2021 Master Gardener Intern Highlights
MASTER GARDENER 2021 INTERNS SPOTLIGHT
Bethany O’Rear asked them to share a little bit about themselves so by the time they graduated, no one would be strangers. We featured several interns a month in Roots & Shoots. They were asked to share their history with gardening, what brought them to the Master Gardener program, and favorite gardening activities.
Sarah Andrews was introduced to gardening by her mother at a very early age and she has cultivated this passion throughout her life. She had a woodland garden at her home in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area) and a rose garden in Los Angeles. When Sarah and her husband bought their 1927 Tudor in Birmingham in 2018, they set out to restore the landscape, including creating a terraced cutting garden in the back and borders for shrubs and perennials in the front. This has been a tremendous learning process and is still very much a work in progress. She was motivated to take the Master Gardener class to learn more about gardening in the Deep South—the native species, particulars of climates and seasons, and successful plantings. You can find Sarah outside in her garden most days where she now maintains her “office.” Sarah is also interested in exploring horticulture as a modality to improve the health and well-being of Alabamians.
Allison Calvin is another Master Gardener intern who learned to love gardening at an early age. Her mother always grew a wide range of flowers, ornamentals, as well as a productive vegetable garden. But it was the summers spent with grandparents in St. Clair County that made Allison love all things about growing (even the tasks that some gardeners dislike). She remembers fondly “my long summer days were spent planting, weeding, harvesting, shelling, picking, and shucking!”
Allison grows organic vegetables and herbs in raised beds and containers. While she also tends to ornamentals, she acknowledges that edibles are her passion. And teaching others how to grow nutritious produce in the space available to them is a mission which she has been able to serve even more effectively with the education of the Master Gardener program.
Ricky Davis started his path as a gardener with a simple notion. He read an article about holistic stress reduction which suggested starting an easy project and applying oneself to see where it might go. This just happened to be at the same time his father cleared a garden for his mother as a new hobby, and so Ricky started flower and vegetable bed of his own. That is how he became an urban farmer. Twelve years have passed, and Ricky is fearless at trying new gardening methods: vertical garden towers, hydroponics, aquaponics, raised bed and container gardens—he likes to experiment with it all. Ricky was recommended to the Master Gardener course by city agriculture community leader, Virginia Ward, and is glad to have even more gardening skills to share with others.
Katherine Ennis was raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother loved to work in the flower garden and Katherine was a willing helper. Her stepfather had a large vegetable garden as well, which Katherine helped to tend.
Katherine moved to Birmingham in 1980 and has spent her career as a community planner. Her job included approving landscaping plans for new developments and, as a result, she became very familiar with the trees and shrubs common to Alabama. Getting to know plants was a pleasure, Katherine notes,” I loved doing it and going out to inspect the sites to be sure the proper amount and type of landscaping had been installed – ‘fieldwork’.”
Since starting the Master Gardener program she’s expanded her knowledge of herbs and ornamentals and, more importantly, her skill at growing vegetables. She says, “I love to cook, something I got from both my mother who was a great southern cook and my father who was a professional chef. I’m particularly fond of baking!”. With full retirement just around the corner, Katherine plans to be more active in the Master Gardeners Association as well continuing to learn more about cooking and baking.
After retirement from a busy corporate career, Marian “Bunny” Fite pursued more deeply the things that she had enjoyed on weekends or on vacation: Zydeco dancing with her partner, traveling to see grandchildren, and gardening with her son. When she moved from San Diego to Hoover in 2020, she experimented with lots of new vegetables, herbs, and flowers in a small garden. Failures outweighed successes but, undeterred, when she learned about the Master Gardener class, Bunny found a new passion and a whole new set of skills. She has really enjoyed working on the Grace Klein community garden project and is looking forward to working with more Grow More, Give More gardens in 2022.
