Interview with Board Member Linda Dietrick
Newsletter (NL) How long have you been gardening?
Linda Dietrick (LD) I didn’t have my own garden until well into my thirties, when I married my husband and moved into his little North End bungalow. But I’m almost 71 now, so it’s been rather a long time!
NL: What kind of a garden do you have?
LD: For the last 20 years, I’ve gardened on a medium-sized property in leafy River Heights, but I’d still call the garden small, urban, and mixed. Like many gardeners, I love trying out interesting new perennials, annuals, and shrubs. The challenge I set myself is to provide a good home for hundreds of plants while creating and working within a satisfying design and a healthy ecosystem. By that I mean an intentional landscape with structure, colour, texture, and so on from early spring until snowfall, but also a place where birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial creatures can share our space with us.
NL: What are the things that give you most pleasure in your garden?
LD: Many things, really. Perfect pairings that happen by chance, like ‘Brandon Pink’ heuchera and ‘Coral Reef’ monarda blooming together this summer. Watching seeds that I’ve planted grow into something spectacular like my ‘Royal Aspirations’ delphiniums and Mennonite heirloom tomatoes. Or sitting on the patio during happy hour, enjoying the flowers and watching wildlife like black swallowtail butterflies, two-spotted and tricolored bumble bees, and the finches that nest in our Virginia creeper.
NL: Why and when did you decide to become a Master Gardener?
LD: I made the decision in 2015, when I was planning for retirement from the University of Winnipeg after a career as a professor of German language and literature. I was looking for activities that would link my gardening interests with my other skill sets. In 2016, I joined the editorial board of The Prairie Garden and, to give myself actual credentials as a gardening speaker and writer, I certified as a Master Gardener. Although I’ve left The Prairie Garden, the MMGA is still my tribe and home base for retirement activities.
NL: What motivates you to serve on the MMGA board?
LD: I’ve found that along with gardening, putting my skills into volunteer service is a way to exercise my mind creatively and to fend off, shall we say, a creeping sadness about the way the world is going. There is joy in doing a tiny bit for the planet and all its creatures, including my fellow humans. Also, since adult education was my career, it seems natural to make it my post-career.
NL: You are currently the interim educational standards director. What are the initiatives you hope to get accomplished/started between now and the next election in May 2023?
LD: Our committee’s biggest job is planning educational events and lining up speakers. Stay tuned for news about a spring educational event and exciting plans for the day of our AGM. On January 11th, we will once again run an online information and recruitment evening for future interns, who as always can send their queries to me through firstname.lastname@example.org. In accordance with our mandate, we’ve been reviewing the standards for Master Gardeners’ continuing education requirement, and we’ll update our extensive list of sustainable gardening resources on the MMGA website.
NL: Of the long list of duties of the educational standards director is there one that warrants a special focus?
LD: As our past educational standards director Liz Sellors has recently pointed out, we have been neglecting our relationships with other gardening organizations. The MMGA bylaws call on me and the committee to provide “liaison with other prairie associations and experts to develop resources and professional development opportunities.” We can’t do this while remaining in a silo, so we have been looking at possibilities for outreach, at least informal ones.
NL: Is there anything in particular that you would like to see the MMGA as an organization accomplish in the future?
LD: We are a Manitoba-wide organization, and now our training program is entirely online and available to anyone across the province. So I think we should work on fostering more hubs of Master Gardener fellowship and volunteer activity outside Winnipeg. I’m not sure what the best way of doing that will be, but I suspect it will involve giving local groups the authority and freedom to organize themselves.
NL: We all have role models and people who inspire us. Who are the gardeners that truly inspire/d you?
LD: I guess you can call me a book person, and so many of my role models have been gardeners I know from their writing: Gertrude Jekyll, Piet Oudolf, Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, Roy Diblik, and Sara Williams, to name a few. I like undogmatic, moderate approaches that combine ecological awareness with beautiful design. My first role model was my father Richard W. Dietrick (1929-2003), a landscape designer-contractor in the Philadelphia suburbs. Because he was originally trained as a forester, and his own father had worked for Burpee Seeds, he knew his woody plants and forbs. He was also ex-Army Corps of Engineers and a Boy Scout leader, so he had a background in both construction and natural history, along with an innate sense of design. It was an ideal combination of skills, and the gardens he built were exceptional.