Hillsborough MGs Brave the Unknown

By Nicole Pinson, Residential Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County

Always amongst the most confident and accomplished Master Gardener volunteers are the courageous individuals who brave the unknown every time the Help Desk phone rings or a client walks in the door.

The potential for questions from an unfamiliar and seemingly limitless array of complex subjects doesn’t deter their spirit of helpfulness. If asked, I’m sure the secret of their success is the heartfelt understanding that they are simply helping people just like themselves, and with a subject like horticulture, for goodness sake, no one knows it all, not even UF!

The fear of “not knowing” is completely understandable, of course. We just have to remember to take a deep breath, and hang in there a minute until we get a sense of what we need to help with. We all learned in MG class that you can’t possibly know everything, so just don’t allow panic set in, and instead focus on figuring out where to look for what you need. One of the wonderful things about being a Master Gardener is even if you don’t always have the answer, people are (mostly) sincerely grateful for your help and effort, and the genuine look of gratitude you get can really make your day. You know, it seems you rarely feel better than when you help someone!

A large group of people gathered on a deck smiling at the camera and squinting at the bright sun

Our Extension gardens have a robust group of Master Gardener volunteers who care for them. As gardeners, we each have our own preferred tools and techniques for how we care for plants, and we share our skills and “secrets” as a time-honored fringe benefit of gardening. Our regular crew consists of: Mike, who is always the early bird. Mike loves special projects and tends to do a lot of pruning—especially of the taller plants as he has the personal altitude, and attitude to match. Emi is a very detailed gardener. She works quietly pruning the lower altitudes which suits her, and with such skill that often you wouldn’t even know she has been there, except that the plants always “fit” the location better, and are groomed and attractive. Then there's Nicole, who loves to weed, and you must know we all love a weeder!

Many of us are more all-around, general purpose gardeners who work towards what we can do that needs to get done.

Sandra Kischuk – Focused. She perseveres to get something done, and is not afraid of a significant undertaking, like removing excessive Spanish moss from a weakened tree.

Sue Elen Marler – Seems to just like making things attractive, whatever is needed to get there.

Barry Scates – Another gardener with both focus and a range of applied skills.

Manny DiMatteo – Our special character. He works on “Manny time,” but has been a regular since his 2012 Master Gardener graduation. Manny likes everything from the pond fish to pruning. A real "idea man," too!

Becky – Must really be a butterfly, because she surely is attracted to the flowers, steadily cultivating whatever plants she encounters.

Beth – Another go-getter MG who's like the Eveready bunny in the garden. She and Becky Ellis are really quite the team.

Nicolette Tiedemann – "Nico" has a creative spirit of joy. She understands how to care for various plants, especially orchids, and always from an artistic point of view.

April is National Volunteer Month, when we celebrate the work that volunteers do year-round. Volunteer Month recognizes and promotes the spirit of service, and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities.