As of Spring 2016, the newest green thumb to the Page family was Judy Edwards. With the opportunity from the Coconino County Cooperative Extension and a passion to expound her knowledge in horticulture, Edwards now has new skills to help blossom this canyon country.
For the first time in twenty years, the Coconino Cooperative Extension offered the Master Gardener Program in Page. Alongside Edwards, four other Page locals branched out and dug into the fun of mastering the delicate and complex art of gardening. Annie Sullivan, Danielle Stewart, Erin Manzutto, Katie Wood, and Edwards received certification as masters after completing 50 hours of community service; primarily spent on Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market.
The course, which was extensive in academics, was developed with the idea that those who become master gardeners will then go on to help educate others in the community in the art of gardening.
Gardening can be tricky enough, but doing it in a sandy, desert environment such as Page brings a whole new set of challenges to overcome. One of the goals of the program is to address the challenges of nourishing plants in the desert and teaching how to use those challenges to our advantage.
“I kill plants so well,” said Edwards. “Growing plants in our area is an investment and a process. It is very difficult due to the dry, desert soil. I wanted to learn how to not kill plants.”
There is no native of Page who is a stranger to the dry, windy, hot and poor soils of this desert landscape on the Mesa. What tends to be foreign to the desert dwellers is the education of which plants can live here, how they can thrive, and, how to create a harmonious relationship between human and earth. With in-depth classes intimately focused on the student’s learning timeline and strengths, the hope is that the information can be shared in many social groups and hopefully entire communities.
Post Master Gardening class and certification, Edwards’ front yard can be identified by its colorful desert landscaping. Characterized by the airy, light-petalled allysum and the bright orange and red ombre of the blanket flower, Edward’s yard propagates her gardening education and the existence of plant life in the desert.
Edwards says she’s also more mindful of the plants that have existed here before our arrival and has learned how to care for those plants too. Bare root trees and pomegranate trees populate and continue to spread their seed throughout the small suburbs of Page without the assistance of our helpful hands. The desert will find a way to continue to create life in its unbelievable ways and places. With the proper knowledge of horticulture and a willingness to protect life older than ourselves, the desert can continue to be one of the most amazing fertile landscapes.
“The Master Gardener program taught me to be more conscious of being consistent,” said Edwards. “There has to be balance in the way we create life and take care of it. Gardening is my greatest relaxation; second to being on the lake.”
Edwards shares that she is planning on attending the next Master Gardener program so as to refresh and continue her plant education. Though the program does not currently have a set date for its next visit to Page; we can be thankful this educational seed has been planted in the heart of few in hopes to be spread to the entire community.