Master Gardeners use seminar to swing back into action

(10/07/22) GONZALES, La. — The River Parishes Master Gardener Associations brought out the heavy hitters to swing back into action after being cooped up for two years.

The seminar, held in Gonzales on Sept. 30, was a way to get more than 100 Master Gardeners together, who are doing the same work in different communities to share ideas.

LSU AgCenter agent Mariah Simoneaux said this was a good way to help Master Gardeners reconnect.

“We knew that bringing the groups together would be a great opportunity for them to network and hear some great speakers,” Simoneaux said.

In Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux’s welcome to the group, he discussed the importance of networking.

“At one of our National Mayors Association meetings a few years back, I had the opportunity to share with the mayor of Chicago, and we realized that whether big or small, we all have the same problems,” he said. “He gave me some ideas and I gave him some little ideas, but the networking was great.”

The speakers on the program were retired Mississippi State extension horticulturist and gardening expert Felder Rushing along with Gonzales’ own local rose expert Peggy Martin.

Simoneaux said the idea for the seminar came from Master Gardener Richard Babin.

“A lot of people were doing the same programs, but they weren’t discussing between associations,” she said. “So we wanted to have an event where people can come together and learn, have good speakers and share ideas.”

The Master Gardeners came from throughout the River Parishes region, which benefitted each association by defraying their expenses.

“It’s hard for the smaller associations to bring in a big-named speaker or rent a nice room,” she said. “But by pooling our resources, we were able to bring in two excellent speakers, we were able to have a nice lunch and we brought a good number of Master Gardeners together.”

The highlights of the meeting were the two speakers on the program. Rushing, who refers to himself as an 11th-generation Southern gardener, and Gonzales resident by way of Plaquemine Parish, Peggy Martin, who is the name behind the Peggy Martin rose.

Martin, who grows everything organically, said her prior home and property stood under 20 feet of saltwater for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

“What we now know is that the Peggy Martin rose was one of only two plants to survive,” she said.

Rushing started the Master Gardener program in Mississippi and says he worked at garden centers and landscaping when he was young. So, for a career, he decided to teach horticulture instead.

“I help people to interpret horticulture into just plain gardening,” he said. “Working with the extension service, I found out that our job is to change behaviors, not just tell people how to have better compost, but how to have better yards if they have problems.”

Rushing continues to write his syndicated newspaper column of 43-plus years, and for 21 years he has hosted the Gestalt Gardener, one of National Public Radio’s most popular programs and podcasts.

Marilyn Rice, vice president of the Ascension Parish Master Gardeners, said the seminar was a great outreach opportunity and a great way to see what others are doing.

“It was just a good idea to bring Master Gardeners together to promote fellowship and just to coordinate,” she said. “It also gives us a chance to see what other fellow Master Gardener organizations are doing.”

Simoneaux said she and the Master Gardeners love the idea of making the seminar an annual event.

Woman standing at lecturn.JPG thumbnail

LSU AgCenter county agent Mariah Simoneaux welcomes attendees to the River Parishes Master Gardener seminar held in Gonzales on Sept. 30. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

Man and woman conversing.JPG thumbnail

Horticulture expert Felder Rushing shares a light moment with Master Gardener Leigh Harris during the River Parishes Master Gardener seminar held in Gonzales on Sept. 30. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

Women sitting at a table.JPG thumbnail

Peggy Martin, left, who has a rose named in her honor was one of speakers for the River Parishes Master Gardener seminar held in Gonzales on Sept. 30. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

10/7/2022 7:48:14 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture