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Colet Allen and Contributor Janie Burcart
Meet Viki Ashford. Viki took a Master Gardener class back in 2005, when there was no practicum component. Being a perfectionist, Viki is now taking the Practicum, as it’s available for the first time since the pandemic. Viki exemplifies the mission of the Jackson County Master Gardener (JCMG) program with her passion for education and volunteerism, and her reluctance to be regarded as an unsung hero!
She has long worked in the plant clinic, a facet of the JCMG program that is most visible and useful to the community. She reports: “I’m always learning something new.” Viki explained that sometimes she feels that she learns more from the clients than they do from her – particularly when they challenge her with a question to which she doesn’t know the answer! “Many gardeners think we know everything in the plant clinic. NOT so! Sometimes we have to search out answers, too.” She added: “We are very committed to not rushing to closure for an answer to a question. We pride ourselves on doing step-by-step documented research from educational and scientific sources.” Viki is a strong advocate for natives and points out how we can reduce irrigation by planting natives.
In addition to the plant clinic, Viki is involved in other gardening projects in the community. She has been an active member of the Ashland Garden Club since 2005 and chairs its Heirloom Garden committee. The Heirloom Garden is a collection of gardens at North Mountain Park in Ashland, dating from the late 1800s, that are designed, planted and maintained by Viki and her committee members.
Viki also volunteers in the beautiful garden at Celia’s House, a 12-room hospice home in Medford with a garden that dates to the early 20th century. A variety of owners has led to a lack of cohesion in the garden design, something that Viki is transforming by careful promotion of native plants. “I feel a great sense of accomplishment after I have spent a morning there gardening, knowing it’s a pleasant and serene space for the residents.” This work is much appreciated by the hospice staff and residents, as described by Dwight Wilson, Executive Director of Celia’s House: “We are blessed to have the benefit of a volunteer group of individuals to maintain our 2-acre grounds. Under the guidance of our Master Gardeners, the volunteers plant, weed, update, and maintain one of the most beautiful locations in the Rogue Valley. The efforts of this group not only maintain a beautiful setting for those we care for, but they are also assisting us in moving to more sustainable plantings and maintenance. The love and support of our Master Gardener community has been invaluable in that we could not replicate it without their efforts.”
Viki Ashford is a true volunteer: she labors outside the limelight, spreads joy and pleasure with her service and expects nothing in return except the satisfaction of a job well done. Thank you, Viki, a deserving Unsung Hero.