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The President’s Corner

By February 28, 2023Beet 2023 03 March

GEMs of the Demonstration Gardens

When you think of a GEM, a sparkly, shiny jewel comes to mind. One may think that GEMS of the Demonstration Gardens would be an exceptionally beautiful flower, a blooming tree or specimen shrub. In this case though, when we refer to GEMs, it is an acronym for Garden Education Mentor(s). These are the Head Gardeners of the 15 Demonstration Gardens that are located throughout the extension grounds. These dedicated Master Gardeners choose to work in their extension gardens for the love of gardening and an interest in what that specific garden offers. Many of them have home gardens as well, and so coming out once a week (or more) from March through October to tend another garden is truly an act of love and devotion.

Each year they sign a contract that entails: weekly workday attendance on Wednesdays, maintaining their gardens within the parameter of its theme, keeping records of plantings, products used, irrigation and other issues, attending monthly GEMs meetings, and most importantly, TEACHING! They teach basic garden skills to apprentices, as well as training them about the unique requirements that their specific garden needs. Since the Demonstration Gardens are open to the public, GEMs are often asked questions from interested visitors. All Master Gardeners can apply to be a GEM if they complete a minimum of 10 educational hours and 20 volunteer hours annually to be Certified, a requirement by OSU for Master Gardeners that teach.

The last few years have been challenging for our gardens, as for much of 2020 and part of 2021 we were not allowed onto the extension grounds during Covid 19. And oh boy, did our gardens suffer! Weeds reigned supreme, some growing to heights of five and six feet tall! Pathways were obscured and the beautiful resident plants had to fight to stay alive. It is still an ongoing battle, as weed seeds can remain in the soil for years but we are finally getting ahead of them! Then in 2022 the well went dry, and many plants suffered and died as the warm weather lasted into fall. If all that wasn’t bad enough, during those years many of our volunteers, to be safe, remained at home and for varied reasons retired from Master Gardeners. Because the care and preservation of the gardens is a primary issue, hard decisions were made during these times and so, unfortunately, several of our gardens have been decommissioned or their theme changed due to several factors.

Have no fear though, the current gardens are our pride and joy and are very beautiful.  This year we have great expectations of highlighting their glory with Garden Tours from local Garden Clubs and visitors. To top it off, we have a full class of eager Master Gardener Apprentices that will be a huge help for the GEMs, as many hands make light work and there is much to be learned in the varied gardens!

I hope you all take the time to visit the gardens, walk the paths, and talk to the gardeners working in them. Visit often, as they change from week to week, with different plants blooming from March through October in a rainbow of colors. We are currently looking for a GEM for the Culinary Herb Garden, and apprentice(s) to eventually become GEMs of the Lavender Garden and the Vineyard. If you are interested in becoming a GEM or helping to work in any of the Demonstration Gardens, please contact Marcie Katz at