Debra Prinzing

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Gifts from the Gardener

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The month of November seems to generate an abundance of magazine articles about being “thankful.” For many of us, the notion of giving thanks is top of mind this season. Not only am I hugely grateful for my family, friends, home, garden and writing career, I’m so often reminded how rare these gifts truly are.

When it was time to write my “In the Garden” column for the November issue of my local magazine, 805 Living, my editor Lynne Andujar mentioned choosing Volunteerism as the month’s theme. You can see how nicely this idea is communicated on the cover, which reads: “Give Thanks, Give Back.”

The assignment made me think of Master Gardeners, some of the most volunteer-minded souls in the gardening world. I first learned about the MG program in the early 1990s, when my friend Jean Zaputil trained as a Master Gardener in King County, the local Seattle area program. I was always so impressed that Jean did this, especially when she managed the herb department for the local MG plant sales. That experience, combined with her BFA in Interior Design, soon led Jean to start her successful landscape design business.

Wanting to expand my own horticultural knowledge about the time I was trying to switch from business writing to home and garden feature writing, I applied to enroll in the 1998 Master Gardener class (also in King County). I spent many enjoyable years actively involved with the organization, including three years as PR chair for our annual plant sale.

When I moved to Southern California, I thought I’d re-apply and get in on the excellent training that comes directly from local horticultural experts. That’s when I discovered the Ventura County MGs require trainees to volunteer (“give back”) 80 hours of community service in their first year. The math just didn’t add up for me, at least at this time in my life. But the application and interview process introduced me to my local MG group, and piqued my interest in learning more.

What better way to get to know the Master Gardeners in my own back yard than by writing about them? (I always say that “I write in order to learn,” so it makes sense!).