Question for Master Gardener Organizations

ltcollins1949(9a TX)November 17, 2004


Are any other Master Gardener organizations having the problems that we are having here in Rockport, Texas?

The native plant society is very strong here in Texas, and in Rockport, we are having the native plant people taking over all aspects of gardening down here, including Master Gardeners. They tell gardeners that only natives can be grown, and I happen to disagree with these comments.

It is felt that we Master Gardeners have been dominated by a bunch of Native Plant People that insist on having natives in every demonstration garden at Green Acres, our demonstration gardens. I hate to see us getting to this point. Gardening is supposed to be fun.

But being a Master Gardener means that we are supposed to answer questions about gardening and not dictating what should and should not be planted. Our own personal opinions should not be included when answering questions.

And I feel that it is wrong when I hear a Master Gardener, whom is also a native plant person, specifically tell a gardener "Oh no, definitely not, because it won't grow here." when it CAN be grown here. Well in this particular case, the question was about a magnolia tree, which does and will grow here, but because it was not a native tree, the caller was told that it could not be grown here. And I recently heard one native lady state in a very loud, obnoxious voice that she thought that "grass should be banned because it is a noxious weed."

As a result of this our group has become split, and a lot of us no longer participate because we are always told know, "You can't plant that." New members are coming in, but we are losing lots of the old members.

And don't tell us to go to our Extension Agent, because he has just turned it over to his secretary who happens to belong to the Native Plant Society.

By the way, I have lots of natives in my yard in addition to herbs, orchids, tropicals, trees, citrus trees, palm trees, and all kinds of perennials, and I even have a lawn.

I compare gardening to raising children. My children are married with children of their own and live in different states. However, I still have a very strong maternal instinct, and gardening has become my baby. I enjoy the challenge of gardening and sometimes that includes the extra TLC, but that's what makes it so much fun.

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In my article about the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference I write
"The general underlying theme was that propagating, promoting and planting native plants was a moral issue. We, as gardeners, nurserymen, garden communicators and landscapers have an ethical responsibility to make the public aware of the many native plants available and their virtues such as their beauty and the fact they are adapted to our soil and climate. No one is saying to use native plants exclusively but to become more acquainted with them and seek them out."
I further state
" Some folks may think we're a bunch of plant fanatics even going so far as to call us cruel names (Plant Nazis). No matter, these epithets are short-sighted because we know our cause is just. No one has ever said to plant ONLY native plants.
ltcollins, if what you say is true then it seems that group has become a bit overzealous about natives and it is my opinion that logic and reason does not work with people like that. The next time you're at a meeting or a symposium ask the question "Are you saying to plant native plants exclusively?" Maybe they should give some thought to the plants they are excluding like tomatoes. Then ask them to define "native." I forsee them losing credibility if they are as inflexible as you say. Generally, gardeners are kind and gentle and giving souls so hang in there and remember: Time wounds all heels. PS That's a shame about your Agent but who knows, that could change too, in time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Plant Article

    Bookmark   November 18, 2004 at 7:44AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


First and foremost, I am not anti-natives. But I don't like being told that these are the only plants that we can use in our gardens. Like I stated, I love all plants, and I have educated myself over years of gardening as to which plants I put in my yard and gardens.

Yes, unfortunately we have a few MG members, our group has about 85 members, that have managed to control our gardens. Before I gave up working in the gardens, we had about 13 demonstration gardens. Every single one had natives planted in it because the person that was in charge of landscape design would decide which plants could or could not be planted. By the way she is probably the strongest native plant person we have and the extension secretary.

For instance, one bed had 3 antique roses growing in it with a lot of natives overtaking the roses. I suggested that we remove the natives and plant about 9 more roses to make it a rose garden, showing the antique roses that grow best down here on the coast. I suggested that we could mulch some paths through the rose garden so people could get a close up view, i.e. smell, touch, etc.

Well I got shut down on that one really fast. I was told that nothing was to be removed from any existing gardens, i.e. natives. So as of today, the roses are being strangled by the natives. If natives are not held in check, they take over, especially when you irrigate them and feed them.

As a result of the natives being "thrown at us", some of us started our own little herb study group, 32 members within 1 1/2 years. It is the Rockport Herb & Rose Society Study Group, and most of our members are disgruntled Master Gardeners.

I suggested that the MG that really like native plants to start their own Native Plant organization here, but they just ignored me. Why would they need to have a Native Plant organization when they have total control of the Master Gardener organization?

