Saturday, August 15, 2009

Musings of an Apprentice Master Gardener by Donna Duffy

There are a couple of things I need to admit right up front.  Before taking the CMG classes, I thought I knew a lot about gardening. My friends would ask me the name of plants, and most of the time, I could come up with a semi-accurate response. Now that I’m a Master Gardener (albeit apprentice), my friends ask me much harder questions. And I rarely know the answers. What I do know is how and where to find the answers, but why does that feel like cheating? When will I be able to rattle off a thoughtful, helpful, accurate answer like the real Master Gardeners? I think a better title for me would be “Master Gardener Wannabe Resource Specialist” – at least for now.

Before I took my Master Gardener courses, I would delight in a perfectly manicured perennial bed, well maintained lawn or lovely flowering vine. Now I find myself slamming on the brakes to ponder a semi-dead spruce or sick looking shrub, mesmerized by the 3 Ds: decay, disease, and death.
Although I love the way “cytospera canker” rolls off my tongue, I’m hopeless at identifying it in real life. When I look in the microscope in practice sessions, I get lost in the wonder of actually seeing the invisible – and completely forget the assignment. All that fuzz and color and puffy stuff makes me feel like I’ve been transported from the world of giants into a secret fairy realm.
In my own yard, I try to practice applying all the knowledge I’ve been exposed to, but often end up a bit confused. For example: after examining the “annual wrinkles” on several branches of my maple tree, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s somewhere between 2 and 19 years old. Maybe next year, with more practice, I’ll be able to narrow that gap.

And bugs! Who knew? Thanks to Whitney, I now feel nothing but anguish for the wimpy little aphid that can’t even muster the strength to climb back onto a plant after being washed off. I envision my soil as a ruckus underworld – a mini Sturgis of sorts – where tiny organisms strut their stuff, behave wildly, and overindulge on rotten matter and wet aphids. I can almost hear them hooting and hollering.
 Maybe over the winter I’ll have time to broaden my knowledge and increase my retention. For now, I’ll keep leaning on my masterful CMG mentors and using my research skills to prove myself worthy of my title. Just save the really tough questions until next year, OK?