Swanky Roots Tour

On August 28th, Master Gardener Association members were treated to a tour of Swanky Roots, a new aquaponics business in Billings. Our tour was given by co-owner Veronnaka Evenson, who graduated from Montana State University in 2016 with degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Veronnaka and mom, Ronna Klamert, are owners/operators of this most clean and modern greenhouse business. (I was most impressed with the requirement of washing our hands and walking on a specially treated mat to be sure no contamination entered the greenhouse.)

2018 newsletter 5.1

At this early stage of the business it’s mostly lettuce being grown, which is available for purchase if you happen to be out in the area…on the way to Oscars Dreamland. The future will include sales of fish and more produce items, as ongoing research and demand are determined.

As you enter the greenhouse, you see the large blue tanks that are holding the fish (which some of our group got to feed!). The fish water is then cycled to irrigate the plants that are grown through a Styrofoam type mat that floats in aerated bins of water from the fish tanks. The large greenhouse is filled with these long bins of water and plants, with the exception of an area along one side, which has larger plant material grown in a medium of expanded clay balls.

This was truly a unique, first-time tour for our group of a business such as this. We wish them well on this most ambitious business venture.

Master Gardener LuAnne Eng

As many times that I have typed LuAnne’s name, I think I have spelled it differently every time. Her name is correctly spelled LuAnne Engh (as in “ing”).

LuAnne grew up in Dickenson, ND and just happened to go to the same schools and church as her husband of 37 years, Rob. LuAnne and Rob owned Northland Corrosion in Laurel where they also live. They are now retired. She enjoys the fact that when they moved into their home, it had mature trees and shrubs and takes pride in being able to continue caring for them.

Thinking about where to go after graduating from NDSU in Fargo, since there wasn’t really anything in North Dakota, LuAnne joined the Peace Corps and traveled to the Philippines. LuAnne said that “they” were supposed to teach the people about growing food, but they themselves learned a lot also. Food isn’t available everywhere, you have to grow it and it grew like crazy. Carrots can’t be grown in the lower elevations but can be in the higher parts. They raised fish in tanks and rabbits.

LuAnne stated that she would like to be more active in MGs because she really enjoys being with so many resourceful people, but when you listen to her schedule, you understand how everything works out. They travel south for 3 months of the year, visit the three grown children and five grandchildren in Seattle and DC. LuAnne is also involved in the Laurel Tree Board finding resources for replacing trees and pruning and on the Laurel Park Board overseeing all the parks. The first Arbor Day Celebrations in Laurel were headed by LuAnne. The MayFlower Church community garden is managed by LuAnne and Rob helps with mowing the five acre parcel with twenty-four plots in addition to keeping a beautiful yard at home. She and Rob will be going to Vietnam in March to build a Habitat house near DaNang.

The booth at the Farmers Market made a huge impression on her, again because of the vast amount of information they all gave out. What you learn can also be fun, like the Mystery Night at the Library being with such a great group of people. Resources are top on her list and she admires all that Amy can put you in touch with. What an enthusiastic, energetic and interesting person to talk to and work with. She didn’t come from a gardening background, but after seeing Amy’s advertisement about the Master Gardeners program, she was eager to sign up and learn. She is a tremendous resource in herself and a great help when she is here to pitch in. Thank you, LuAnne.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

Pollinator Day at St Andrew Community Garden

Master Gardner Dave Kimbell was part of the program at St. Andrew Community Garden Pollinator Day event on June 23. He also did an interview with Terry Moore which is available to watch on YouTube, https://youtu.be/lT7FF8svAZM The garden is in its sixteenth year and has 140 plots (it began with 40)! It includes a mission garden from which produce is donated to area social services.

Featured Master Gardener – Jo Lamey

Jo Lamey Gardens in Briarwood: an interview by Bess Lovec

“Oh gosh,” Jo gushed as soon as I asked her when she started gardening. Her dad had her picking apples and shelling peas before she can remember. She still practices giving away produce, currently rhubarb, as her father did with their neighbors. I hope to be at the top of her list for rhubarb next spring!