One other thing, for the MG classes the native plant lady, who also happens to be the extension secretary, is allowed to teach a 3 1/2 hour class on natives. Pam and I teach herbs, but because she worked up the schedule, we only get to teach 1 hour. With over 2,000 herbs, we can't even begin to teach. Next year if they want us to teach, we are going to demand at least two hours. We get very good reviews, but we can't really give a good lecture because of the short time given to us.

Yes, I know I'm disgruntle, but so are a lot of us. We are not anti-natives, but rather upset that we have not been allowed to make any decisions about what goes on. And yes, I have heard the term Nazis, but not in reference to the native people, but rather about our Executive Board, which was "They are just a bunch of plant Nazis that want us to just be their plant slaves" when the reason why is because these people don't like to get their hands dirty, but they like to tell others what to do.

I'll keep my certification because I have worked so hard for it, but my hours are going to be the minimum from now on, after putting at least 20 hours a week into it for many years. If you have not done so, check out my home page.

Thanks for letting me vent pent-up feelings.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2004 at 10:07AM
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Why is it that when there's a volunteer organization, someone or a group of similar thinking people think they should push everyone else around and dominate everyone? We don't have a "native plant" problem but we do suffer from "Big Head" issues and "I'm the only Master Gardener that knows anything" issue. . . I really get sick of the ones that like to tell everyone else how to do something; especially after the activity has been completed. When it feels too much like a job, is when I start questioning why I belong.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:14PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


Right on, I couldn't agree with you more.

By the way, I grew up in Benton County, Indiana, and most of my family still lives in NW Indiana. What part are you from?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2004 at 12:57PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Itcollins: I am sorry your MG group has been highjacked. I know it has happened in other locations and so long as your agent has no interest in being in control of the organization there isn't a whole lot you can do. A group here attempted to take over and control the program but the agent simply told them that they could hold all the meetings they wanted but anything that had the name Master Gardener would come through his office and all certification and continuing membership was at his discretion. The core group departed, predicting the instant demise of the program and the departure of the agent. A few others left with them but there were many members left to fill any holes they may have left behind and they were happy to do it. I suspect if your agent is as you say the only recourse you would have is to ask the state coordinator for clarification and see where you really stand. I wish you the best of luck. It's frustrating to have something you enjoy ruined like that. Sandy

    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 1:12AM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

Unfortunatly, Lt is in a bad spot, as the State Co-ordinator is not likely to stick up for the MG's.

I have been in the gardens at Rockport, and it was a very nice garden. They had a variety of distinct types of gardens, and the whole place just had an air about it, like you could tell that the Master Gardeners really enjoyed it and were proud of it, and were always working to improve it. They won lots of state wide awards, and were the inspiration for the Childrens gardens at Victoria. It is not like that anymore.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 8:24PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


Thanks for your support. Yes, in the beginning our gardens were just beautiful and represented different areas of gardening, i.e. seashore, herb, tropical, Coastal Bend Native, etc. Today every garden is overgrown with the natives. People don't realize just how invasive they can become when they are taken care of in a garden opposed to growing in the wild.

And yes our Children's Discovery Garden has won many awards, and we are very proud of it. Our current MG president is in charge of it, and she has done one terrific job with it. I applaud her very much.

I'll pass the message on to her. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 8:57PM
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My approach to organizational problems like the above is much different. I really don't care what the motivations are of others. I just enthusiastically pursue my little niche and welcome along anyone who wishes to participate. If no one does, that is OK because I still have the freedom to pursue my own interests. I am not antisocial about it but where our paths meet -- fine; and where they diverge -- that is also fine.

I know that society encourages competition from childhood. However, sometimes we have to grow beyond this compulsion for competition. Step back a moment and pretend that your side would win the argument. Exactly, what would you win and would it be worth anything? Probably not. If nobody follows your direction -- who cares? Do your thing and do it well. Some will follow and some won't -- and that is OK.

Celebrate your individuality. Redirect that energy you have been fighting them with and apply it in new ways that actively promote your cause constructively.

Life is good. Don't give others permission to spoil it.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 1:59AM
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napapen(ca 15)

That is a very good way to approach things. In our group people pursue their own passions and sometimes don't see the whole group except at seminars.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 10:57AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


You must be an attorney or a psychologist from the tone of your post. By the way, I say that because I'm married to an attorney and my ex was an attorney. Sorry if I just insulted you. HA! HA!

Anyway, I do understand what you are saying, and I do appreciate it. However, I don't think that you understand, the we do not have the right/privilege to go on our own and to quote you, enthusiastically pursue my little niche.

