“Every community should have a Master Gardeners group,” said Carolyn Langdon, a long-time member of the Highlands-based horticultural organization, which recently celebrated 20 years of green-thumbed service in Haliburton County.
he brainchild of friends Eileen Hughes, Winnie Kasepchuk and Pauline Plooard – who each remain active members – the Haliburton County Master Gardeners (HCMG) has played a pivotal role in environmental protection and education for the past two decades.
The group develops specialist materials and programming to assist local gardeners with overcoming challenging growing conditions in the Highlands, while promoting the importance of maintaining naturally thriving species.
“We solve problems and answer questions people have related to gardening, or anything to do with nature. Really, it’s about giving sound, environmentally-friendly advice to property owners on how they can best support and care for their land,” Langdon said.
The most popular service the group provides is on-site property consultations, completing 50 since 2020. Langdon said the biggest call for help in recent years has been how to conserve or restore a shoreline or other area of a property that has little vegetation or has been overrun with invasive plants, such as goutweed or periwinkle.
“We usually have two or three members that will go and they will spend a few hours on-site, walking people through any issues or problem areas. Then we’ll put together a report that people can use to bring out the best in their property,” Langdon said.
HCMG played a key role in the redesign of the Minden Village Green in 2012 and has worked with Nature’s Place on multiple local initiatives. Langdon has been with the organization for 10 years, learning about them after moving home to the Highlands in 2012.
Since then, she’s taken an active role in the group’s leadership and has helped with the development of a new website, and programs such as the Heritage Apple Project, launched this year in partnership with the University of Guelph. HCMG was named a Haliburton Highlands Land Trust ‘Enviro Hero’ in 2022 for its contributions to several public education initiatives, such as teaching County homeowners about the importance of native plants. “All gardens should be at least 70 per cent native,” she said.
Plans to introduce a self-guided audio tour in the new year, highlighting the different plant life people can find along the Minden Boardwalk, are underway. The group is actively looking for new members, though it’s not as simple as just signing up.
Any potential member must complete a condensed Master Gardener university course and put in a minimum of 30 volunteer hours with a local chapter before being accepted. Courses are offered virtually at Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph and cost several hundred dollars. “It’s a worthwhile investment.
Being a member of Master Gardeners has been a treat for me,” said Hughes. “I’ve divided hostas and rescued native lupines from the ditch for our annual plant sales, made presentations to our local horticultural society… I’ve loved being a part of this group, and the work we do is meaningful. And I’ve met a lot of lovely people along the way.” To learn more about HCMG, visit haliburtonmastergardener.ca.