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From Amateur to Blooming Master 2007


Posted By: Misty Christner (email)
Date: 6/20/2018 at 12:45:48

Source: The Hawk Eye 7/8/2007

From Amateur to Blooming Master
By Randy Petersen

Perry Fletcher was an avid gardener long before he considered becoming a master gardener. Gardening was an informal hobby he and his late wife, Shirley, shared for years, whether it was growing food or flowers at their rural Wapello home.
"We always had a big garden," he said.
A few years after she died, Fletcher met a friend, Joan Dinnel, through the local hospice support group. They also bonded over an interest in gardening. She was a master gardener from Iowa City, and soon he was tagging along on garden tours, classes and club meetings.
When Louisa County decided to offer a master gardening class, Fletcher didn't think twice. "I jumped right in," he said.
As a longtime amateur gardener, Fletcher quickly began to learn new aspects of his hobby. Forty hours of classes provided training in all aspects of gardening. Beyond when and where to plant, there were insects, diseases, soil modifications and a host of other elements to consider. Through the classes, Fletcher said he learned one big lesson about his own gardens. "I made a lot of mistakes, and I'm trying to correct those," he said.
As an example, he points to a small pond he built at the side of his house. The water's not as clear as he would have liked and it has needed adjustments since it was installed. The problem, Fletcher admits, is that he built it before taking a class. Now, he said he'd likely do things in a different order.
In his overall landscape, however, Fletcher also has learned to balance "the right way" with what actually works for him. "There are a lot of things they said I was doing wrong," he said of the instructors in the master gardener class. "I realize I had some problems."
At the same time, he said he saw that some of his "wrong" actions were actually working in his gardens. He said he hopes better success will come from balancing what has worked in the past with new lessons from the master gardener class.
While he had the knowledge as the first plants of spring bloomed this year, Fletcher said he wasn't able to put too much into practice. A hip replacement had him on crutches for most of the early growing season and two rods in his back limited his movement even more. As a result, his vegetable gardening is limited to some tomatoes and peppers, making this the first year since he moved into the house in 1969 that there are no potatoes growing among the plants. Additionally, he had to put off plans to redo his flowerbeds, attack a new crop of weeds and transplant bushes.
Still, the avid gardener hasn't let his ailments completely stop him. Help from family and friends has kept most of the overgrowth under control, and Fletcher has used his own down time to start his master gardener volunteer project.
Each master gardener student must volunteer 40 hours before becoming a full-fledged master gardener. For Fletcher, most of those hours will be spend designing and implementing a new landscape for the Wapello public library.
Starting the redesign project, Palmer drew on all he had learned from his master gardener classes, but he also kept in mind that the new garden didn't only have to meet his standards. The design had to be approved by the library board and meet expectations of the public. In designing the public space, he again drew encouragement and advice from Dinnel. The pair selected plants and a design that could be kept clean and orderly throughout the year. Current evergreens tended to collect trash in the space. Fletcher wanted to find a design that made cleaning easier.
He also chose perennials that would be easy to care for throughout years to come. Some of the selections included Stella de Oro daylillies and a variety of coral bells. Other changes Fletcher plans for the library space is placing concrete blocks under the existing bike rack to make future mowing easier and possibly adding ornamental grasses to the plan.
As he slowly recovers from his recent surgery, Fletcher said he's looking forward to moving ahead with the library project, as well as his own garden. Once both are back in shape, he said he has no doubt that they will continue to keep him busy and content for years to come.


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