Largest Master Gardener Intern Class Completes Training

Fifty-two enthusiastic plant lovers (“phytophiles”) have completed the training requirement toward earning the prestigious title of McLennan County Master Gardener and a member of the Texas Master Gardener Association. Upon completion of 60 hours of volunteer work on approved projects, each will receive a Texas Master Gardener Certificate.

McLennan County Master Gardeners (MCMG) work under the auspices of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and under the direction of McLennan County Extension Agent-Ag, Dr. Shane McLellan. Master Gardeners help to educate the public about lawn and garden issues and they do volunteer work throughout the county. The Intern Class of 2016 began their journey on June 1. Classes were held each Wednesday for the four month period ending September 28. It is a rigorous, college-level course of study, with both classroom and field training.

The class received training on subjects ranging from trees, lawns, native perennials, pests, water conservation, composting and a host of other horticulture topics. The first MCMG intern class was in 1996, with 16 interns. Classes are held every other year. The 2016 class marks the 20th anniversary of the Master Gardener program in McLennan County. Applicants are selected on the basis of their interest in horticulture and those with a volunteer spirit are given priority. The 2016 intern class is by far the largest in MCMG history. Normally, classes are limited to 30 applicants. MCMG president Janet Schaffer (Director of the Carleen Bright Arboretum in Woodway) explained, “The selection committee had a hard time deciding who to exclude, since all the applicants were outstanding.” The diverse group of class members includes bee-keepers, small and large acreage land owners, a hummingbird rancher, a few recent “transplants” to Central Texas and many people who simply love gardening.

Classroom sessions were mostly held in Whitehall Center at Carleen Bright Arboretum. Six field trips were conducted: World Hunger Relief Farm in Elm Mott, Ft. Worth Botanic Gardens, Homestead Heritage, TSTC, Bonnie’s Greenhouse Nursery and an area ranch. Eighty hours of classroom and field training were offered; interns were required to complete at least 60 hours. The final field trip on September 28 featured Dr. Deb Tolman (PhD in Environmental Science, Portland State University), who taught the interns the science and techniques of Keyhole Gardening.

The next MCMG intern class will be selected in spring, 2018, with classes beginning that June. When all members of the 2016 class complete their certificate requirements, this will increase MCMG membership by half. MCMG welcomes expressions of interest from those who are interested in the 2018 intern class.