By Marcie Katz
Master Gardener 2019
A huge congratulations to the nine 2021 Jackson County Master Gardeners who received Recognition Awards from OMGA this February! Normally, we would have an Award Ceremony in August during our picnic, but, like everything else for the last year, COVID-19 has changed the way we can do things, and so, I will tell you a bit about our fabulous gardeners that we celebrate!
Margaret Meierhenry received her 40-year Master Gardener pin, and after chatting with her for over an hour by phone, I was impressed indeed! Margaret attended Master Gardener classes in 1980. It was only the second year of the new program and she laughs at the “volunteer hours” she put in in those days, sitting at tables in front of stores and fairs to recruit new members, and answering gardening questions on phones in a hot, dusty old room at the old fairgrounds. Active in the organization’s early years, she said that the 1980’s brought about a new passion for gardening and organics and they wanted to bring that to the community.
Although her mother was a gardener, it didn’t really rub off until she met her future husband who was a farmer in the L.A area! Together they farmed and she learned about amending the earth to make better soil and reap results. They moved their family of five to Australia to live off the land. When they returned to the states – now a family of six – they decided to buy a 15-acre farm near Shady Cove, where they raised livestock and hay.
Farming perked her interest in horticulture, so at the age of 50, she went back to college for a botany degree. At her first job with the Forest Service in Prospect, she walked the forests looking for endangered plants and animals. After years of looking at plants, she decided she wanted to learn how they grew, so she took a job at the Grange Co-op and loved helping people. While there she worked with the Shady Cove Ladies Auxiliary, picking out flowers for display, and making arrangements for the flower shows for nine years!
Then she found her new love: vegetables. To grow, harvest and process them was her new challenge! She grew so many vegetables in her 40×20 ft. garden and greenhouse that she started selling them at a roadside stand. Today, she still grows them, but is trying new techniques using containers with new and different plant varieties.
A firm believer in organic fertilizers and leaf mulch, she became involved with the Soil and Water Conservation District. They converted the 15-acre farm from hay production that used chemicals, to Pasture Conservation, and she wrote monthly articles in the district newsletter.
Her interests were many and varied. She has been active in the Native Plant Society of Oregon, North American Rock Garden Society, Upper Rogue Garden Club and even worked alongside Baldassare Mineo in his Rare Plant Nursery.
At 82 years young and now a widow, she still is active on her farm and loves growing her vegetables and African violets. She says the Master Gardener program “broadened my life,” and even had tee shirts printed with, “I Blossomed when I found Gardening!”
Becky Belau just celebrated her 30th year as a Master Gardener, receiving a 30-year pin. I had the pleasure of meeting Becky last year while working in the Demo Gardens at Extension during our limited COVID-19 garden workdays. She is one of the new co-GEMs of the Propagation Garden along with Sharon Maurin. They have taken over the reins from Peggy Corum.
Becky, a self-proclaimed farmer, grew up in the San Diego area where her father, an aeronautical engineer, was given some Valencia orange trees. That beginning led to more trees, lemons, and plums, and her mother’s garden that grew everything in the beautiful loamy soil. She has always had a farm or garden in her life, and after moving to the Applegate Valley with her contractor husband, she soon realized the soil here was quite different.
Although a nurse by profession, her life took a different path, and she went to work for her neighbor/mentor who owned the Circle G Ranch, helping with her large vegetable garden. It was there Becky learned that the Applegate has many little microclimates and that what grows well in one area may not do so well in another.
She was exposed to propagation in her early years by a friend’s father who raised flowers for the L.A. Flower Market. It is no wonder then that Peggy Corum, of Peggy’s Propagation Garden, became a great friend and mentor, and that Becky worked with her for many years in the Demonstration Gardens.
At home, she grows roses and peonies, as well as manages her large vegetable garden, where she practices her food preservation skills. In the fall she can be found pressing apples from their orchard, making juice, jams, jellies, and applesauce. In her words, “Plants will always be in my life!”
There were seven 20-year alumni to celebrate! We congratulate you!
Master Gardener Myrl Bishop was for many years the main organizer of the JCMGA table at the Ashland Growers Market and was a Member-at-Large on the Board in 2002. She also has been hands-on in a Community Garden near her home, where they grow vegetables and cut flowers. Myrl also teaches and has several PowerPoint presentations that she has used for the Speakers Bureau, WDSG and MG classes. Her topics include the Mediterranean climate, vines, and her favorite topic, clematises! She professes that in her current small yard there are over 13 of them. She also enjoys heirloom roses.
Myrl was introduced to them while on a MG field trip to Salem, where she found Wallerton Old Hall, a lovely, fragrant heirloom. In 2004, she was the co-GEM of the Kitchen Garden, when back in the day you could dig up plants like daylilies, irises, etc. to give away.
Although it is getting more challenging to get around in the garden, she still goes out daily and if there is anything you want to learn about clematis or heirloom roses, she is a wealth of information!
Sydney Jordan Brown ran the greenhouse and plant sales in 2002 and around that time started writing the Gardening Gourmet column in the Garden Beet, which featured a recipe from something you could grow in your garden. She is still writing it and to my knowledge she has never missed an issue!
Larry Carpenter, who is also a Master Food Preserver, ran a pepper booth for many years at the annual Harvest Festival that JCMGA used to run. That gave him the moniker, “Chili Man.” He was known to grow over a hundred varieties of peppers, from the mild bells to the fire- breathing Carolina reapers. He also grew so many other vegetables and tomatoes that he sold them at the Growers Market.
Larry holds a horticulture degree from Cal Poly and ran a successful landscaping business before moving to the Rogue Valley. Over the years, he has tried many things. He continues to grow vegetables for personal use, learning through trial and error how to grow several crops all year long, as well as trying recipes to make his own pickles. Oregon natives and pollinators are a favorite subject, and he is looking forward to the Native Garden Tours in May that Sherri Morgan is putting together!
Donna Smith and Sheila Gleim are also 20-year MG’s. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach them to find out what they have been up to. Sheila was active at SGF in 2000. I hope they are both well and still gardening.
Carol and David Rugg took the Master Gardener class together in 2000. They both went on to be extremely active in the association.
Carol held both the recording secretary and membership secretary positions and was a Board Member from 2001-2003 and again, 2014 –2016. She was the head gardener of the Landscape/Rock Garden in 2003 and went on to be an alternate OMGA representative in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
They now live at The Rogue Valley Manor in Medford and still enjoy gardening on their corner lot, nicknamed “The Park” by her neighbors. Carol’s favorite plants are her transplanted hibiscus, peonies and iris, which the buyer of their old house allowed them to dig up and take with them!
David’s community involvement runs in the family. David also held an assortment of positions both in JCMGA and OMGA and was involved with many different projects and issues.
Known for always having a positive word about everything and to everyone, he became known as a problem solver and a good mediator for differences of opinion. He has been the SGF education chair, JCMGA Board president and a Board member many times over the years, as well as the chair of the 2005 WDSG. He helped with the Science Works Landscaping Community Project, and from 2004-2008 he served as the OMGA representative. David then worked his way up the OMGA ladder, going from 2nd VP to 1st VP, then president-elect, and in 2012 became president!
When not in their beautiful front yard, you can find David busy working in the 20×20 ft. garden bed in the Manor Community Garden growing tomatoes, cukes, peppers and flowers. His favorite? Anaheim chilis!