What can we do to move forward? What is already in play that we can work from? Consider these exciting tidbits...

  • A MG Advisory Panel was formed and met for the first time last week. This advisory group to the State MG Coordinator is critical to hearing from the local level. Agents, program assistants, and MGs are participating in this panel to work through challenges for the Georgia MGEV Program. More information to come on the first meeting...
  • Communication has increased. We now have a newsletter for MGEVs (The Volunteer Vine), we have this blog for discussions, a website for the Georgia MGEV program, and we have a facebook page.
  • Advanced Training is returning to the MGEV program. We have exciting new opportunities to build our skills to make us better community educators. "Creative Teaching Techniques" will be offered in October, and several exciting events are being planned for 2013.
  • Local presence...I have scheduled numerous visits throughout the state this fall and into early winter. I want to know what you are working on in your local communities. I want to know what tools you need to do your job as a MGEV. I want to know what makes you happy, why you invest countless hours in your community on behalf of UGA Cooperative Extension.
Thank you to each of you for continuing to partner with UGA Cooperative Extension in extending sound horticulture and gardening information to the public. I hope you will, indeed, be ready to move forward and accomplish exciting results!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Leaves on the Vine

Thank you to all of you who were a part of last week's "Meet and Greet" at the State Botanical Garden in Athens! It was such fun to meet each of you, to hear what's on your mind, to learn about your projects, and to spend some great time together. I am so glad to put faces and names (email addresses) together.

Each of us plays a part in the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. Some of us are like plant leaves -- we are creating the energy for the organization. Others of us are essential for taking up nutrients and making sure we are adequately "fed". Some of us provide the structure that keeps the leaves and the roots working. Don't forget those who might be like mulch, keeping the roots cool or reducing the advancement of weeds.

Whatever our role, however visible, each of us is essential to the success of the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program! I hope you will take time to consider what each and every volunteer, staff, and agent brings to our program. I bet you can think of clever ways to show how much you appreciate each other!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Coming to a MG program near you...maybe!

Hydrangea aspera, quite lovely in a Virginia garden in summer

The fall schedule for visiting Master Gardener programs is shaping up! I have been invited to MG meetings, agent planning meetings, events, and classes. I will be posting the schedule on the MG program website. Be sure to check it (and make sure I have not overlooked your request!). In the meantime, I have been out visiting already! Watch our Facebook page to see where I have already visited.

Need a little help posting a comment on this blog site? Look immediately below this block of text for the grey block that lists UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program. To the right of it, you will see "No comments:" (or something like "4 comments:" if someone has posted something). When you run your mouse over the words "No comments:" you'll see that it is actually a link. When you click on the link, a new box appears with instructions to "enter comment in box." So, type away.

There is a drop-down list marked "Comment as." This affects how your message appears. You can choose "anonymous" and no one will know who put it up. You can choose "name/URL" and you will be asked for your name and website. This essentially a "from" line, but you are welcome to leave it anonymous.

Lastly, you have the option to "Publish" or "Preview" your comment. "Publish" allows you to post the comment, "preview" allows you to look at your comment before it gets posted. Either way, you will be asked to "verify that you are not a robot" by entering the random words and then pressing "publish." Once you press "publish," you comments go into a cue for me to read and share.

Many of you have sent emails to me with your comments about the poll topics. THANK YOU!

Have a great weekend -- Don't spend all of your time in the garden!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poll #1 Results: AT Topics for 2013

According to you, the readers, top picks for Advanced Training topics for 2013 are:

Sustainable Garden and Landscape (106 of 163 responses; 65%)
Diagnostics and Technology (22 of 163; 13%)
Urban Forestry and Ecology (17 of 163; 10%)
Youth Gardening (13 of 163; 7%)
Water Quality Management (5 of 163; 3 %)

Advanced Training for Georgia Master Gardeners is intended as an opportunity to specialize your expertise so that you are better able to deliver educational programs in your communities. We expect preferences of AT to mirror what is being asked of MGs in local communities -- if you are being asked over and over again how to do something or see a landscape problem repeated over and over again, MGs would want the training to develop an educational response.

What will you do with this Advanced Training expertise? Are you going for a Silver Star? Gold Star? Are you seeking new knowledge and skills to develop a project in your community? Do you work with your agent to develop a project that meets local needs? Let us know what you are thinking!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Climbing to New Heights

What does the trellis in your garden look like?

In my old vegetable garden, it was a piece of cattle panel attached to T-posts, with another panel curved over the top. A tunnel for the vertically-challenged, if you will. It wasn't gorgeous, but it did the trick. It sure was convenient to pick green beans off that trellis. I didn't have to reach too far or bend over too much or squat in the dirt.

But the beans had no where to go. I made the trellis for me, but not for my crop. So before the summer was over, beans were climbing over everything else. Hrumph...

We launch this Blog, entitled "Trellis," as a support scaffolding for the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Programs working with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension all across the state. We're here to provide support for MG programs to grow on and a background to enhance and showcase the Extension educational programming going on in communities all across Georgia. We pledge to extend the trellis, giving room for local programs and volunteers to grow and stretch themselves.

What's your ideal "trellis"?