All along the curving shoreline of Baldwin County, through the fertile rolling farmlands, in the charming downtowns and thriving individual gardens, more than 180 master gardeners have worked the soil – and the community – into a state of beauty. Baldwin County Master Gardeners (BCMG) is a diverse and well-trained group of certified volunteers, who happen to love gardening and sharing the mission of informing, supporting and educating the public.
Administered by the Alabama Cooperative System, the organization’s volunteers participate in projects such as community landscaping at libraries and other public facilities, youth gardening programs, demonstration gardens, horticultural therapy and more. BCMG also hosts plant sales, mans a gardening helpline, participates in community festivals and provides horticulture scholarship programs. Some of the volunteers even share in a one-on-one buddy program, which matches them with a cancer patient who also loves gardening.
This dedicated group of multitalented gardeners boasts members hailing from nearly every state who share their own unique experiences and ideas with the group and their fortunate communities. Here, get to know a few of them.
Baldwin County Master Gardeners president Myra Lassere, of Daphne, has been gardening all her life, learning from parents and grandparents on the Louisiana farm where she was raised. “I learned to graft fruit and nut trees and how to garden organically using the resources we had available, ” she says. “As a research scientist with a degree in biochemistry with advanced studies in cancer and viral science, I decided to organically grow my tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and herbs. My grandchildren love my perennial flowering plants, as well as figs, blackberries and blueberries in the yard.”
The top green thumb adds, “Our future goals for the master gardeners include continued preservation of our ecosystems, expansion of the Longleaf Pine Reserve and Arboretum at Weeks Bay and enriched teaching that all gardening nurtures the self, the environment and each other.”
Pennsylvania native John Kitch grows vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees in containers. “Gardening in containers allows experimentation with various color combinations and plant choices. Since I became a master gardener, I have learned that I enjoy speaking and sharing my successful gardening practices with others, ” says the Fairhopian. “I feel a gardener has to develop a close relationship with his plants to be successful. Plants are really amazing life forms. They grow all over the world and give us so many rewards, in both beauty and food.”
Although she was born in Orleans, France, spent time in Georgia and now lives in Fairhope, Tucker says, “My love for gardening was first inspired by my grandmother in Taylorsville, Mississippi. She and my grandfather operated a farm. She always found time to maintain a beautiful garden and taught me to appreciate the beauty of flowers. God has blessed us all with so many wonderful plants. The beauty of His nature overwhelms me. I love giving back and always try to have
something blooming in my yard.
“I became a master gardener in 2013, and it is always exciting to hear from others in the community about what is available, what will grow well in my yard and new trends in gardening. I particularly like growing daylilies, hydrangeas and camellias. Knowing when and where to plant them has been key to having a more successful garden.”
“My earliest recollection of having an interest in gardening was visiting my grandmother, Louise, who lived on Dog River. She grew tropical plants and felt at home in her humid,
earthy-smelling greenhouses, ” says Fitzhugh. “I landscaped my own backyard (in Montrose) with a semiformal garden and named it ‘Louise’s Garden’ in memory of her. It is centered around a natural stone patio bordered by boxwood, camellias and hydrangeas.
“I love being around other folks who have a passion for gardening. I think I have benefited the most from continually learning from our members’ personal experiences, and we just have fun being together and sharing our passion for all things green.”
Beginning March 3: Tuesday Evenings with Master Gardeners
Baldwin County Extension Office • 8300 State Highway 104, Fairhope. 877-252-4769
6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Every Tuesday in March. This popular event is hosted by knowledgeable master gardeners who present timely spring topics such as how to grow a vegetable garden, how to grow herbs in coastal Alabama or how to plant roses. Refreshments will be served. Admission: $5.
Each January, a new group of eager interns begin classes to become certified master gardeners. For information, visit aces.edu or baldwincountymastergardeners.com or call the helpline at 877-252-4769.
text and portraits by dooley berry