Nonprofit Profile

Master Gardeners help keep county blooming

Carol Wagner, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner Sisters Janet Kahlow, right, and Linda Meisner are members of the Wolf River Master Gardeners. They are in Kahlow’s home, where she has many house plants, including the one held by Paul Meisner, Linda’s son.

Wolf River Master Gardeners might sound a little intimidating, but sisters Janet Kahlow and Linda Meisner said that is not the case.

“I find it fun and I enjoy the camaraderie,” said Kahlow, who is the president of the club.

The Master Gardener program, typically offered through universities in the United States and Canada, provides intense home horticulture training to individuals who then volunteer in their communities, giving lectures, creating gardens, conducting research and developing other projects.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension offers the Master Gardener program in Shawano County. The Wolf River group has 17 members. Other officers are Jackie Johnson, vice president, Deb Laehn and Mary Nordin, co-secretaries, Don Bublitz, treasurer, and Meisner, historian.

The sisters became Master Gardeners in 2011 after taking a nine-week class for three hours one night a week.

“We took the class together,” Kahlow said. “We had a lot of video when we did it. They are changing it this year and are going to have in-class instruction.”

The Master Gardeners learn about more than gardening. They also cover topics such as lawn care, trees, house plants, landscaping, fruit trees, vegetables, insects, animals, pesticides and berries.

Each year the gardeners also must record 10 hours of continuing education. Both women said it is easy to get that in during the year.

“It adds up quick,” Kahlow said.

“It’s relaxing,” Meisner said. “You’re always learning something new.”

Both sisters have extensive gardens.

“I’ve got a lot of flowerbeds around,” Meisner said. “I just put in a huge wildflower bed.”

Last year, Kahlow’s gardens were among the stops in the Safe Haven Garden Walk. After she bought her home in Shawano eight years ago, the family spent many hours taking out old and overgrown vegetation and putting in the new. They put in two ponds, 30 lilac bushes, thousands of fieldstone rocks, two pergolas and lots of plants.

“We are almost where we want to be,” Kahlow said

Meisner also is planting two trees at the Navarino Nature Center in honor of her mother-in-law, Joanne Meisner, who died recently. Joanne was one of the original members of Wolf River Master Gardeners, which started in 2008 and was the 50th one in the state. Joanne had an extensive garden of flowers and vegetables. She started a flower bed at the nature center.

“We’re going to add another flower bed in honor of Joanne,” Meisner said.

In addition to continuing education, Master Gardeners also are required to put in 24 hours of volunteer time per year. The local group will sponsor the Shawano community dinner in November. Members also take turns manning the Gardenline, a “hotline” for people with horticultural questions, at the Extension office from May to September, and also answer questions at the Shawano farmers market.

Meisner and Kahlow take care of two beds at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and School, a bed by the Oil House at Heritage Park, and the courtyard at ThedaCare.