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Master Gardeners to welcome 1000th member

Posted 4/8/2010

1st Las Vegas Master Gardener still praises program

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s (UNCE) Master Gardener (MG) program will celebrate the graduation of its 1000th Master Gardener Saturday, April 17 at Picnic in the Park in Henderson.

The event marks a milestone for the southern Nevada horticulture group, which helps both experienced and novice gardeners grow their own flowers, fruits and vegetables in Nevada’s arid—and sometimes unforgiving—conditions.

A certified Master Gardener must volunteer 50 hours during his or her first year of service and continue to volunteer to remain certified. Last year, 302 Master Gardeners donated 34,375 hours - an average of 114 hours per volunteer and roughly $696 thousand worth of expert time spent helping the community.

"Over a thousand community members have chosen to undertake our rigorous horticulture training course, and if they pass, they’re not to keep the information to themselves," said Master Gardener Program Officer Ann Edmunds. "They become the University’s unpaid ambassadors tasked with sharing the science of good desert gardening with others."

The event, held in Acacia Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will feature hands-on advanced training for Master Gardeners in tree identification, landscaping and desert plant care and more. Master Gardeners from past and present classes will gather to welcome the spring 2010 graduating class.

In attendance will be Mary Rider of the region’s first certified Master Gardener class of 1992.

"I always read Linn Mills’ gardening column, and one day he was writing about Las Vegas starting a new Master Gardener program," Rider said. "Well, I knew immediately it was for me."

"It was the best thing I have done since I retired."

Through Master Gardeners, Rider has helped novice gardeners learn to grow in southern Nevada’s harsh desert environment.

"Providing gardening information is especially important in Las Vegas because of the multitudes of people moving here from other areas of the country," Rider said. "They try to grow what they grew ’back home,’ but the Mojave Desert has completely different climactic and soil conditions. They wonder why everything dies."

When Rider enrolled in the first Master Gardener class 18 years ago, there were no programs in place, so she helped create one of the first MG programs in the group’s history.

"I proposed a project called Flowers for Seniors and found a way to capture leftover flowers at the Mirage Horticultural facility prior to discarding," Rider said. "We found rest homes with seniors who were thrilled to have them."

"Within a couple of months, we were delivering about 60 arrangements every other week to people in rest homes that were absolutely delighted to get them."

Rider said the Flowers for Seniors program was one of her most rewarding experiences as a Master Gardener. In 1995, the program won the Search for Excellence Award from the Maricopa County University of Arizona Southwestern Desert Conference.

Almost two decades later, the Master Gardener program thrives — with hundreds of active members and dozens of new projects serving the community daily.

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