Jo acknowledges that soil in the Briarwood neighborhood differs greatly from west Billings, though, where she grew up. Her parents had an acre of vegetables, but Jo and her spouse abandoned attempting to grow vegetables south of Billings. Briarwood has a clay-based soil and sits at a higher elevation than most of our town, so acknowledging our microclimates proves worthwhile. Before fencing the deer ate everything, and Jo and her husband amended the soil for years and still do. Now they focus mainly on flowers, both perennials and annuals, and at this point boast 16 flower beds. Veggies they acquire at the Farmers’ Market, where Jo also volunteers at the Master Gardener (MG) booth.

Her most recent perennials are astilbes, which, she notices, thrive just about everywhere, such as in North Carolina and Colorado, and they burst forth too in Lamey 2Briarwood. She also is captivated this season by an annual called a monkey plant from a vendor in Laurel. Neither of us could muster the scientific names of many plants we discussed. Her father inadvertently left her a buckeye tree, producing poisonous nuts rumored to cure rheumatism when carried in pockets rather than digested. Jo shared a photo of what I initially thought was a spirea bush, but it’s called a butterfly bush, producing small white flowers. Clearly a visit to Jo’s yard would be a field day for someone wanting to formally categorize a broad variety of growth.

She includes ubiquitous flowers in the flower beds: marigolds, geraniums, and zinnias, while punctuating them with hydrangeas, dahlias, and cannas. She just stores the canna and dahlia bulbs with newspapers in a cool place over the winter. Lamey 1

I’m surprised that hydrangeas came back for her, but she shared that they are in a sheltered, easterly location. It’s amazing that she is not even retired while doing such extensive gardening! Jo is particularly busy in this election season. Having trained at MSU and at Notre Dame, she has an independent company that performs market analysis.

Jo adores Amy Grandpre’s leadership style in the Master Gardeners’ program, and she enjoyed the instructions of Bob Wicks and Corry, when she was enrolled in classes. She really has no complaints or suggestions about the program. Jo likes the Christmas gathering, volunteering at the fair booth, and recalls fondly a tour to a private garden in Park City. She prioritizes her appreciation of learning pruning skills. She no longer kills trees or shrubs. And the camaraderie of being with other gardeners cannot be underestimated.

Like any great gardener, Jo has her share of disasters. Her eight orchids got mites that could not be overcome, and now, with her abundance of healthy trees, she has perhaps too much shade, although the moss proliferates. Her roses are struggling this season while the majority of other flowers flourish. This season really prospers from all the recent moisture. Miracid and Soil Pep rise to the top of her list of helpful products. One inch of soil pep holds down her weeds.

Her advice to new gardeners: “get out there and try new things.” Yet Jo wisely recognizes that the benefits grow well beyond the obvious garden itself. Gardening helps her decompress and meditate. The earth and our relationship with it are reciprocal, or maybe even unbalanced. I know my garden gives back to me far more than I give to it, and Jo radiates this sense of joy when you meet her. I hope you do soon!

~Featured Master Gardener ~ Pat Morrison

Energy Creates Energy

I visited Pat Morrison on a frigidly cold day in January, when the snow was up to our hips. Pat’s driveway, though, was shoveled, spotless. I assumed a service did it for her, but she does her own snow removal and gardening at the age of 84. The snow blower helps, and she handles mowing, too, in summers. With an energetic step needed to main-tain her yard and keep up with her new puppy, Pippin, Pat’s bright, inquisitive eyes shared her gardening experiences.

She started gardening “when I was born,” she reports, chuckling. Her mother was her primary influence in what is more than a hobby to Pat. She grew up in Portland, Ore-gon, a moister region than here (and few are not), so her main challenge in Montana is dryness. Pat often waters houseplants twice a week.

I had trouble seeing her yard for the snow but soon discovered that the gigantic snow mound in the front is actually a berm that her daughter, Billings Master Gardener Joann Glasser, helped her build. Pat’s favorite plants are flowers, and they abound in her home. She keeps a poinsettia thriving after three years, and her Christmas cactus was blooming. She successfully winters geraniums, after trimming them in the fall, and African violets pro-liferate under her guidance. Pat’s flower repertoire even extends to silks. Her kitchen/ dining area feels more like a greenhouse than an eatery, and I doubt she staged it. This spring I hope to pop out to her home in the Heights to see the iris that was her mom’s, which qualifies as “heritage” from where I sit.

However, Pat is not limited to flowers and enjoys nurturing cucumbers, strawberries, and tomatoes, although she no longer cans. She recalls, from her childhood, taking produce to a canning factory in Oregon. I asked about rabbits eating her strawberries, as they do in my neighborhood, and she praised the local fox who keeps the rabbit population in check. Her area seems urban for a fox, but, after all, this is Montana!

