Green Spring Master Gardener Program Celebrates 15 Years

IMG_4034Teenage years are a time of energy, excitement and new experiences, years of change that contribute to forming a sense of identity and purpose. The Green Spring Master Gardener (GSMG) program is 15 in 2017, and in its teen years it continues to have an enthusiasm of purpose.

The seed for the program was planted in 2002, and its identity was shaped by a partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE). The VCE is a link between land grant universities and community residents. Before the Civil War, very few college curriculums addressed the problems of citizens who made their livelihood from agriculture. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act which provided for a university in every state that would educate citizens in agricultural and mechanical fields. Today, these colleges are known as land grant universities. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Virginia State University are Virginia’s land grant schools.

VCE created the Master Gardener (MG) program to meet increasing requests from dscf6551-e1511978680564.jpghomeowners for research-based horticultural information. MG volunteers are trained by experts in their respective fields to provide consumers with up-to-date, reliable knowledge so residents can enjoy the natural resources around their homes. Master Gardeners keep up with the latest in horticultural research and trends by putting in eight hours of training each year in order to remain certified. Green Spring boasts about 150 active Master Gardeners and 30 trainees. They contributed over 9,700 service hours in 2016. Their activities included a Speaker’s Bureau that addressed 171 attendees at six Fairfax County libraries as well as members of the National Capital Area Gardening Study School, the Azalea Society of America and various gardening clubs and groups in Fairfax County.

In collaboration with Fairfax County Master Gardeners, GSMGs brought a basic botany class to 72 fourth-grade classrooms in 21 Fairfax County public schools, homeschool groups and Girl Scout troops, teaching a total of 1,743 students. Other children’s programs include Learn, Explore and Play, an interpretive team for the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens and Ready, Set, Grow for fourth graders.

DSCF6700The GSMGs man the Green Spring Gardens help desk every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the VCE office in Fairfax. They display educational material and answer questions at Fairfax County Farmers Markets and local green fairs, give tours of Green Spring Gardens, hold a yearly EcoSavvy Symposium, and erect instructive horticulture displays in Fairfax County libraries. The GSMGs also have developed partnerships with local organizations. Master Gardeners work with Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, organizing volunteers to work in the native plant gardens and lead tours and educational programming. The latest endeavor is a partnership with the Woodburn Crisis Care Center to improve and enhance a healing garden space and provide education.

The 15-year-old program is committed to providing gardening advice and educational programming for the community. Many of the MGs are professionals either retired or working as teachers, nurses, doctors, university professors and IT specialists. They freely offer their expertise, time and passion to the Green Spring Master Gardener Program because they believe in its value to affect the citizens of Fairfax County and the environment. Educator Lucy Wheelock always said, “The one thing that makes life worth living is to serve a cause.” The GSMGs do just that.

Author Pam Smith is the Community Horticulture Supervisor at Green Spring Gardens.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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