Gail Tesinsky is not a person; she‘s a force of energy. I kept holding myself to the chair, thinking I would fly around the room at any moment from so many ideas during the interview. Her blond hair, bright eyes, red sweater, and bound-less enthusiasm really brightened that gray afternoon! She does not recall not gardening. Having been raised in a family of ten, everyone participated in growing flowers and vegetables. Her preferred way of learning is hands-on. Working with her hands brings her joy. She is a former hairdresser, transferring many of those manual skills plus knowledge of design and aesthetics to her rock and vegetable gardens.
Gail has worked at a Laurel greenhouse for eight years, so the MG class was a mere enhancement of a long relationship with gardening. The business recently changed ownership. The new owners recognize and cherish her knowledge, while she appreciates their willingness to learn. Not only has her learning about gardening come from work and experimenting on her one-and-a-third acre, sun room, and greenhouse. She has taken numerous online gardening courses, often through the ‘provenwinners’ website, to keep herself growing. In her greenhouse, she winters cannas, geraniums, and petunias. I imagine they’re busting out right now from her attentiveness!
For the future, Gail looks forward to the upright petunias which are being developed as I write. She has so much knowledge that I only have space to share some top-tens: never use fresh manure (I assume due to pesticides not having had time to break down), and chicken manure is the best if you use any at all; pots are great for the elderly, so they don’t have to bend so far. Gail grows tomatoes and cucumbers in pots. Pay attention to low temperatures in the spring, since some annuals, notably coleus, do not tolerate temperatures in the 35-45 F degree range. She didn’t used to cut back perennials because they fed birds and served as protection, but she does cut them back now, and they perform beautifully. And insect infestation is typically preceded by extreme temperature changes. Consider neem oil and vinegar to address insects. Lamium is her favorite perennial, partially because it adjusts to varying light conditions. What a wise sage she is! Another super idea – her grandchildren have a Grand-children Garden. Will she consider adoption?
I hope too that Gail teaches a class on gardening where deer live. She’s a walking fount of information. ‘Fine, Fuzzy, and Fragrant’ plants keep them away. The best plant for shooing them is Datura. Keep apples cleaned up to keep deer visits infrequent. Squirrels help with knocking down apples! If provided the opportunity, deer will ruin apple trees. She also hangs CD’s in her yard to spook them away.
In her words, she loves the MG program. Her involvement included the Moss Mansion and the Zoo, where she donated plants, although in the past few years she has worked primarily with Chris Smith on the downtown courtyard. In her spare time… where does she get it? She races cars and works at Michael’s during dormant season. She draws the line at irrigating and mowing, leaving those tasks to others. And the true mark of a Master Gardener: her favorite television show: don’t call if AG LIVE is airing.
Interview by: Bess Lovec