25-Year Celebration of Master Gardeners in Yellowstone County

Billings Montana; MetraPark, 4-H Building; May 18, 2019
by Amy Grandpre
photos by Sherry Doty

[Editor’s Note: in previous posts and the printed newsletter credit for photos in this article was given to Amy Grandpre and Merita Murdock. Our apologies to Sherry for the mixup!]

Twenty-five years is quite the marker for an organization, and the best thing to celebrate when it involves dedicated volunteer service to our community.

JAS 02

The celebration was presented as a birthday party, with birthday party decorations, a HUGE card for all to sign, and a table filled with some 50 wrapped gifts, distributed during the event. And since it was a rainy, dreary day, a great day for gardeners to gather and enjoy an indoor BBQ potluck.

In 1994 it was a gathering of nine Billings citizens, simply interested in learning more about how to grow their yard and garden plants more successfully in our challenging Montana environment. JAS 03Those students present:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Johanna Freivalds
  • Bobbi Hylton
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Joe LaRue
  • Berta Morrison
  • Merita Murdock
  • Evelyn Popelka
  • Edith Yapuncich

It was a very exciting time, as we were witnessing the beginnings of BIG technology. We gathered at Eastern Montana College (now MSU Billings) to experience something called MetNet Video Teleconferencing. This was one of several sites across the state, set up to host the first Master Gardener classes. Participants watched live classes, being taught by specialists in Bozeman… and the sites also had the ability to ask live questions to the instructors. This was a big deal.

We had a total of six classes:

  • Composting by Mike Vogel
  • Urban IPM by Sherry Lajeunesse
  • Insect ID by Will Lanier
  • Soils & Fertility by Jeff Jacobsen
  • Plant Disease by Jack Riesselman (still seen on Ag Live)
  • Horticulture Wrap-up by George Evans

We had three project/activities that year:

  • Master Gardener hotline
  • Plant exchange/potluck
  • Garden tour featuring our own Master Gardener gardens

Total 1994 Volunteer hours = 43

In 1998, Bob Gough picked up the program and under his watch and care it exploded. This man was passionate, witty, charming and just made learning fun. There was no snoozing in his classes, as he was a master at engaging his students.

 

Today, our program is an active 130-participants strong with hundreds passing through our program through the years. We have 25 active projects, and in 2018, Yellowstone County Master Gardeners logged 3,000+ hours. Total hours recorded since 1994 is 50,000, which is lean, as not all our Master Gardeners log their hours.

What made this event extra special were the guests who came from our past to celebrate with us. Among the most honored and recognized were three from our original class:

  • Annette Bayley
  • Diane Kostelecky
  • Merita Murdock (of course Merita is most active currently)

These three were gifted with Extension sun hats in appreciation.

Then several of our past Program Coordinators came to celebrate and were recognized as well. These included:

  • Ann Finley, 2002 Program Coordinator
  • John Levar, 2008 Program Coordinator, and wife Nan
  • Karen Lindeke & Ruth Sheller (now in her late 90s), 2004 Program Co- Coordinators
  • Ann Hillman, 2005–2014 Program Event Notification Coordinator

Other honored guests:

  • Dwayne Bondy, Class of 2000, was ZooMontana grounds keeper
  • Rosemary Power, Class of 2006

 

Master Gardeners present who have been with the program 8+ years were recognized:

  • Merita Murdock, Class of 1994
  • Mary Davis, Class of 2002
  • Tom Kress, Class of 2003
  • Vonnie Bell, Class of 2003
  • Ann Guthals, Class of 2007
  • Bob Wicks, Class of 2007
  • Sharon Wetsch, Class of 2007
  • Joann Glasser, Class of 2008
  • Sheri Kisch, Class of 2008
  • Dave Kimball, Class of 2009
  • Joyce Hendricks, Class of 2010

2019 Level 1 and Level 2 graduates present were recognized, and volunteer accomplishment awards were given to:

  • Sherry Doty: 400 Volunteer Hour Award
  • Fay Danielson: Level 3 Certified

A moment of silence was given to honor our Master Gardeners who have passed:

  • Roger Pitet (2003)
  • Jackie Bradshaw (2005)
  • Joe LaRue (2006)
  • Berta Morrison (2007)
  • Bob Gough (2011)
  • Vicki Thomas (2011)
  • Jane Howell (2012)
  • Shirley Spildie (2013)
  • Edith Yapuncich (2013)
  • Julie Halverson (2019)

 

A chalk art contest was part of our celebration activities. Bob Wicks was able to score some fabulous trophies for the event!

  • First place went to Annette Bayley
  • Second place to Linda Williams

Our celebration finished up with a long-awaited dedication of a Mock Orange tree to honor Dr. Bob Gough. The linden tree previously dedicated June 25, 2012, had perished due to a poor growing environment. Two plaques (made by Master Gardener Roy Wahl) were placed to mark the event:

Always In Our Hearts
– Yellowstone County Master Gardeners
Bob Gough “Dr. Bob”
“A Most Excellent Teacher”
Philadelphus coronarius (Mock Orange)
Dedicated May 18, 2019

Special thanks to Bob Wicks and Brian Godfrey for helping DJ the event, and to Merita Murdock and Debbie Wicks for making the delicious cupcakes that made the event extra special.

