Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners celebrate 10 years

Denyse Cummins, Souvestre, Robert J.  |  5/16/2008 7:13:37 PM

News Release Distributed 05/16/08

Since classes began in 1998, 343 northwestern Louisiana gardening enthusiasts have been certified as Louisiana Master Gardeners and have gone on to educate and beautify their communities.

The Master Gardener program is a volunteer service and educational activity offered by the LSU AgCenter.

The Northwest Louisiana Master Gardener Association began in 1998 with LSU AgCenter area horticulture agent Dr. Joe White to support the AgCenter in disseminating research-based gardening information to the people of north Louisiana. He continued running the program two years after he retired until Denyse Cummins became program coordinator in January 2003.

“Dr. White was the catalyst that glued us together by gentle persuasion, by expert knowledge and by example of what good gardeners do and are,” said Lou Osborn, a member of the first class. “That first class owes him a hearty clap on the back for all that he taught us.”

Bob Souvestre, LSU AgCenter state coordinator for the Master Gardener program, said the Master Gardener program was initiated in Louisiana in 1994 and now has more than 1,000 active participants. He expects two more groups will start in 2008.

Shreveport programs include the Master Gardener hotline providing answers to gardeners’ telephone questions, The Seedling monthly newsletter, an April plant sale and Le Tour des Jardins spring tour of area gardens.

Osborn recalls the meeting where someone suggested the tour and how the north Louisiana group learned to repeat the French pronunciation correctly.

“We designed and purchased garden aprons, which are worn to this very day by people who work Le Tour des Jardin,” she said.

Mary Lipsey said the tour is still the major fundraiser for the group. She recalls being the first treasurer when only $250 was in the bank. “I am thrilled with the good reputation of the Master Gardeners and proud of how far we’ve come.”

A more recent accomplishment has been the completion of the gardens and greenhouse at the Randle T. Moore Center.

Many public and nonprofit gardens have been designed, installed or maintained, including the Pioneer Heritage Center Gardens at LSUS, the Barnwell Center conservatory, the gardens at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum and the Bossier City Liberty Garden, Cummins said.

The Moore Center was built in 1924 and donated to the City of Shreveport in 1968 for exclusive use by senior citizens for their recreation and pleasure. It is a unique joint venture between the City of Shreveport, the LSU AgCenter and the Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners, Cummins said.

In 2004 David Helms, Master Gardener president at the time, and representatives from the LSU AgCenter and the city began talks to renovate the Carriage House on the property for an office and classroom for the Master Gardeners and the LSU AgCenter horticulture program. Two years later the facility was completed and the first phase of the landscape project began.

On April 19 this year, the gardens were open to the public and Cummins led tours and talked about sustainable gardening with Grace Peterson, assistant extension agent.

“The Master Gardeners have certainly been a tremendous asset to the Randle T. Moore Center,” said Rachel James, recreation supervisor. “More interests of the Moore Center have been sparked from the beautiful gardens and hanging baskets. When there is an event at the Moore Center, the work of the Master Gardeners extremely complements the building in a much greater aspect.

“Thanks, and hats off to all the volunteers for their hard work and their time. They have received excellent education on gardening and, therefore, continue to beautify the grounds of the Moore Center. The work that they do certainly speaks highly of them,” James said.

Master Gardener classes take place at the Moore Center for 45 hours over 10 weeks and include lecture and hands-on activities. Topics include basic botany, soil, insect control, plant disease, fruit and vegetable culture, lawn care and weed science. Applications are taken all year long for a class of 30 that begins every January.

Upon graduation, there is a 40-hour volunteer commitment within one year from the end of training. In 2007, that amounted to 9,582 hours. “Master Gardeners have incredible goodwill,” Cummins said.

“We wanted desperately to make this organization one that had merit, that would contribute to the health and well-being of Shreveport/Bossier folks,” Osborn said. “We worked hard that first year to establish the parameters that would set us apart from a simple social group and be the arm of the extension agency that serves gardeners of all stripes in this community.”

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Contacts:
Denyse Cummins at (318) 698-0010, or dcummins@agcenter.lsu.edu 
Bob Souvestre at (225) 578-1030 or bsouvestre@agcenter.lsu.edu

Writer:
Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or mvanosdell@agcenter.lsu.edu

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