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story.lead_photo.caption Marilyn Sims digs Blakemore strawberry plants from the garden at Pioneer Village for the upcoming White County Master Gardeners plant sale April 21. The sale will include a variety of heirloom plants from Pioneer Village, as well as herbs, trees, shrubs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses and container gardens. - Photo by William Harvey

— The White County Master Gardeners will have their second annual plant sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 at the Carmichael Community Center, 801 S. Elm St. in Searcy. The public is invited. There is no admission charge.

“We are excited about our second annual sale,” said Sherri Sanders of Searcy, 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. “Last year was an overwhelming success.

“We offer newly released plants, as well as old favorites, some of which have been dug and divided from our own Master Gardeners’ yards. We will be selling herbs, trees, shrubs, vegetables, annuals and perennials, along with ornamental grasses and container gardens.”

In addition to plants for sale, the event will feature three lectures.

Sanders will speak on Color for Your Garden at 9 a.m. Master Gardener Ann Wood of Searcy will speak on Terrific Tomatoes at 10, and Bobbie Sandlin, also of Searcy and a Master Gardener, will speak on Microbes in Your Garden at 11.

Door prizes will be offered during the lectures.

Venson Henderson of Searcy, president of the White County Master Gardeners and chairman of the plant-sale project, joined a group of Master Gardeners recently to dig heirloom plants at Pioneer Village, where the group helps maintain the flower beds.

“Pioneer Village is very interested in perpetuating the growth of heirloom plants,” he said. “Today, we are digging Blakemore strawberry plants, which are grown here, along with other plants that are native to the area. Back in the heyday of White County’s strawberry production era in the 1940s and ’50s, this was one of the most popular varieties grown.

“We will have other nonheirloom plants as well,” Henderson said, noting that he will bring peonies from his own garden to the sale.

Marilyn Sims of Searcy, treasurer of the White County Master Gardeners, said members of the group are raising plants in the greenhouse at Searcy High School, as well as in their gardens. This is the second year for the partnership with the school, where agriculture students often work alongside the Master Gardeners in a learning situation.

“The greenhouse is full of plants,” Sims said, smiling. “We work there almost daily, maintaining the plants until the time of the sale. We have annuals and perennials.”

Sims said the plants will be priced “reasonably.”

Henderson said proceeds from the sale will be used for scholarships and the group’s various projects.

“We give a $1,000 scholarship a year to a high school senior who is pursuing a career in agriculture,” Henderson said, adding, “It’s $500 a semester.”

Sims said a new item this year will be container gardens.

“Last year, we had small four-pack containers, each with a different plant, that you could take home and transplant to your own container,” she said. “This year, we will have large ceramic containers that are already planted.”

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 9,313 hours of work in the community in 2017.

Serving with Henderson as officers of the White County Master Gardeners are Debbie Miller of Searcy, vice president; Diann Gray of Judsonia, secretary; Mary Collins of Judsonia, historian; and Janice Stewart, also 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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