Advertisements

AnnaMarie Linneweber Shares Her Story

by Bess Lovec

Eight yellow jackets stole AnnaMarie’s career as a professional gardener. She reached behind a railroad tie to pull weeds, and they nailed her forearm, which swelled to twice its normal circumference. The swelling even went halfway up her upper arm. If toxins had made it to her heart, she would have missed this interview and the past three years.

She has been in and out of hospitals more than a dozen times, and even more times to emergency rooms, but not just due to the bites. AnnaMarie has suffered heat stroke twice, making her even more vulnerable to falling prey to that condition again. So she is wisely poised to give advice: “Hydrate, and take breaks, even if you don’t think you might need one. Use electrolytes. And get to medical help ASAP if you’ve been bitten by yellow jackets.” I repeat her mantras throughout the day, since the combination of medical events wiped out her immune system. She gained a close-up view of gardening’s underside that I hope my readers can avoid.

In 2014, AnnaMarie completed all three levels of Master Gardeners. She encourages everyone to take all levels for the diverse knowledge each course provides. She worked as a gardener at the Moss Mansion and for various families, plus volunteered at the Zoo and with veterans at Veteran Hall. Master Gardeners provides hope for humanity, in her eyes, and the variety of people plus camaraderie are its biggest strengths. She thinks the focus going forward should be to teach people to garden their way, providing support for a variety of paths, with the value of sustainability.

She adores many perennials, such as gay feathers, Jupiter’s beard, and coneflowers, but she wonders about the future of perennials in the face of climate change. Zonal maps might be outdated as soon as they’re published! AnnaMarie touts the virtues of annuals because they are easier to maintain than perennials and can be changed every year. Exactly what she loved about gardening is what she misses… the physical exercise, sweating, and dirt. Her creativity has shifted to painting and jewelry making. Her new activities help her brain heal and improve her balance and coordination.

For newcomers to gardening, AnnaMarie recommends that you buy a few good books, such as the Taylor series, and don’t get too big too fast. If you’re part of a large, commercial project, make sure an overall plan exists, both to keep volunteers engaged and to avoid waste. And catch the documentary Wasted by Anthony Bourdain about how indigenous peoples use what we frequently consider waste. I can’t wait to hear more great ideas from this true Master Gardener!

A Blast from the Past

The late Dr. Bob is the father of Montana’s Master Gardener program. When he taught the classes nobody ever fell asleep. He was a writer of a great many articles on gardening. The following is just one of several hundred in my files.

A question to Dr. Bob: “How can I increase germination of my garden seeds?” (March 2002) Gardeners all over the country are right now wondering how to get better germination in the vegetable and flower seeds. Of course, start with good seeds and in most cases you’ll have good germination, but some seeds are notoriously tough with hard seed coats. Now, researchers in Georgia have found a common household substance that increases germination in watermelon seeds.

The seedless watermelon cultivars on the marker are for the most part, triploids. That means that they form fruit that has no developed seeds. While they are no good for seed-spitting contests, the melons do make great eating. The triploid cultivars are expensive to produce and, unfortunately, the seeds have thick coats that interfere with germination. Researchers have found that soaking the seeds in 1 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide at room temperature and in the dark greatly improves their germination. After just a day or two in the solution, the seeds germinated readily in petri dishes and would no doubt do so in the garden soil.

The 1 percent solution does not damage the emerging radicle, but solutions two percent or higher do severe damage to the young seedling. The hydrogen peroxide is generally available in the drug store and is a three percent solution, so you must dilute it with water. You can do that by adding two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. So far, researchers have only tested the solution on watermelon seeds, but they suggest that it might also improve germination in a wide range of “hard-coated” seeds, such as those of cabbage and broccoli.

Tribute: Julie Halverson

She left us Feb. 9, 2019. Her family plans Julie’s Memorial Service for July 11—date TBA.

image001

Announcement posted 7/10/19

Julie joined the Yellowstone County Master Gardener program in 2000, and was a true force to be reckoned with, especially when it came to getting volunteers for her pet project ZooMontana and the Geranium festival. She called herself the “pushy old broad” as she “eagle eye” challenged Master Gardeners to sign up to help at the various stations of the Geranium Festival…and she did get the volunteers! It was a rare week through these years that she didn’t show up to the Zoo and work on flower garden care…and this she did all the way up through last fall.

School stories were a big part of her story telling history as her students and friends knew. In 1987 she was honored with a Golden Apple Award in School District 2 (Billings). Even after a full career teaching kindergarten, Julie shared her teaching skills through the Care After School programs and also worked to maintain the MetraPark Gardens. Julie holds the record for MG volunteer hours, an unbelievable 2500 Volunteer hours in her 18 years. And this was through just one of her many club affiliations such as Delta Kappa Gamma, Early Literacy, Global Grannies, and the Garden Club.

