The Accidental Master

Horticulture is the art and science of producing, using, and maintaining ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables.

With those words I am launching on a new adventure. Not as the author of such a statement but rather as the student. I have enrolled in a class offered by the University’s extensive service, which is entitled the “Master Gardener Program.”

I have enjoyed gardening to a very limited extent, the limitation coming primarily from time, energy, space and money. It has also come from a lack of knowledge in the science and art of anything let alone gardening. But now that I am firmly rooted (pun intended) in the category of being a retired professional, I have the time and the inclination to pursue a hobby to the extent of being well informed.

If I wince at any aspect of this program it is its use of the word Master. It is a little intimidating in its application since I really don’t want to get so immersed in this topic – in order to merit the title master –

that it overwhelms my life like a yellow squash plant gone rampant. I am okay with it, though, as I have been assured by the instructor that we will in no way approach the august image implied by this one word. The final exam will be open-book, after all, so who can lay claim to such a vaunted title as master when they do not have to know their topic well enough to avoid copying from a book, a neighbor, a crib sheet or one’s cell phone conveniently linked to a horticultural web site?

Classes start this coming Monday. I am reading ahead in the assigned textbook and know already that I am doomed to be lost in a whole new jargon surrounding plant life, root structure, soils and past management. If I master anything it will likely be the art and science of staying awake as we learn about xylem, phloem, cultivars and meristems.

If nothing else my garden will be better appreciated for its academic pedigree even if I get no further than knowing to press a seed into the soft soil and adding water on an occasional basis. The master in me will be providentially accidental. And that is something I can confidently know for sure at the outset.

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