White County Master Gardeners set inaugural plant sale

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 16, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

White County Master Gardeners LuLynn Keathley-Richardson of Beebe, left, and Marilyn Sims of Searcy water the plants that are being stored at the Searcy High School greenhouse. The local Master Gardeners will have a plant sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Carmichael Community Center in Searcy. The public is invited, and there is no admission charge.

— The White County Master Gardeners invite the community to celebrate Earth Day in a special way this year by attending their first-ever plant sale. The event will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, which is Earth Day, at the Carmichael Community Center, 801 S. Elm St. in Searcy.

There is no admission charge.

“We will be selling herbs, trees, shrubs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, ornamental grasses and container gardens,” said Sherri Sanders, agriculture agent with the White County Cooperative Extension Service, a division of the University of Arkansas System, and adviser for the local Master Gardeners program. “We will feature pollinator-friendly plants, too.”

Sanders said the program has grown over the years, and its only source of funding has been members’ dues.

“We give scholarships, too, so we really needed a way to raise more money,” she said, adding that the group awards a $1,000 scholarship each year, $500 per semester, to a graduating senior.

Sanders said Saturday’s event will feature two guest speakers.

Janet Carson of Little Rock, Extension Service horticulture specialist and state coordinator for the Arkansas Master Gardener Program, will speak at 9 a.m. on Color in Your Garden.

Dr. F. Dustan Clark of Fayetteville, Extension Service poultry veterinarian and associate director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas, will speak at noon on Home and Backyard Flocks.

“Interest in raising poultry is on a steady increase,” Sanders said. “This program is intended for poultry enthusiasts who want to learn more about raising poultry in their backyards.”

Sanders said those attending the plant sale may also bring in soil samples for the Extension Service agents to test.

“We will also have Master Gardeners set up in a question-and-answer booth where people can get help with their gardening,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the local Master Gardeners are partnering this year with agriculture students at Searcy High School, who maintain a greenhouse on campus.

“They had a need, and I had a facility, as well as a need,” said Addison Safley, agriculture instructor and FFA adviser at Searcy High School.

“The Master Gardeners volunteer their time to do a lot in the community. They approached me about coming in and working with my students, sharing their knowledge of plants and gardening. I would have been an idiot not to take advantage of that,” Safley said.

“Hands-on learning is important. Kids get enough bookwork, but they don’t often get enough hands-on experience,” he said.

“In turn, I offered the Master Gardeners the use of our greenhouse to store and maintain the plants they are collecting for the plant sale. It’s a win-win situation for all of us,” Safley said.

“Mr. Safley likes to teach plant science using hands-on methods,” said Jessica Wesson, president of the FFA chapter at Searcy High School. “To have a large community group such as the Master Gardeners come in and teach us is a great help to the students.

“They show the students how a plant develops from a seed to a mature plant.”

Sanders said the local Master Gardeners hope to have between 2,500 and 3,000 plants at the sale on Saturday.

“They will be priced from $2 and up, … not real expensive,” she said. “We will even have pots-to-go that people can take home, remove the plants and put them right into their own containers.”

Sanders said some of the “new release” plants that will be offered are the Redhead coleus, the red Dragon Wing begonia and the purple Archangel angelonia, which were among the 2015 Arkansas Diamond Plants that have been proven by local growers to do well in Arkansas.

Also for sale will be a wide variety of pepper plants, including the Brazilian Starfish, and several varieties of tomato plants, including the Celebrity and the Husky Cherry.

Sanders said the Master Gardeners have had digs in their own yards to collect plants, and they have also bought plants and transplanted them, “so we will have enough plants,” she said.

The Master Gardeners program is an all-volunteer program. Locally, the Master Gardeners maintain flower beds at Spring Park in Searcy, the Searcy Art Gallery, Daniel Park in Beebe, the El Paso Community Library and Pioneer Village in Searcy. They contributed 4,777 hours of work in the community in 2016.

Venson Henderson of Searcy is president of the White County Master Gardeners. Other officers include Debbie Miller of Searcy, vice president; Diann Gray of Judsonia, secretary; Marilyn Sims of Searcy, treasurer; Mary Collins of Judsonia, historian; and Janice Stewart of Judsonia, reporter.

The 40-hour Master Gardeners’ training program is offered statewide by the University of Arkansas, Cooperative Extension Service, in 67 counties in Arkansas. Following the training, participants are required to volunteer at least 40 hours to the program and to accumulate at least 20 hours of learning within the next year. To maintain the status of Master Gardener thereafter, individuals must provide 20 “working” or service hours and accrue 20 “learning” or education hours per year.

For more information on the White County Master Gardeners and their plant sale, call (501) 268-5394 or email Sanders at ssanders@uaex.edu.

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