By Colleen Zacharias, Master Gardener
The signs are all around us. The shrinking populations of insects the world over is due to the effects of climate change and loss of habitat. Gardeners can make a difference. A study led by the University of Bristol earlier this year in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society and the universities of Edinburgh and Reading “measured for the first time how much nectar is produced in urban areas and discovered residential gardens accounted for the vast majority – some 85 percent on average” (Science Daily, February 21, 2021). Interestingly, the study concluded that the nectar supply in private gardens in urban landscapes compared to farmlands and nature reserves comes from a more diverse range of plant species.
By Marilyn N. Dudek, Master Gardener
What a surprise for us this summer – finding a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest! A discovery in nature that I had always sought to find. Success this summer! What joy experienced for everyone who viewed the nest, watching this miracle of nature, viewed from the cottage porch.
The hummingbird is a unique bird that everyone is enamoured of in seeing. They are seldom noticed sitting on a branch, but rather beating their wings 53 times a second, hovering, doing acrobatics, and for the mating game, flying in big upside-down arches. At our cottage, in the boreal forest of Ontario, a hummingbird feeder, filled with a sugar syrup solution of one part sugar to four parts water, with no red food colour added, is busy with hummers from May to mid-September. Hummingbirds require this simple syrup, along with bloom nectar and tree sap, to give fuel to their bodies. Protein from insects is needed too in their diet to build body strength. The boreal forest is an ideal location. filled with Tiny insects can be picked off branches, or caught mid-air with the hummingbird’s flying agility and long sharp beak. The sap from native birch, spruce and pine found in from the sapsucker holes, complete their food requirements.
Having had no opportunities to meet and socialize in person for a long time we would like to introduce our members and readers to the MMGA board members with a series of interviews. We start the series with our Chair Shelley Walker. Shelley is well known to many members and non-members as the former Special Events Director and organizer of the popular MMGA Garden Tour. At the AGM in April 2021 she was elected as chair of our organization.
MMGA Newsletter (NL) – You have been an MMGA for 9 years, but how long have you loved gardening/how long have you been gardening?
Shelley Walker (SW) – I started gardening when Arnie and I bought our first house over 40 years ago. I could not wait to see what would come up, so I measure the start of my love of gardening from that spring when we moved in.
NL – What kind of a garden/s do you have?
SW – I have 2 gardens – a flower garden around our house and a vegetable garden near us in a community garden run by the South Winnipeg Garden Club.
My 3rd garden is the one I volunteer at. Once a week in the summer you will find me at the Herb Garden in Assiniboine Park.
By Lori Graham, Master Gardener
I was fortunate to get a chance to visit a honey farm this summer: Mike Grysiuk Honey Farms Ltd. and Grysiuk Honey Farms Ltd. Located outside of Neepawa, they are one of the largest producers of honey in Manitoba. Owner Mike was nice enough to give me a personal tour.
by Linda Dietrick, Master Gardener
In July 2021, someone on the Facebook group Manitoba Gardening posted the question: “If you could ask a Master Gardener a question, what would you ask them?” One person responded quite negatively:
I would ask anyone who considers themselves “master” anything, why the heck their egos are so massive as to assume they know everything to do with a subject. … I have two “master” titles too. But I don’t use them. It’s too pretentious.
Some of us Master Gardeners patiently replied that we do receive training and also commit ourselves to volunteering and sharing our knowledge in the community. I explained that the term goes back to the 1970s, when the first Master Gardeners were called that by their trainers, extension faculty at Washington State University, in analogy to Gartenmeister or Gärtnermeister, German terms for the highest level in the gardening trade. It’s sort of like “master plumber” or “master electrician.”
The person who posted that aggressive reaction replied that they already knew all this. Whatever, I said to myself. But it got me thinking. I remembered that when I had first considered becoming a Master Gardener, I too was put off by the term. It did seem pretentious. To me, a “master” anything, whether it be in a trade or in a skill like a sport or hobby, was someone who had reached the pinnacle of achievement. Yet after completing the training program in 2016, at that time delivered by Assiniboine Community College as a “broker” for the University of Saskatchewan program, I felt I was still a long way from peak knowledge. And I didn’t want to claim to anyone that I had it. I knew I was still in learning mode, even as I am today. Isn’t that part of being a Master Gardener?
I still feel a disconnect between what we call ourselves and what we actually are. Obviously, other people feel it too. Thinking again about the history of the Master Gardener program, I wonder if it has to do with our typically Canadian attitude of self-deprecating modesty in contrast to other cultures’ attitudes towards titles.
When the extension horticulture professors David Gibby and Bill Scheer founded the Master Gardener program in 1973, they wanted to train volunteers to take over some of their advising work in the community. Both had studied in Germany, where the terms Gartenmeister (a trained person in charge of a garden) and Gärtnermeister or Gärtnermeisterin (master gardener) are neutral terms for people who have met some very specific training and apprenticeship criteria. They can also be titles of honour. For example, the fuchsia cultivar name ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ recognizes Carl Bonstedt, its early 20th-century breeder.
Moreover, in the US, as in Germany, people are not nearly as shy as we are about using titles to announce their credentials. It’s easier than showing a diploma or certificate! And perhaps Gibby and Scheer thought they might be able to recruit more people into their training program if they offered them the “Master” designation. They must have believed it would be a true distinction to hold that title.
As the Manitoba Master Gardener Association transitions toward new ways of training its future members, I hope that our program will uphold the rigorous standards set by the program founders almost 50 years ago and by the University of Saskatchewan since 1989. Unfortunately, the MMGA does not have the support of a university horticulture department or extension. But perhaps some new way of offering up-to-date, science-based training will be found.
There are no national or international standards for the training. Nevertheless, regardless of location, it has always required real effort to become and remain a Master Gardener: study, an exam, and hours of gardening-related community service. That’s as it should be, and so our title should surely be a source of pride. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt, in our Canadian cultural context, to remind folks that every Master Gardener is still learning.
(For the early history of the Master Gardener movement, visit:
Published: September 2021
By Shannon Coughlin, Master Gardener in Training
I love gardening. My gardens are my place of happiness, my therapy; I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
Over the years I have particularly enjoyed the hard physical work of gardening – digging new beds, arranging rocks, planting shrubs and flowers, pruning, and of course, never failing to visit and financially support every nursery or plant stand encountered! I found gardening good exercise, stress relieving, and also very much enjoyed the creative aspect of doing my own landscaping.
By Darlene Belton, Master Gardener
The soil in your garden is constantly being depleted by you, the conscientious gardener. Whenever you harvest your herbs and vegetables, or clean the garden in spring or fall, you remove material filled with nutrients that had been transformed into plants. Over time with this practice your soil loses its ability to promote the health and productivity of your garden. In a forest, however, dead plant material falls to the ground to be reabsorbed into the earth to nurture new generations. So, how can we, non forest-dwellers but concerned regenerative gardeners and ecosystem managers, reverse this human-induced pattern of net loss?
Master Gardener presenting in the Community!
presenter – Derek Yarnell, Master Gardener
Bulbs – Fall Planting
September 7/21 – 6:30-8:00pm
presenter Derek Yarnell, Master Gardener
Derek Yarnell, Master Gardener and founder of the Winnipeg Bulb Project will take you through the highlights and challenges of incorporating bulbs into your gardens. Fall is the perfect time to plant bulbs in your garden to bring more joy to your springtime yard. Winnipeg Public Library Zoom presentation.
Master Gardener presenting in the Community!
presenter – Susan LeBlanc, Master Gardener