You see, we are told what we can and cannot plant in our demonstration gardens. And I'm just not wanting to have to fight all the way to try to get a few gardens other than native gardens planted, i.e. rose garden for one. Life is too short to have to fight. I can still do planting in my own gardens without having others tell me what I can plant. By the way, one of the native people came over here and told me that one of my trees should be removed. This by the way was unsolicited advice.

And like Janie said, State Co-ordinator is not likely to stick up for the MG's.

I guess that you all have more control over your gardens than we do down here. And like I said, thank you for your advice, but I think that I'll just decide to keep my certification without all the participation.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 11:40AM
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happyhoe(z6 OH)

Native plant enthusiasts can be quite misguided. Just because a plant is native to north america does not mean that it is native to your state and or area. As a result the may not grow well and be quite invasive.

Do your research. Find out if the palnts the native plants enforcers are saying are native actually are native to your state and your specific area. If they are not call them on it.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 1:11PM
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Hope you're problem gets better but from what I've seen, when a group gets "overrun", it takes quite an effort to sway it away from the path it's getting forced down. I have total empathy with you!

Gardening should be an enjoyment, not drudgery. And sometimes, the "belonging" isn't worth what little you get from an organization.

I'm up in Northwest Ind; about one hour northwest of Ft Wayne.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 6:55PM
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clfo(z7 with luck)

Don't fight them, just go off in your own direction. Join with the other MG's who are on your wave-length and find another location to plant a rose garden etc. Historic houses, libraries, parks, traffic triangles, museums or even the yards in front of businesses might welcome your volunteer plantings.

Then, get loud! Write articles about your point of view or your garden for local newspapers. Without badmouthing the native plant folks, explain your point of view (the right plant for the right place, native or not type of thing.) Give talks to local groups, make public access tv programs, or give seminars at local garden centers. Every time there is a talk given to the public you can send a press release with a small article to the papers.

There are many ways to keep a group of Master Gardeners in the public eye in the way you want.... it just requires a little determination and energy. As I used to tell my friend when she complained that her sewing wasn't going well: don't fuss at it, fix it.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 8:22PM
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andie_rathbone(Tyler, TX - 7B)

ltcollins, you have, indeed, been overrun by the plant Nazis. I love native plants as much as the next person, but as somewhere between 20 - 30% of all plants that are grown in the US are exotics, it would seem to severely limit your ability to both have an interesting demonstration garden, as well as answer questions from the public if all you talk about is natives.

I'm sure that the native plant people are always going on about the really nasty exotics like Chinese tallow trees, Chinese privet & Japanese honeysuckle. But what about the perfectly well-behaved exotics - like my favorite plant, the daylily, that are very well behaved in the garden? And do they also hate Crinums & Daffodils & Amaryllis & roses?

I'd try & find some like-minded MG folks in Rockport & develop your own projects, be it community gardens, Habitat for Humanity, whatever & grow what you like.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 3:59PM
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mesquiteent(z6b WestTX)

ltcollins, that's a real shame about your MG group! I am a huge fan of native plants, but I also really like non-native adaptable, drought- and heat-tolerant plants, and some of the "Native Nazis" don't think you should plant anything that isn't native, no matter how adaptable it is. Living in one of the hottest, driest parts of Texas, if it will survive here, then I want to plant it! I also love herbs, and lots of other plants that aren't native. My MG group uses alot of natives, but they don't use them exclusively. I think we run the gamut from people that think that natives are weeds, to the occasional hardcore native enthusiast.

I hope your group works out it's problems. That's too bad that they have to turn it into a totalitarian group. They should just from their own chapter of Native Plant Society of Texas, rather than pushing their agenda on the MGs.

BTW, I noticed your letter in the new isssue of Texas Gardener. That was funny seeing your name there!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 2:31PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I haven't received my most recent copy. Are you talking about the January-February 2005 issue?

I have been known to send emails requesting gardening information and making requests for gardening announcements. They are just wonderful about complying with requests for gardening events. I really appreciate it to, and I keep my subscription always current. It's a great magazine for gardening, but especially for Texas gardening.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 5:38PM
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mesquiteent(z6b WestTX)

Oh, no, I guess it wasn't the NEWEST issue. It was the Novemeber/December issue.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 8:09PM
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jdavisjr21(z8/9 SE Texas)

Was at my fathers this weekend (zone 9)he has a shrub, staked, single trunk, yellow flowers,small oval leaves that fold up at night, blooms thru Feb. he thought it started with an "A". Any ideas on what this is. Thanks

    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 10:35AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I can't think off hand what it would be, but after the holidays, I'll check it out for you.

