What do you think?

yomamanem(7B Georgia)March 11, 2005

My MG organization is wonderful. It started small and has grown over the years. The original membership created a demonstration garden with very little money and a lot of sweat. The garden is attractive when it is well-maintained, but it was not "professionally" designed. The bones and structure of the garden are not as appeaing as they could be, not to mention drainage issues, design flaws, etc.

Here is the situation: The organization now has the financial resources to re-do the garden with the assistance of a landscape architect. Before voting on hiring the architect, one member raised the concern that she felt that it was inappropriate for "Master Gardeners" to hire a professional since we would be misrepresenting ourselves to the public who look to Master Gardeners as capable designers. She said that we should demonstrate garden skills which the typical untrained gardener should be able to do.

The membership unanimously voted to engage the services of the architect for a Concept Plan and other technical services should they arise. I have no doubt that no one in our organization is capable of dealing with the inherent problems with our garden site, thus making the services of a pro invaluable and necessary; however, I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

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On first blush, my vote says, yes, it does amount to misrepresentation. But, and I will readily admit this, my tolerance for this sort of thing isn't representative of a good many people out there. I'm a huge fan of going way out of one's way to avoid even the slightest hint of the appearance of impropriety. An example, if you'll allow.

I know of a "Garden Tour" on which at least two of the properties are professionally landscaped, which runs totally counter to the intent of the tour itself, since it is a tour of the private home gardens of avid gardeners. But, some folks see nothing improper at all.

Listen, I ain't no choirboy, not by anyone's definition, but my Dad did a heck of job on me forty some years ago when he drilled into me, "Honesty is the best policy."

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 5:55PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Our Mgs designed and maintain 18 gardens around the Ext. office. All the work is done by small groups in each garden. Each garden has it's own theme and with rare exceptions no garden repeats planting what is in another garden. I have helped in ornamental grasses, everlasting and cutting gardens and the terrace hydrangea garden. I designed and with the help of others put in a small pond which we hope to enlarge this year. We are almost finished with the greenroof project on the shed. There is a Monet garden, a veggie garden, an herb garden,a moonlight garden, a cottage garden, a trial garden, a butterfly garden, woodland fen, rock garden, childrens garden,(jr MGs), a propagation group and I forget what I have missed. Oh, a prairie. Others are in the planning stage. The pond took one winter to figure out and researching and designing the greenroof took over 300 hours. In the interest of continuity, there is a group who has put in irrigation systems (Hooray! No more hauling hoses) and another who builds fantastic raised beds. (That is mostly the work of one very nice guy). There is also a composting demonstration area, and a conifer grove. Areas between gardens are planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers that are cared for by most everyone who has time on workdays. We haven't hired any professionals but some of us have become professionals. I think this is one of the reasons we have been able to keep a large proportion of the people who take the classes. All expenses are covered by such things as plant sales. It is probably one of the best gardens in the midwest. Oh, I have to mention the brave people who do the record keeping, organizing, lunch preparation and the ones who contact local nurseries for donations (shudder). All jobs I would hate to do but I sometimes get jealous because I can't work on someone else's project. Sandy

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 2:36AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Our organization started small too. However, we did not hire anyone to design our gardens. Everyone designed his/her/their own garden/gardens.

I believe that it is the choice of the members, but I do disagree about hiring a professional.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 4:15AM
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I think you should hire a professional. Why seek to perpetuate to the public that Master Gardener volunteers have the same level of training, expertise and experience as a landscape designer or landscape architect? This is not to say that NO organization has people with these talents but you can't assume that all do. Would it not be a good thing to demonstrate to the public that using a professional in some cases is the right thing to do? This is going to be one of those topics that has strong points from both points of view. We once had a president who, when faced with someone like the person who objected to using a professional, sould say to that person, then I am putting YOU in charge of the design, and I want you to do it all and here is the deadline.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 7:09AM
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yomamanem(7B Georgia)

Eddie, your thinking is the same as the design committee and 99.9% of the MG organization. It occurred to me also, as you suggested, that our members can demonstrate the NEED for professional help when none is available within the membership. Along those same lines: "what if" one of our members included a landscape architect? Would we have to forbid that person from participating in designing a garden? As I told the group, I am a plant person but my sense of design is poor, so the best money I ever spent was for a professionally designed landscape for my own yard. To SWEEN: I have done all the work in my garden, but I had some real unique topography. The landscape architect drew the plan and I did it. I have embellished it to the max over 10 years. I am still making up new projects that were not on the original plan. Summary: the best money I ever spent, and I still think it is mostly my original work and sweat. You can see my garden at:


    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 8:38AM
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Here's a thought. Since you're affiliated with the UofG, why not seek out an opinion from someone in their ethics department or their ethics committee. Surely they have some official body that deals with issues that may not be completely black and white. I'd be very interested to know what kind of a response you'd get.

It sounds to me like this thing is a go, regardless of what some may think, but why not run this past some ethics "experts" just for future reference.

If nothing else, I say hiring a pro runs counter to the core mission of the MG Program, not only in Georgia, but likely in all other states where it exists as well.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 3:20PM
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yomamanem(7B Georgia)

I appreciate the comments that have been made about this issue. And, yes, to hire a professional to help us with many inherent "structural" problems with our garden site has already been approved by the membership. I forgot to mention that we are planning to have some sort of signage in the garden recognizing people who have worked on the project, including the landscape architect who has pledged some volunteer, unpaid time. We aren't trying to mislead anyone.
In considering ethics, I read the mission statement. If we are to stimulate interest in gardening, we must display and demonstrate a properly constructed garden. Our membership will provide the expertise about plants and the labor to plant them. We just need to have a structure that will support the healthy growth of plants and one which will be a good model to educate the public.

The Georgia Master Gardeners Mission is:
"To stimulate the interest in and increase the knowledge of gardening, and to voluntarily, enthusiastically and responsibly share this knowledge with others."
The purpose of the Association is to provide its membership and the public with information on environmentally responsible gardening and to operate in cooperation with the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and its Cooperative Extension Service.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 6:08PM
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I think what I feel most uncomfortable with is the "hiring" of a professional to "do" this work. I would much rather have seen a professional train some of the MGs to do the work themselves. Surely there are classes in landscape design available in your area and if not, then maybe your university would be able to help with the training. It would probably qualify as continuing education for whoever took the course, also. The only thing I would have thought needed a professional type person might have been the drainage problem since this is not strictly within the MGs bag of tricks.

What you do on your own property is quite another matter from what the MGs do for the public. I would be delighted to hire a pro to help me with a landscape design for my own yard. Whether it's "ethical" or not for the group to do that for a public display is a question best left to your extension agent and university.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 9:24PM
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The people that train the Master Gardeners, aren't they considered professionals? When I took the MG training 25 years ago it was considered a crash course in gardening and even though we may have had a class on landscaping that didn't make us landscapers.
Yes, we should consider ethics and also bureaucracy and whether we want to get things done in a timely fashion. So, I suppose the main thing is not so much do we use professionals or not but do we get the project completed at an acceptable level.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 6:16AM
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