Meet the Master Gardeners

 Alex Granda Alex Granda - Alex became a Master Gardener in 2009, after being a teacher for thirty years. He figured that he had the patience to be successful in gardening, besides being a pro at pest control. You can find him on most Thursday mornings volunteering at the Museum of Transportation where he enjoys learning in a new type of classroom, where the students always behave!
 Bonnie Langston Bonnie Langston - Bonnie volunteered for a season before entering the Master Gardener program in January 2006. She says she joined the program because “there’s just so many things I didn't know.” She started gardening when her mom made her tend the family vegetable garden. By 15, she declared she “wasn't never going to do that again.” Never lasted 10 years. Over time, she’s raised many vegetable and flower gardens. After retirement she turned to her therapeutic hobby to avoid the same old thing. Since then she has learned new skills, made new friends and watched the parks grow more beautiful.
 Cathy Arnold Cathy Arnold - Cathy’s path towards becoming a Master Gardener started when she joined St. Louis Evening Herbalist to learn more about herbs. At one of the group’s workshops she listened to Claire Schumann speak about the historical gardens at Faust Park. Interested in history since high school, Cathy saw this as an opportunity to combine two loves. Even though she claims “those first couple of years I didn’t know a weed from a seed,” she has been gardening since childhood. She considers gardening “a way to get back to the earth to the plants and it’s a way to get away from all the hectic pace.”
 Chris Schmidt Chris Schmidt - Chris became a master gardener in 2006 after hearing about it from Ginny, who volunteered with her at Queeny Park. She thought it sounded like a good opportunity to learn more about her hobby. She appreciates the “wealth of information” she has received in the forms of instruction and learning materials. She enjoys applying her book knowledge in the garden, turning ‘why did it die’ moments to ‘so that’s why’ discoveries. After learning “a little bit about a lot of things,” she wants to find a specialty because she’s “not fool enough to think I'm going to remember all of this about everything.”
 Ginny McCook Ginny McCook - Ginny, the County Parks’ original Master Gardener, first volunteered in 2003 while completing her first annual service requirement. She said that she started exploring her own interests after age 50, because “that’s when you think; Ok, there has to be something more for me to do.” She chose gardening because of an interest reaching back to childhood when she would watch the fruits and vegetables growing in her uncle’s garden. “It was always interesting to see what Uncle Pete used to make,” she recalls. Now she enjoys stimulating experts she has met because of the program.
 Joan Griffard Joan Griffard - I remember being with my grandmother while she tended to her flowers and herbs when I was a young girl. I was amazed how she cared for them and understood what they needed to grow. During winter some of those same plants graced her breezeway. Her love of gardening was passed to my father who fed his family of 6 from the vegetable garden that we helped him care for. Mom would “put up” or can the produce that would carry us through the winter and beyond. This too was done with our help. Each spring we planted again; potatoes, corn, tomatoes, beans, carrots, beets, etc. It seemed that he was not only growing vegetables but he was growing his garden as well. I learned a lot about gardening from my grandmother and father during my early years and it’s what helped me develop my own interest in gardening. Since completing the Master Gardener program I have discovered a way of sharing my gardening interests through volunteering. It’s an exciting new chapter in my life and I am always eager to discover more.
 MaryAnn Fink MaryAnn Fink - MaryAnn Fink is a life long horticulture practitioner that appreciates the functional and ornamental aspects of the cultivated landscape. She has an “eco-perspective” for green spaces such as the BENCH Garden at Sail Boat Cove in Creve Coeur Park. As a conservation specialist, water conservationist and habitat practitioner, she uses an assortment of plants that are easy to grow , many are Missouri native and bird / butterfly friendly. She also uses “smart gardening” techniques to manage the diverse “sampler garden” to keep it simple and environmentally friendly!
 Michelle Schmitt Michelle Schmitt - It’s not surprising that Michelle followed her sister-in-law first to the heritage garden at Faust Park and then into the Master Gardening program. For Michelle, Gardening has long been a family affair. Growing up, Michelle spent her summers helping her grandmother and uncle in their green house nursery. She’s enjoyed gardening ever since. “I like the sense of accomplishment, the reward of caring for what is growing and sometimes you get to eat some of it.” Through the Master Gardener program, Michelle can share these experiences with others who share her interests. In addition to new acquaintances, Michelle has also gained new knowledge.
 Ron Steven Ron Steven - My love of gardening started early, thanks to my mom. My family gardened together to grow our food. There was nothing more satisfying than planting seeds and watching them grow. I never lost interest in plants, but I decided my garden would grow flowers. Love it all - the planting, watering, weeding, pruning, moving plants around, and weeding again....even the hard part of gardening is fun. I started volunteering at Flora Conservancy at Forest Park in 2000. I enjoyed it so much; I completed the Master Gardeners Program in 2001. During this time I volunteered in the Japanese Gardens at Missouri Botanical Gardens. I enjoy being with people in their neighborhoods as much as gardening. Currently, I volunteer for Flora Conservancy, Missouri Botanical Gardens (plastic pot recycling ), Urban Roots (installing and maintaining the medians on Tucker Blvd. and Market Street downtown), Gateway Greening (selecting and installing community gardens and school gardens), and St. Louis County Parks at Jefferson Barracks Park.
 Sarah Strandemo Sarah Strandemo - My interest in gardening began over 30 years ago when we purchased our first home in a new subdivision that didn't even have grass. Originally from Minnesota, I looked at the soil and asked, where is the black dirt? I learned to work with red clay. A few years later, we bought a home on 10 wooded acres and I learned Jefferson County's topsoil was limestone. I used a pick ax to plant blubs but also learned a lot about Missouri native plants and wildflowers. Now we live in west St. Louis County with great soil, landscaped front, woods in the back and a new challenge, coexistence with our resident deer. Deer resistant plants, especially native are not my focus. I still involuntarily feed the deer a new plant each season, but I'm getting smarter. I learned a lot from the Master Gardener program, but volunteering for the St. Louis County Parks is where the real hands on learning is taking place.
 Betty Struckhoff Betty Struckhoff - Betty Struckhoff has been a Master Gardener since 2000 and her love of landscaping with native plants began on the family farm near Augusta, MO where she grew up. She volunteers at the Museum of Transportation and is an active member of Wild Ones Natural Landscapers www.stlwildones.org. She also volunteers as a habitat adviser with St. Louis Audubon’s Bring Conservation Home program (http://stlouisaudubon.org/BCH) and makes presentations on landscaping with natives through the Master Gardener Speakers Bureau – www.stlmg.com
 Yvette Luedde Yvette Luedde - My Grandmother had a green thumb, but I really wasn’t that interested in gardening until I bought a home of my own and tried to turn it into a park! When I heard about the Master Gardener Program I knew I wanted to pursue it. In 2011 I took Master Gardener training in Franklin County. This year I completed Master Gardener training with the St. Louis chapter through Missouri Botanical Garden. I would like to gain as much knowledge as possible. I love the science of plants! I also enjoy sharing knowledge and educational opportunities. I am an avid photographer and have been published a few times. I am also a bit artistic and a lot creative and try to bring those elements to my garden. I love anything unique or odd in the garden, that one-of-a-kind, no one else has, type thing. I now find myself blessed to be a gardener at Laumeier Sculpture Park which brings awesome opportunities to put my new skills to use!