This is the first of a series of articles introducing Montgomery County Master Gardeners.
This inaugural issue highlights Cliff Blackerby, a master gardener since 2010. Cliff is a retired army colonel, holds a Ph.D. from that great university Texas A&M and enjoys several hobbies besides gardening. He and his wife Sandy are avid travelers; Italy being their favorite travel destination. He also enjoys golf and has recently taken up photography; even teaching an iPhone photography class to master gardeners.
During his ten years as a master gardener, Cliff has served on the executive board as vice president, president and past president. He also worked with the intern classes for three years serving as the coordinator for two. When asked which position he liked the best he responded, “Working with the intern class, definitely. It was so much fun getting to know the new interns and learning about each of them.” He came to call them his ‘children’ since, as the coordinator, he was responsible for the care, education and feeding of the class. Cliff claims about 150 master gardener children now.
While he rotated through all the demonstration gardens during his internship, he chose to work in the floral gardens. He said he picked floral because he and Sandy ate out a lot and did not do a lot of cooking so vegetable gardening held no interest for him; floral fit his plans for his home gardening better than the other options. He commented, “My knees are old and don’t take well to kneeling to maintain the plants or pull weeds so I’ve looked for something a little less stressful on the body. I now work with our web group getting my volunteer hours researching and writing garden related articles. Let me do a little shameful self promotion here; we have a large readership, but are always looking to increase it. I’d like to invite our readers to share our website information (https://mcmga.com) to friends and encourage them to sign up to get email notifications when a new article is published. It’s a great resource to the gardening public.”
Asked about his favorite flowers he said, “As a master gardener, I guess I’m supposed to like all kinds of flowers, but if I had to pick there are two I’m particularly fond of: hydrangea and Civil War verbena. The hydrangea because it is such a naturally beautiful plant with its gorgeous blue, pink and white flowers. Growing up in the south, the hydrangea just has a natural charm and appeal for me.”
“I was introduced to the verbena in the demonstration gardens at the master gardener center. I was able to talk the area manager of the bog into letting me take one of the plant’s ‘babies’ for my own garden. It is a beautiful little mounding plant with delicate white flowers that bloom from the spring to late summer. It takes very little care which I really appreciate! We have offered it for sale in the master gardener spring plant sale the last couple of years. I’ve gifted my neighbor with a couple of the plants, now we both have verbena prominently displayed in our gardens.”
Asked what was the best thing about being a master gardener, he noted “ Of course you learn a lot about plants and I guess that might be what brings you to our association, but for me, the real value in becoming a master gardener are the lasting friendships I’ve made.”