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OLLI classes

Out in the Community

By Beet 2022 09 September

JCMGA Members Participating in the Annual OLLI Open House Share Their Insights


by Colet Allen

JCMGA participated in the OLLI Open House held at SOU’s Stevenson Student Union on Friday, July 23, 2022. John Kobal and Susan Koenig were asked to staff one of the instructor’s tables for Recreation. I was seated directly across from them at the Development Committee table. I almost never saw them as they constantly had three to seven people lined up with questions and folks eager to talk to about gardening. John and Susan now have their own OLLI following. They will be teaching an Ornamental Gardening in the Rogue Valley class on Wednesdays this fall from 9 to 10:30 a.m. For information on registration, go to the OLLI at SOU website.

You could tell that people were enjoying this event by the noise level and vibration in the huge room. The hustle and bustle of people going to and coming from the Heritage Organizations in the main entry hall and the fabulous, donated food from several of our retirement facilities who were set up in the cafeteria all added to this event. The Rogue River Room housed information tables for SOU, OLLI Instructors and the OLLI Committees.

It was a successful event partly because several past members returned and there were about an equal number of new members who signed up. Some of the new members had just moved to the Rogue Valley. It was a fun event, a great outing and wonderful to get together with good friends again. I heard that there were over 800 people in attendance.

From John Kobal:

A fun time was had by all at the OLLI Open House. OLLI has so many interesting courses – and one that covers Ornamental Gardening, too. Yup, Susan Koenig and John Kobal are at it again. They are co-hosting the Fall OLLI series of classes, as was done two years previously. OLLI (via Zoom format) affords attendees the opportunity to learn about gardening in the comfort of their own homes. With all the COVID-19 scares still abounding, we again opted for the Zoom format. In between each session, attendees can forward questions specific to their needs. John and Susan respond directly to the participant and share questions/responses with the class when deemed generally applicable. Questions during the class are also encouraged. OLLI has proven itself very valuable in concert with the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau. Many participants are simply after help with their own gardens and OLLI provides a great medium for obtaining information and access to Master Gardeners (Susan and John). OLLI also provides a forum for promoting Jackson County Master Gardener classes and the Association. It’s a win-win for everyone.

From Susan Koenig:

John and I were asked to staff the Recreation table at OLLI’S annual Open House. Six to eight hundred attendees were expected. The booths were staffed by instructors in each subject area. We were available to talk with attendees about our curriculum for Ornamental Gardening which will be held this fall and Vegetable Gardening, which is held in the spring. I brought both Garden Guide texts, an outline of each curriculum, and a laptop with one of the PowerPoint presentations that attendees could page through. I also had a signup sheet for those who wanted to be reminded of when the registrations for Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens and the Master Gardener Program open. We got 21 signatures for both! I’m not sure how many people stopped by the table, but I do know I was always busy talking to some delightful folks and the hour and one half went by very quickly. It reminded me of working in the Plant Clinic because I fielded several questions on plant problems and made recommendations on plant selection, too. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and I discovered that there is life after COVID-19 for the JCMGA with a new, enthusiastic group of volunteers waiting to join us.

Why Natives

By Beet 2022 05 May


Elle Anderson of the Ashland Library contacted JCMGA and asked if we would consider participating in the Jackson County Library System’s career development day. She was looking for a recommendation for a gardening topic that would have wide appeal to a broad range of interest. Lynn Kunstman responded immediately with her subject, “Why Native Plants.” Thank you, Lynn.

Based on my personal experience with Lynn’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and especially her power of persuasion about the use of native plants, I thought this was the perfect presentation for this event. It is scheduled for late April and will have JCLS staff from all branches as attendees.

Early in the pandemic, I went to Lynn’s driveway to purchase some plants that she was selling to keep some funds rolling in for JCMGA during these challenging times. This pop-up sale was an honor system arrangement and I did not expect to see her. However, she and her hubby drove up as I was looking over the offerings. Being new to the Rogue Valley, I was only slightly familiar with most of the plants. I was looking for milkweed as I did want to attract Monarchs. So, masked and at least six feet apart, we had a lively conversation. Like busy bees pollinating a large garden, we conversationally buzzed among many native plant topics. During the 30 to 40 minutes in Lynn’s driveway, along with her recommendation of watching Doug Tallamy on YouTube, I became a convert.

I am wondering how many converts she will create who would join me in their own gardens, bottoms up, and heads down, moving plants and making room for new natives such as those that I am now aware of and on the lookout for.

We can become a movement that finds ways to improve our environment and makes way for more birds and insects that can help move our planet back toward a healthier place for all life to thrive.


Susan Koenig and John Kobal were off to a grand start with OLLI class, “Vegetable Gardening in the Rogue Valley.” Their first class of the eight-week session had 39 participants and covered a deep dive into soils. John and Susan provided detailed information from testing to what it takes to create good gardening soils to how to keep it that way. Susan and John have created their own fan club in the OLLI World and I expect that their followers will continue to sign up for many more interesting gardening classes in the future.


JCMGA Speakers Are Off to a Great Start

By Beet 2022 04 April

I would like to thank Susan Koenig for her excellent and enlightening presentation on Caring for Roses via the Medford Library Zoom class on March 12th. She kept 21 attendees on Zoom for an hour and one-half. Q and A went into overtime with people wanting more information.

She taught us how to treat roses the way “they” want to be treated.  Her rose language ability has come through many years of trial and some errors. But she has certainly mastered it.  Her love, calm enthusiasm and respect for these beautiful flowers were evident throughout her knowledgeable talk.           

The JCMGA Speakers Bureau thanks Susan for being the first speaker for a new and hopeful season.

There is more to follow.  Next month, Monette Hoffmeister will lecture on Waterwise Gardening via Zoom through JCMGA’s collaboration with the Medford Library. Those of us lucky enough to have seen Monette in action recognized a star in the JCMGA galaxy last fall as one of the presenters in Susan Koenig and John Kobal’s Ornamental Gardening class through OLLI. Monette will be speaking on Saturday, April 23rd from 1:00 pm to 2:30 PM. Don’t miss this timely and informative talk on Waterwise Gardening. Call Carrie Tannehill at 541-774-6414 to sign up.

Then, in May, John Kobal will be doing a demonstration lecture (hopefully in person) on vermiculture. His presentation will be in one of the library’s outdoor gardens on Saturday, May 14th from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. A treat for young and old, John’s enthusiasm is infectious and spreads like dandelion seeds in the wind.

Starting Thursday, March 31, from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, Susan Koenig and John Kobal will be teaching another OLLI class on Vegetable Gardening in the Rogue Valley over eight consecutive weeks. To take this course you must be an OLLI member and can find information by calling the OLLI office at 541-552-6048 or emailing

If you have a subject you love and would like to share it as a speaker, please contact Colet Allen, JCMGA Speakers Bureau Coordinator, at 425-941-7637.  We are looking for new and old ways to enlighten our community and by doing so, to discover that we are learning as much as we are teaching. Our Outreach Working Group is looking at ways that we can connect to smaller, under-served communities within the Rogue Valley.  If you have an idea, just want to find out what we are about, or want to talk about your love of a certain subject, send me a text or call. I would love to speak with you.