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‘Spring into Gardening’ event slated Saturday at Coonskin Park

By Clint Thomas, Metro Reporter
Donna Myles (left) of Windy Knoll Nursery in Lewisburg, who is the 2017 West Virginia Extension Association’s Master Gardener of the Year, will be the keynote speaker at the “Spring into Gardening” event Saturday, April 22 at Coonskin Park. With her in this file photo is her husband, Myke. Courtesy photo

Under the aegis of the Kanawha County Extension Master Gardener Association, “Spring into Gardening” instructional sessions will take place on Saturday, April 22, in the Coonskin Park Clubhouse in Charleston.

The public event will feature four morning workshops for new and veteran gardeners to choose from, followed by an afternoon keynote address from the West Virginia Extension Association’s 2017 Master Gardener of the Year, Donna Myles.

Myles’ program will begin at noon on Saturday. Her talk, “Do You Want to Plant a Garden? Pointers and Tips for the Novice to Experienced Gardener,” will help new gardeners plan for planting and harvesting success. Her address will include some “ground-breaking” advice for veteran gardeners, as well.

Myles has worked for 30 years at Windy Knoll Nursery in Lewisburg. She and her husband, Myke, also raise bedding plants, vegetables, fruit and mums for their local farmers market. A lifelong gardener, she said she “likes getting her hands dirty,” and that, for her, “gardening is both a vocation and an avocation.”

“My plan is to do something for beginners and experienced gardeners alike,” Myles said last week from her Greenbrier County nursery. “I’ll be giving some pointers and tips -- and I’ll be asking a lot of questions: What do you want to plant and what do you want to grow at your site? How much space do you have to work with?

“I want to ask things like that,” the Master Gardener of the Year said, “before they start planting, to make sure they don’t waste a lot of money or find out they don’t have the time to keep up with a garden.

“Hopefully, between now and the program, the computer and I can give them pictures, too, to give them some ideas, if they have limited [gardening] space, some of the things they can do. I’ll also give them some idea of what I do in my garden,” she said.

Participants can select from two options in each of the Gardening Workshop time slots from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

The 9:30-to-10:30 a.m. slot will feature the sessions “Gardening to Attract Pollinators” and “Tomatoes! Tomatoes!” by two West Virginia State University representatives.

Annette Ericksen, alternative agriculture extension agent at WVSU, will speak to gardeners about native pollinators, how they face challenges from lost habitat and pesticide use and what gardeners can do to help support them. Ericksen will also talk about establishing pollinator gardens and fostering the growth of existing native plants and shrubs. 

Barbara Liedl, associate professor in the Department of Biology at State, researches and develops insect- and disease-resistant tomato varieties for greenhouse and high tunnel production. Her topic, “Tomatoes! Tomatoes!,” will help gardeners choose palatable tomato varieties, grow them in the best possible environment and ward off potential problems from diseases and pests.

From 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, garden lovers can learn how to divide garden perennials and how to create a rock garden.

Putnam County Master Gardener Myra Simmons will present a hands-on workshop, “Divide and Conquer!,” at the event. Participants will learn how to split a variety of garden perennials to keep them healthy and increase their “plant census.” Those attending Simmons’ instructional session will acquire both hands-on experience and a perennial plant to take home.

Simmons has been a Master Gardener for the past 18 years. “I’m going to be digging up all kinds of different plants in my yard, bring perennials and some bulbs, and give [the audience] some tips about growing,” the Hurricane resident said. “I’ll be giving tidbits about growing. I plan to have big clumps of soil and bringing tarps so we can have some trials.

“It’s really simple; if you have a rocket science degree, you’re not going to get this class. People don’t realize how simple it is to divide and invigorate the plants,” she said.

“I think we’ll have a good time. I’ve done several Master Gardener classes and I enjoy doing it. It’s my passion. I just want my flowers when I’m alive and not when I’m dead,” Simmons said.

In the concurrent session, “Rock Your World!,” Kanawha County Master Gardener Jennifer Soule will show potential rock gardeners how rock gardens can fit into their terrain, how to build various types of rock gardens and what plants grow well in a rock garden setting.

“Spring into Gardening” costs $5 per person with advance registration, or $10 at the park on Saturday for any available workshop openings.

Registration forms can be downloaded at; go to the “Spring into Gardening” link.

The forms, with a check made payable to KCMGA, can be mailed to: Spring into Gardening, 120 Dutch Road, Charleston, W.Va. 25302.

If you have questions about “Spring into Gardening,” receive answers via email at


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