Maybe someone else can help you too. Why don't you post this on the Texas Gardening Forum? They are great and will be glad to help you.

Also if that does not work, try the Name that Plant Forum.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 12:22PM
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sterling3(z4 NY)

I work at a Cooperative Extension and am a master gardener.

We have our extensive display gardens split in to groups and you can only belong to one group. Each group has a leader, no one person dictates to the whole group, except our Agent.

I would complain to the Director of the Extension, explaining what is happening. Your "native plants" should be in their own special garden, highlighting them.

If you got enough of your MG's together enmass to talk to your agent's supervisor, you might get some results.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 4:17PM
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SOME of the members of the Native Plant Society in our area are considered quite radical and they are actually quite detrimental to their own cause. I have seen a local native plant enthusiast stand in front of the local county commissioners and practically call them stupid for not seeing things her way. Trying to FORCE anyone into your way of thinking is no way to win converts.
I firmly believe that the best strategy for gardens is "right plant, right place". In other words, using natives and exotics (although not invasive ones) grouped by their care requirements is healthy for the environment and makes people happy. I KNOW that native plants are supposed to be better for the environment but I feel it is just plain ridiculous to tell people to get rid of their roses and their front lawns. Thought you all might be interested in this paragraph. The source in in the supplied link:
Don't be an arrogant natural landscaper. Don't be a self-righteous natural landscaper. Remember that you are a pioneer who is trying to win converts, not a martyr willing to go down in a flood of litigation and neighborhood disgust. Natural landscapers who consider themselves better than their neighbors serve only to undermine their own cause.

Here is a link that might be useful: Green Landscaping Wild Ones Handbook

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 9:21AM
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Well, if you really want to be totally accurate about this, there is nothing "natural" about any landscaping that has been manipulated by human hands. And there's nothing natural about gardening, for that matter. The only natural landscape or garden would be one which was left as was found right after that last glacier scraped through North America, regardless of what it looked like. Since none of us is interested in that, I'd suggest that those insistent on the "natural" approach have a serious look at their definition of natural.

Life is full of walking contradictions, like those who consider themselves "vegetarian" simply because they don't eat red meat. (Poultry is flesh, fish is flesh, you're not a vegetarian, get it?) In my MG travels I've met an "organicist"(if that's even a word) who firmly believed that there were strictly enforced federal and state laws governing what was and wasn't organic. He was apoplectic upon learning that it's easy to play fast and loose with the term "organic." Then there was the "certified herbalist" I met who dumped more chemicals into her backyard than they sucked out of the Love Canal.

Am I judging people here? Yeah, admittedly I am, but there is just so much nonsense out there. And while I'm rockin', how about those tomato gardeners who sniff down their noses at those who grow any varieties other than heirlooms? Gawwwwddd, spare me, please. So you'll just have to please overlook my minor rant. Thank you. And this is a great forum, happy to have found a gathering spot for fellow MGs.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 10:06AM
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I am a Master Gardener in southern nj. We were taught *Natives*. However, working on a historical project of redoing the backyard of a school house started 1720 we learned alot.
"Now we do a *Native Myth busting* program." Things we had been taught as a Master Gardener are WRONG! Plants such as Blanket flower, coneflower, clarkia, camas, and many others didn;t come to the east coast until after the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804-1807.
*This program is shocking to some MG's and insturctors.* After volunteering for the Academy Of Natural Science and a few other L&C programs we(my business partner and I)Learned differently. It seems the coordinator and Agr agent of Camden county NJ MG's Agree with us,, BUT!!! there are other's that just don;t get it yet?
NJ did have southern Magnolia's, Douglas furs,many of the *natives* are NOT natives to our area before 1800's. So now we ask "Native to What Time Period?"--Talk about getting *stuffy about it*LOLOL
Ask that question of the next MG ya meet..
.........*Native to Where and When?*

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 12:33PM
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grannymarsh(z4-5 U.P. MICH)

njmastergardener--great response. I am going to remember that !!!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 10:30PM
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nmgirl(8 S.NM)

Native Myth bustin? I'd love to hear it!Do you have a bibliography or other resources you could share?
I'm a native plant fan but not a fanatic, I do enjoy my hardy gingers.
"Right plant, right place" applies to natives too, a fact that's often overlooked. "Native to where and when?" is a great question, make them prove they know what they're talking about.....sort of like fighting fire with fire.
One of my favorite sayings is "Question authority". Of course, I've ticked off a lot of folks in my time too. :)
Must be my calling in life.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2005 at 3:20AM
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