Andrea Glass can’t quite put her finger on what led her to gardening. Growing up in Fairfield, she recalls her grandmother had an interest in
houseplants and a neighbor down the street tended a vegetable garden. Yet Andrea’s interest extends to all types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. She joined the Master Gardener class to expand her knowledge about growing edibles but was pleased to find that it encompasses much more. Like many Master Gardeners, Andrea recognizes the value of cultivation, “gardening is not only a way to grow and share foods with my family, friends, and community, but it also helps me to stay grounded in this ever-changing world”
Marvin Kimbrough is a Birmingham native and lifelong resident. He says he was originally inspired to take the Master Gardener class because, “I grew tired of improperly caring for my lawn.” While his motivation may have been to get a better understanding of how to care for his landscape, Marvin enjoys all types of gardening—vegetables, herbs, fruits, and ornamentals— you name it. He also has a trait which is common to many successful Master Gardeners: he loves working as a part of a team.
Like many Master Gardener interns, Nancey Legg learned gardening as a child. Her father produced bountiful crops of vegetables while her maternal grandmother had the proverbial green thumb that made any plant she touched thrive. Nancey enjoys organic gardening of herbs, ornamentals and houseplants, and the Master Gardener class has improved her knowledge of landscape design. It also offers a new way for her to give back to the community.
Leigh Lewis has always appreciated an attractive garden. Her parents planted annuals and edibles every year. Her interest in gardening, however, was piqued when an older cousin enrolled in the horticulture program at Auburn University. Leigh thought about enrolling in the Master Gardener program for many years, but it wasn’t until 2021 that the timing worked out. She has built on her love of perennials and is honing her vegetable gardening and propagation skills, all of which she plans to put to good use. She notes that the Master Gardener program “is a great way to share plant knowledge with kids, neighbors, and friends.”
LaRue Lockhart grew up in Southern Indiana, but all her gardening time has been spent in Alabama. She credits her husband, whom she describes as a great gardener, with sparking her interest in vegetable gardening. While she thoroughly enjoys her time growing edibles, LaRue says she signed up for the Master Gardener course because, “I wanted to learn to make correct decisions about choosing, planting, and maintaining–have spent years making incorrect choices about plants.” Now that she’s completed the course, she’s happily applying her newfound knowledge not just to the vegetable garden but to herbs, shrubs, and ornamentals all throughout their yard.
Polly McClure is a lifelong gardener with a special interest in herbs and perennials, especially native plants. Polly grew up in Kentucky where the family nurtured a large family garden. Both her grandmothers were blessed with green thumbs and seem to have passed their genes along. Polly moved to Birmingham to attend the Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy. Her work as a pharmacist dovetailed over the years with an interest in the medicinal properties of plants. The Master Gardener program seemed a logical next step, “to learn from mistakes and learn how to assist others.” As beekeepers, Polly and her husband are always interested in learning more about pollinator plants. In addition, Polly is also currently attending monthly herb workshops in Mentone hosted by Darry Patton, “The Southern Herbalist”.
Eric Stephens moved from upstate South Carolina to the Birmingham area in 2015. Eric enjoyed being a backyard gardener, but a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment
converted that interest to a passion. As he describes it,” I felt the urge to find something encouraging and constructive to redirect my focus from the cancer fight and the oncoming all-out war against it.”
Eric researched local opportunities to learn how to properly tend to the fruits and vegetables he and his wife had planted, which led him to the Master Gardener program. Eric and his oncologist, Dr. Ben Jones, with Alabama
Oncology, have become great friends and Dr. Jones enthusiastically supported his decision to become a Master Gardener. As the course wraps up, the Stephens’ family garden– a 6’ x 22’ raised vegetable garden and a small home orchard of peach, plum and apple trees—thrives with Eric’s newly-acquired knowledge. Eric says he is “so very thankful for this program, the instructors and the classmates that have become friends and prayer warriors.”
Heather Stephens chose to join the 2021 Master Gardener class to learn more about gardening but also to enrich her spirit. Already familiar with a wide range of plants—herbs, ornamentals, edibles—she was intent on taking her learning to the next level. The course helped her hone her skills and solidified her interest in gardening. A native of Colorado, she finished the course and returned westward. The Jefferson County Master Gardeners Association will miss her talents but will be proud of her as a graduate and looks forward to updates on new gardening projects In Colorado.