NORMAN — Blooms and garden bounty are already starting to emerge this spring from the Cleveland County Master Gardeners Association’s demonstration garden.
Area gardeners can draw inspiration and learn from the many themed gardens, ranging from a butterfly garden to a water-smart, xeriscaped garden to an Oklahoma Proven garden, featuring plants and bushes that have been tested and proven to flourish in the state’s often tough hot-and-cold climate extremes.
The third-of-an-acre CCMGA demo garden is west of the parking lot at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds on East Robinson Street, just east of Porter Avenue. It’s the group’s centerpiece project. CCMGA is part of Oklahoma State University’s Extension service as a land-grant university.
Free garden tours are given by Master Gardeners from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting in April and running through October while the Cleveland County Farmers Market is open.
“Many people don’t even know the demo garden is there,” said Patricia Welty, this year’s CCMGA garden coordinator. “It’s a hidden jewel.”
The demo garden is a model for Master Gardener programs in many other counties.
“We are the envy of a lot of (Master Gardener) programs,” said Tracey Payton Miller, Cleveland County Extension educator. “They come here to see what we’ve done and how to get started.”
Plants are being grown in the garden’s greenhouse for a plant sale, planned April 12, which helps sustain the CCMGA’s garden activities.
“We have been busy since January raising perennials and annuals,” Welty said.
New this season in the demo garden will be the continued development of an ambitious Native American Medicinal Garden in the shape of a dream catcher around a stone bubbler. Grants and in-kind donations are being sought by that CCMGA committee to create the next phase of the garden.
“We want to educate people about Native American traditions and how they use nature to heal,” said Kathy Whittle, a Cherokee who is chairing the NAMG along with several other Native American gardeners and volunteers.
So far, the committee has raised about $2,000 toward the estimated $10,000 cost of the garden.
Tumbled cobalt-blue glass and different colors of decomposed granite and stone will make up a feather-shaped pathway leading to the bubbler. The garden was designed by Shelly Martin, who was a Oklahoma State landscape architecture major at the time and now works as a landscape designer for TLC Garden Center.
“(The NAMG committee) is looking for support,” Welty said.
Other CCMGA Native American gardens in the demo garden feature heirloom agricultural products.
Also new is a pergola to welcome visitors to the garden and three new, elevated beds illustrating how to garden with a disability. A miniature “fairy” garden is new this spring.
There are many popular ongoing projects.
“We have a herb bed that is lovely that is an ongoing project,” Welty said.
Some others are the red, white and blue veterans garden and the pink-flowering Susan G. Komen garden, promoting breast cancer awareness.
An agricultural products garden shows how things are grown in the state, like canola or peanuts, which grow underground.
Miller said often people who move to Oklahoma want to become a Master Gardener here to understand the difference between their former home and the Sooner state. Some are students in related majors at the University of Oklahoma.
“We try to show what grows well in Oklahoma,” CCMGA president Claren Kidd said. “People want to know what they can grow here.”
Families often tour the garden to get children excited about gardening.
Kidd said children particularly enjoying the garden’s worm “hotel,” where they can experience holding a worm. There’s also a pyramid shaped “teepee” where children can hide.
The Master Gardeners do other educational activities in the community, including an informational hotline.
“Last year, they fielded about 1,500 questions from the public from March to September,” Miller said. “I answered about another 1,500 questions.”
The CCMGA provided about three dozen talks in the community in 2013, on subjects like composting, xeriscaping and container gardening. Miller coordinates the CCMGA speakers.
The group also donates vegetables from the demo garden to Food and Shelter, which provides meals for homeless and low-income county residents.
And area gardeners might find a little encouragement on their front doors from the Cleveland County Master Gardeners bestowing doorknob hangers when they’re driving around the county and notice a nice garden.
CCMGA classes are in the fall and often fill up long before classes start, so those who are interested should register early. Master Gardeners volunteer their time as part of their tuition for the classes.
Welty said being a Master Gardener enriches her life.
“It’s good for the soul,” she said. “It’s a very excellent thing for me. I thoroughly enjoy it.”
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