Gardens on the tour
Betty and Dan Smith, 150 Truan Drive, Hixson
Hat Chau, 5797 Taggart Drive, Hixson
Alpine Crest Elementary School, 4700 Stagg Road, Red Bank
Carl and Lynn Pendergrass, 4016 Norwood Ave., Red Bank
Cate Mueller, 1012 Hanover St., Chattanooga
Girls Preparatory School, 218 Island Ave., Chattanooga
The Master Gardeners of Hamilton County is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The local chapter of the nationwide volunteer program trains participants in the science and art of gardening.
From creating teaching gardens for area youth to managing local food gardens to leading educational programs, Master Gardeners have their hands in the soil all over Hamilton County. Members donning green shirts and green aprons can be spotted answering horticultural questions at booths set up at local events, explaining exhibits on display at the Hamilton County Fair, or teaching kids about sustainable gardening at area schools.
Among the three main events the group holds annually for the public (along with a garden expo at Camp Jordan and displays at the county fair) is the upcoming Spring Garden Tour.
The event started as a fundraiser for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank 32 years ago. The Master Gardeners became involved when members were asked to suggest local gardens to be included in the tour, said Suzanne Ford, a member of MGHC's board of governors.
The group has since entirely taken over the planning of the tour, although a portion of the funds raised are still donated to the food bank. The tour also raises money for the Master Gardeners' scholarship fund, which provided three students majoring in horticulture at Tennessee colleges with $2,500 scholarships last year, Ford said.
This year's tour is Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, June 16, from 1-6 p.m., and features six gardens clustered in Red Bank, North Chattanooga and Hixson. It includes teaching gardens at Girls Preparatory School and Alpine Crest Elementary School, along with several private gardens, three of which have been maintained by a single owner for 40-50 years, said Ford.
Featured gardens include examples of shade gardening, as well as creating pathways and areas of interest, she said.
"I think it's just a really wonderful way to see the creativity and the knowledge people put into their gardens," said Ford, adding that the owner of the garden is typically present during the tour to explain what they've done and answer attendees' questions. "I've gotten some ideas."
The 2018 tour drew around 700 people and raised more than $10,000 — more money than any of the previous years' tours, said Patsy Boles, a past president of the group who helped organize this year's event.
The tour's also a good introduction to the Master Gardeners program, which offers in-depth training through its four-month intern class held annually from January to April. Class participants have the opportunity to become certified Master Gardeners by completing the required volunteer hours, and can renew their certification if the required continuing education and volunteer hours are completed each year.
Ford said about 100 members typically attend the group's monthly meetings, which always include a themed potluck dinner and a speaker.
"There's such a camaraderie between Master Gardeners," said Boles, who became a Master Gardener in Austin, Texas, in 1994, and joined the Hamilton County chapter in 2006. "It's the greatest volunteer group that I've worked with."
Tickets for the garden tour are $20 for both days and can be purchased with cash or check only at any of the gardens.
For more information visit mghc.org. To learn about future events, sign up for the Master Gardeners of Hamilton County's Friends Newsletter at mghc.org/contact/mghc-friends-mail-list.
Email Emily Crisman at email@example.com.