Her advice for new gardeners is Be Patient. Be Patient… Be patient, the kind needed for raising children, and she and her husband raised four. Joann became a Master Gardener before her mother. Pat is in her sixth year as a Master Gardener, helping at the Moss Mansion in the spring plus Metra in summers, when not working her own yard. She has participated at the zoo. With her wise perspective of time, Pat values long-range planning in public places.

Her favorite aspect of the Master Gardeners’ program is, succinctly yet potently stated, fun! We are so lucky to have her on board. I don’t know how she schedules it all, considering she’s a mall walker in winter, thanks to her Nissan Rogue that she claims walks through snow, and walks her dog twice a day when snow is not on the ground. In addition, Pat volunteers every day at the Senior Center at the Methodist church in the Heights. I needed a nap just thinking about what all Pat does! I heard through the grapevine that Pat brings baked goods to many group MG events, and not store-bought but homemade, pies, cookies, and sometimes cakes. She will forever be in our hearts for this! Wow, WonderWoman. Now we can better understand where Joann gets her drive.

By Bess Lovec

gloxiniaPat sent the photo of her gloxinia bloom. It looks like a nice specimen for the Flower Show.

 

New Leadership: Dara Palmer

On a late summer day, I met with Dara Palmer and her partner to discuss her new leadership role as Montana Master Gardener Coordinator. Since Dara worked with Toby for six and a half years, the transition seems less daunting, although Toby’s and Dara’s personae and styles are very different. We receive benefits of both! Specific goals and attention to detail excite Dara. As a big thinker, she plans to accomplish lots while in her new role.

MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

Incidentally, ‘Dara’ rhymes with ‘Sara.’ Her new position began this past July. Prior to this achievement, she earned her Horticulture Bachelor’s of Science degree from MSU (Bozeman) and has completed all levels of the MG program. She really knows the nuances. Prior to the position as Toby’s assistant, Dara worked as a landscaper and in a greenhouse for a combined total of 12 years, so her depth of knowledge and experience in gardening reign formidable.

Toby has not left us. He continues to write Mont Guides plus bulletins and serves on the weekly Ag Live PBS television show. In addition, he continues as state Horticultural Specialist, conducts workshops, and is very involved with Heritage Orchards in Montana. When clarifying what he continues to do, I wonder how he managed it before and can even keep track with his various on-going duties! We wish him well in his future numerous endeavors and hope he will stay in contact.

Dara shared lots of information about the Montana MG program. Level 3 did not occur in 2016, but in 2017, 25 people attended. In no particular order, Billings, Great Falls, Helena, and Gallatin County boast the most active associations. Bravo, Billings! Gallatin County did not have a County Extension Agent at the time of this interview. Their former Volunteer Coordinator is none other than Dara. I asked about government cutbacks: Cutbacks will not be for the MG program specifically but rather the Extension as a whole, and the final word on those negotiations were not available at the time of printing. Neither people, the earth nor plants remain static.

Many Level 3 graduates request more continuing education, so she is toying with the notion of a gold designation in the future for those high achievers. To do so would serve the purpose of aligning us with national standards, a goal within sight. Dara considers camaraderie the greatest strength of the program, especially when coordinators from across the state meet. Those connections stem from a deep concern for horticulture, her passion. The fun factor must be front and center, too.

As a personal gardener, ornamentals (perennials, trees, and shrubs) interest her most. She had to replant her first real vegetable garden this past spring due to a cold, wet stretch in Gallatin County. Yet it did yield harvest.

Her greatest challenge with the program? IT improvements. She wants to customize the website so it is more user-friendly. I assured her that it is more user friendly than many websites with which I interface! Next on her to-do list is to write a new Level 2 Handbook, although she recognizes that that calling will take years. She longingly describes fine tuning the curriculum, re-writing exams, and new study guides. Based upon Dara’s intensity, I sense that demands on the students will increase. The expectations will be offset by a student manual which spells out steps, so the process registers as attainable. Food donations need to be standardized across the state, also. And less sweaty t-shirts, ah, an eagerly anticipated relief, will arrive soon.

Welcome, Dara, and let us know how we can help to better improve the program for everyone! We can make Montana more beautiful and healthy, one plant at a time.

Submitted by Bess Lovec