A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Master Gardener Fall Conference

Ever since I joined the Master Gardener program, I have heard people rave about the state-wide conferences. Constantly. They are supposed to be wonderful. Everyone looks forward to them. I have to admit to a healthy dose of skepticism. Come on. Conference. Run by a bunch of busybodies terribly impressed with their own importance. Bad coffee. Speakers droning on and on about topics no one really cares about.

My motto is that I will try anything once. So, I rousted myself out of bed at an impossibly early hour this morning and headed off to Cook College. My first hint that this was going to be a much more pleasant than anticipated experience was at the Registration Check-In Desk. I was actually given a choice of color for the folder with all the hand-outs. I let the nice lady at the desk choose since I'm not good at decision-making when I'm not properly caffeinated. After locating my fellow Middlesex County Master Gardeners (17 of us! 2 tables!), I made a beeline for the coffee which was neither better nor worse than the usual institutional stuff.

I can't put it off any longer. I have to say it. I was wrong. I had a great time. I had a lot of fun with my fellow Master Gardeners. I didn't see a single busybody. The speakers were great. I'm already looking forward to next year.

The first speaker of the morning was the Director of Rutgers Gardens. His topic was "DesignThoughts for Residential Gardens". Slide after slide of impossibly beautiful landscaping. No, it didn't make me want to go home and rip up my yard for two reasons: one, I'm not creative at all and couldn't come up with a nice design if my life depended on it and two, I can't stick to a plan because I change my mind from year to year, season to season, month to month. One of his ideas totally blew my mind. Everyone designs their entry gardens to welcome guests to the front door. His idea is that you should also design it so that it is just as interesting going the other way. Guests should have a great view both coming and going. Have you ever thought of that? I certainly haven't. I will now.

The next speaker was my favorite. The President of the Master Gardener Association of New Jersey gave her "Murder in the Garden" talk. Truly. She teaches nursing and is interested in the pharmacology of poisonous plants. She discussed several mystery novels and the plausibility of the poison used in each plot. Okay, it was actually a lot more interesting than that just sounded. She is a very funny lady. And she grows the plants she discussed. She made two points. The first was that it is almost impossible to get the dosage right when using poisons from botanicals. The second is that unlike in books and movies, the intended victims don't immediately drop dead. It could several days and in the end only make them violently ill rather than dead.

After lunch, there was a choice of four lectures. "Preservation in the Pinelands" didn't interest me at all. Face it. It's a lost cause. This is New Jersey. What doesn't get destroyed by condos will only get paved over. "Rain Gardens" is a topic that was just covered in my classes. "Maximizing Media Access and Development to Promote Master Gardener Objectives". The title alone put me to sleep.

That left "Themed Herb Gardens". The speaker was the woman who coordinates the Master Gardener classes in my county and is in charge of the herb gardens at Davidson Mill Pond Park. I was eager to hear how she comes up with her themes. She is incredibly creative. You can go here for a list of the themes we used this year for our herb beds which were prominently featured in her talk. This was the first time she has given it so her slides were mainly of this year's herb gardens. Most enjoyable for me was the beginning of her lecture which was a brief overview of the history of gardening from Roman times to the present.

After she finished, she invited a Master Gardener from Mercer County to the podium. She was part of a group from her county who tend traditional herb gardens. Over the summer, they had toured our non-traditional herb beds and were very interested with the concept. They came up with the idea of getting all the Master Gardeners in the state who tend herb gardens together to exchange ideas, plants, seeds and maybe put on joint events. I don't think I have nearly enough to do with two jobs, the Master Gardener Steering Committee and volunteering at Rutgers Gardens so I signed up with their new herb group also!

All this and the conference still managed to end on time at 2:30 PM. Amazing!


At 12:49 PM, Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

I loved that idea of giving people a good view on the way out, too. I've never thought of it that way... things like that always make me wonder what other great tips and ideas I will learn in a few years that I wish I knew now. :)

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Annie in Austin said...

I think you're an expert at one approach to "Maximizing Media Access and Development to Promote Master Gardener Objectives"... through blogging, right?

As to taking on another job, Lucille Ball was supposed to have said, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” I hope you have fun with the other herb gardeners.


At 12:06 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Your conference sounds like fun! Of the few conferences I've been to (not gardening ones, unfortunately), most of them have been larger than the one you describe. I've never been to a conference that gave you a choice of colour for the hand-out folder. ;-)

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Carol said...

Sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day. I always love listening to cheerful, funny gardeners.

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Judith said...

It all sounds grand. I'd love to have heard the talk on "Murder in the Garden". I can see all the characters from the novels (& old movies) I have read (& seen) that were poisoned by plants (they did seem to drop dead immediately)...I enjoy reading about your master gardening experiences!


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