Master Gardeners keep St. Charles blooming

Program marks 15th year of helping others grow

Charlene Troxler can’t imagine a world where children don’t know how to plant seeds or grow vegetables so when the opportunity came to become a master gardener – she took it.“I got into it because I love to see things grow,” the Ama resident said. “I remember growing geraniums from a seed and a friend questioned me about doing it when I could buy them. But I wanted the challenge of seeing them grow.”

Troxler’s passion for gardening literally runs right to her roots, as well as her desire to share her knowledge.

She grew up in a family of truck farmers who grew vegetables and sold them at market so it was no wonder she married a man who enjoyed gardening

“You get to eat healthy if you have a garden,” Troxler said. “I love being with people who love growing vegetables, too.”

This all came together for her as a master gardener, and she is among the parish’s first to graduate from the LSU AgCenter’s River Region Louisiana Master Gardener Class.

This is the program’s 15th year in the parish, said Rene Schmit, parish ag agent. Started in 2002, the program has generated more than 80 graduates in the River Region educated in horticulture to help the AgCenter manage the public’s numerous requests for information on how to grow things.

“It’s grown because of the interest of these volunteers to help other people learn about gardening and raise their expertise in gardening, as well,” Schmit said. “At the same time, they help others learn about the proper methods in gardening.”

From here, their knowledge has extended to farmer’s markets, a demonstration garden at Destrehan Plantation and greenhouses.

For Don Montgomery in Destrehan, the Master Gardener program has been an adventure in fellowship and sharing ideas.

“I started about five years ago and have really enjoyed it … going to the market and helping people with problems they come up with,” Montgomery said. “If we can’t answer it, we find it and get back to the people.”

Although a graduate, he said master gardeners stay up to date on what’s going on in the plant world.

Montgomery’s interest in the program started with his own in horticulture.

“I enjoyed working with the plants,” he said. “We have a garden in our back and front yards so I look for different plants to have my garden really good. I love to see what the plants can do, and the flowers that come out.”

Montgomery has several different types of citrus trees, including Satsuma, blood orange, naval and even a blood orange naval. This is a convenient passion because he said most of the questions he gets are about growing citrus trees.

On Feb. 8, the master gardeners are going to Destrehan Plantation to trim the roses back, he said.

They’ll also get a class on making new roses while there, which is also knowledge they will pass on to the public.

Troxler added, while it’s always important to know how to grow things, it’s particularly for children..

“It’s not an electronic dealie,” she mused. “This is good because this knowledge requires kids get their hands in the dirt. They’re more likely to taste foods they help grow and to be interested in going for the challenge of growing something. It will teach them an appreciation for what you get from planting a seed. It’s a gift of appreciation and beauty … the miracle you can get with this one tiny seed.”

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