2018-09-02 / Insight

Master Gardeners an educational volunteering organization

Contributing Writer

Master Gardener volunteers Carl and Maurene Kern of Elba Township spend hours every week tending to the Display Gardens. Here, they rest a moment on a bench surrounded by blooms. Master Gardener volunteers Carl and Maurene Kern of Elba Township spend hours every week tending to the Display Gardens. Here, they rest a moment on a bench surrounded by blooms. MAYFIELD TWP. — Anyone who doubts the importance of what a master gardener does needs only to head out to the Display Gardens behind the Lapeer County Medical Care Facility on Suncrest Drive.

The gardens are currently a riot of color, though starting to fade a bit as summer winds down, offering a beautiful place for the residents of Suncrest to visit with family members, children in the facility’s preschool to learn and explore, weddings, photo shoots or just a spot for a scenic stroll. The general public is welcome to enjoy the gardens at any time, and photographers can often find inspiration in the variety there.

According to master gardener Mary Paine, a recent class has brought a dozen or so new members into the Lapeer County Master Gardeners Association. There are, she said, somewhere around 80 members, but not all are able to get out and work as much as they used to. She’s pleased to have some younger, more active members come on board. It takes the hard work of around 35 volunteers to maintain the display gardens, which cover about an acre, and change a little every year.

“I’m up there probably four days a week checking on things or fixing things,” she said.

In order to maintain the gardens, different volunteers are given their own areas to plan and maintain. They’re called “bedheads,” Paine said.

One big change in the Display Gardens is that two big, old blue spruces had to be taken down due to disease. That eliminated a shaded area, so that spot will be under transformation in the coming years, as they find plants that adapt to the new light levels. There will be shade provided again, probably in the form of a pergola, and later, from a newly-planted tree or two.

The gardens recently hosted a speaker from Japan, and therefore the Japanese garden area will likely also undergo some changes in the coming year.

Paine has been a master gardener since 2006. She enjoyed gardening, and after retirement, decided it would be a good thing to do.

“I thought I’d take the class, and then I got hooked by the Display Garden,” she said.

In order to become a master gardener, one must take 14 hours’ worth of class, pass the test, and then put in 40 hours of volunteer work that year on an approved project. The classes, offered through the Michigan State University Extension, can be taken anywhere in the state, and the volunteer work can be done pretty much anywhere, as long as it’s an approved location. They can’t, for example, do an individual’s yard work or landscaping for them and expect it to count.

Locally, much of the master gardeners’ time is spent in the Display Gardens, though they also plant the planters in downtown Lapeer (which are then maintained by city employees), the rose gardens in front of Suncrest, the beds surrounding the Alzheimer’s patio, they help out at Seven Ponds Nature Center, and Paine said they’re also putting in a butterfly garden in Imlay City.

Becoming a master gardener has a variety of benefits, said Paine. It’s good for one’s mental and physical health, it’s educational, and it gives back to the community in a beautiful way.

“The master gardener program is an educational volunteering organization,” she said.

Visit www.lc-mga.org to find out more about the Lapeer County Master Gardeners Association, and stop by the Display Gardens to see their work spread out before you in vibrant living color.

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