Dr. Jeff Wilson Set To Speak Thursday At Master Gardeners’ Spring Lecture Series

The Lafayette County Master Gardener Association (LCMGA) began the Spring Lecture Series at the University of Mississippi Museum in early April. Speaker Susan Haltom, president of the Southern Garden History Society, kicked off the event followed by Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomology specialist at Mississippi State University.

Dr. Jeff Wilson, regional horticulturist with MSU extension in Verona, is set to speak Thursday, April 20.

Wilson brings 35 years as a horticulturist to his talk, “Eating What You Grow: Do you want to grow a vegetable garden?” Whether you are a newcomer or a veggie gardening veteran, he’s got the answers. In addition to vegetable gardening, Wilson also has expertise with fruits, nuts, ornamentals and greenhouses. 

With the Spring Lecture Series now in its 10th year, master gardener Donna Gottshall said the series has been very successful, and she expects nothing different for this year’s series, which focuses on “Garden Survival.”

“We bring in speakers that are experts in horticulture, arborists, landscape designers. We don’t just pick people who have master’s degrees; we want them to be interesting and entertaining,” Gottshall said. “We like to think of it as being engaging; there’s a question/answer, then at the end, we do a drawing for door prizes, and that’s always been a big hit.”

The LCMGA, which was established in 2004, has worked to promote horticulture education, improve the community environment and promote volunteerism in Oxford. When Gottshall joined about seven years ago, she had no idea the fruits she would reap from such an organization.

Gottshall, originally from Oxford, moved away in ’98, and later returned in 2007.

“When I came back, I wanted to do something I had never done before,” Gottshall said. “I love the outdoors and working in the yard, and I really wanted a cutting garden, but I did not have a lot of knowledge. So, I wanted to be a part of an organization that I could learn from.”

To become a certified master gardener, one must complete the 40-hour program, which is offered annually. This year, the classes will take place from Sept. 14 to Oct. 19, every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

After completing the 40-hour program, master gardeners must complete 32 hours yearly to maintain their certifications, 12 of those hours are educational while the other 20 are spent in community service.

With a lengthy list of community service projects under her own belt, Gottshall said she doesn’t think of the LCMGA as work.

“It’s very hands on, but it’s fun,” Gottshall said. “And, I think the one thing that all master gardeners have in common is that we enjoy each other. We enjoy learning from each other, and we just enjoy the camaraderie. It might be people that you don’t necessarily see on a social level, but you all share some sort of interest together, and it’s a real bonding experience.”

With about 40 active members, the LCMGA has helped develop the landscaping plans around the courthouse grounds, the Oxford Medical Ministry Clinic, raised gardens at Azalea Gardens Retirement Community among numerous other projects.

“Of course, the museum series is the one thing I enjoy the most, but we’ve also done educational programs at Bramlett Elementary, and we set up an information table in the summertime at the Farmer’s Market,” Gottshall said. “People can stop by and ask questions, and we try to give out helpful information, and we do home consults.”

Those interested in home consults can call the LCMGA’s extension service to make an appointment. While the LCMGA does not necessarily provide the physical work, the certified master gardeners give helpful information and advice on how to better one’s yard.

“Let’s say you’ve got a particular area in your yard that you need help with. You know, what works at one yard may or may not work at another yard,” Gottshall said. “But you can say, ‘well, I had this plan here, and it didn’t work. So I moved it over here, and now it’s doing great.'”

While Gottshall finds her involvement with the LCMGA to be self-fulfilling, she said it’s not about the master gardeners themselves, but rather about promoting horticulture education.

“If you’re interested in gardening, have a willingness to learn and want to make a positive impact on the community, you should become a master gardener,” Gottshall said. “It’s not just all about us. It’s about continuing to learn.”

Gottshall said that Jeff McManus, director of Ole Miss Landscape Services, has been one of the LCMGA’s biggest supporters. McManus has hosted classes for the LCMGA and even given presentations for the organization.

“I have to give a shout out to Jeff. He’s phenomenal,” Gottshall said.

The Spring Lecture Series will continue throughout the month of April.

The last featured speaker for the series will be Nathan Lazinsky, assistant superintendent of Ole Miss Landscape Services, on April 27.

For more information about the LCMGA, click here.


By Randall Haley, executive editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at randall.haley@hottytoddy.com.

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