“She was one of the most energetic, ambitious and positive folks I’ve ever known. She always had a smile and a very special way of getting you to volunteer for a project. I will remember her for not letting anything stop her, breast cancer or strokes and her deep sparkling eyes. She inspired many a gardener both aspiring young ones and us “more mature” ones”

Master Gardener Merita Murdock

“Most days Julie and her husband had lunch at the Muzzle Loader Cafe and when several old Master Gardeners habitually showed up on Friday for lunch there was always a chat or wave. She never forgot us. She would drive her car to lunch and her husband always sat in the backseat. He might have been thinking of his safety.

“Julie was an expert on herbs. One year MSU did not provide an instructor for the M/G class. The Billings MGs had to teach the class themselves. Julie brought her years of teaching skills to help save the day. She was an expert on herbs. She taught a class on herbs which the students really liked. She was always available to provide advice to learning MGs. In a similar manner, she often gave away plants she had grown in her garden and her emphasis seemed to be angled toward English Garden style.”

Master Gardener Corry Mordeaux

“What a blessing it was to know Julie. Julie’s enthusiasm and wealth of gardening information made being around her such a pleasure. She enriched the lives of many of us Master Gardeners in countless ways.”

Master Gardener Elaine Allard

“I knew Julie through the geranium fest and I worked with the group at the Zoo a couple years. I especially liked her nickname that she seemed to actually enjoy having ‘the pushy old broad’. But she always got things done- with a bright smile.”

Master Gardener Sheri Kisch

Julie will be missed by so many.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre

UPDATE

 

2019 Class Updates

This year’s classes seem to have gone by so fast. With a wonderful crowd of 50 for Level 1 and around 10 for Level 2, it’s been a very good year. Of course it helped to have Toby Day come from Bozeman to kick off our class sessions too. Was so great to have him here to energize both a Level 1 and a Level 2 class session. (Love Toby’s heart for being there for us and our program.) I want to especially thank our most dedicated Master Gardeners who have coordinated our Level 1 and Level 2 classes: Bob Wicks, Brian Godfrey, Corry Mordeaux, Sharon Wetsch, Sherry Doty, Tracey King and Tom Kress. You all ROCK!

So now comes spring and the 2019 growing season. I want to encourage all the Master Gardeners who haven’t yet set up their mtmastergardener.org accounts to do so as soon as possible…and many of you haven’t! ☹ This site would have really helped you out during class sessions, but you also need it to enter your volunteer hours. This is an important step, as this site is where all of the state’s Master Gardener volunteer hours are compiled and accessed by Toby Day and Dara Palmer. This not only proves the value of Master Gardener volunteer impact in our state, but is also where you qualify to receive your Level 1 and Level 2 certificates and shirts. Once your required hours are entered (20 for Level 1, 30 for Level 2, 40 for Level 3), Dara will be notified and will process and send me the needed certificate/shirt.

When you select your project of interest to volunteer in, do remember to choose a favorite, and then maybe just one more that interests you. It’s better to have one or two projects to focus on, rather than half a dozen that you can only lightly dabble in. Then once you see how these projects fit your schedule, you can branch out. Just don’t want your spring enthusiasm to lead to a quick burnout.

I am looking forward to see what our impact will be in 2019….

Amy Grandpre

Awards, Hard Work and Rewards!

When an opportunity came up to elect someone to receive the Outstanding Urban Forestry Volunteer Award, Master Gardener Merita Murdock popped into my head. Her booklet “A Short Tree Tour of Selected Trees of Downtown Billings” was such a wonderful labor of love, that I wanted to at least brag about her a bit. So I did, and she received the award.
For those of you who don’t know Merita, she actually joined the Yellowstone
County Master Gardener program during 1994…year 1 of our program here. She is a Lev. 3 Master Gardener and has received one of the state’s Outstanding Master Gardener awards, plugging in over 1100 volunteer hours of service to our county. She is instrumental in helping me with the record keeping of our most active Master Gardener program….couldn’t do it easily without her. She’s been most active in so many areas: Women’s Prison, Square Foot Demonstration Garden, 4-H and fair judge, Master Gardener information booths, Billings Annual Flower Show, hoop house construction at MetraPark Education Center, Arbor Day, designing fliers and advertisements, helped create and was treasurer of Master Gardener Association, on nomination committees….and I’m sure I’ve missed so much more.

I am so excited that Merita was chosen as a winner of this most prestigious award from the Montana Urban and Community Forestry Association, and so grateful for all you have done and do for our Master Gardener program.

HARD WORK AND REWARDS ~ CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL

Here are the folks who have gotten some certificate action:

Level 1 Shirt & Certificate:

Kristine Brenden

Level 2 Shirt & Certificate:

Ann McKean

 
Submitted by Amy Grandpre