Serve – July 2017

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Gardening for the Future

Volunteer at the Boardman River Nature Center!

Master Gardener Scholarship Recipients

Photo of Suttons Bay Rain Gardens, 2015. Photo by The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay

Gardening for the Future

MGANM Member Spotlight – Lillian Mahaney

by Michele Worden and Ruth Steele-Walker, Advanced Extension Master Gardeners

Lillian Mahaney is a rock star Master Gardener.  She has been part of the program for over a decade and is one of our revered ‘Gold Badge’ Master Gardeners –over 1,500 hours of volunteer service in Leelanau County and Northern Michigan. 

What she’s doing now:  Recently Lillian has been helping Annette in the Leelanau MSUE office compile a list of educational and volunteer opportunities that are e-mailed to Master Gardeners bi-weekly.   Lillian also writes for The Real Dirt – the newsletter of the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan. 

Experience and Expertise: Lillian has a diverse interest and expertise in horticulture.  She belongs to the Michigan Herb Association, Michigan Master Gardener Association, MGANM, the Wildflower Association of Michigan, Cherry Capital Rose Society, and Botanical Gardens at Historic Barns Park.  

Lillian is an avid rose gardener – both in her native Florida and in Northern Michigan.   

Lillian has also focused on native plants as part of her work as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.  Her moniker is “Raccoon Mama,” although she also has rehabbed many other species including fox, squirrels and birds.   She has also taught classes at Kettunen Center on native plants.

She is passionate about the Junior Master Gardener program and has been a driver of it in Northern Michigan.   When she first became a Master Gardener, Lillian began Junior Master Gardener programs at the public schools in Suttons Bay and Leland and at St. Mary Catholic School in Lake Leelanau.  She also developed and taught a training class on how to implement a Junior Master Gardener program to develop more Master Gardeners into local program leaders.  “It’s my passion,” says Lil.  “I want to see people getting involved with Junior Master Gardeners.  The teachers I talk to all want the program but we just don’t have enough volunteers to teach it.”  Lil created student workbook and curriculum, activity sheets and reference information to assist those MGs and others who haven’t taught a JRMG program before.

More recently, Lillian has been working with Sarah U’Ren, Watershed Director, to help recruit people to care for the 18 small rain gardens sprinkled throughout the town of Suttons Bay.  “We work with the public and teach them about the native plants in the rain gardens.”  This project has a big impact on keeping the waters of the Grand Traverse Bay clean.

Future Plans:  Lillian recently completed the Smart Gardening online training program.   “I really hope to be more involved with Smart Gardening,” Lil says, adding that “Smart Gardening really coordinates with my work in wildlife rehabilitation.  Her goal is to create and promote landscapes that help people live harmoniously with wildlife.

Through educating children and planting gardens that are environmentally friendly – Lillian Mahaney is gardening to build a better future.

Volunteer at the Boardman River Nature Center!

by Becky Mang, Community Gardener

Upon completion of the GTCD Nature Center building nearly ten years ago, a large group of Master Gardeners gathered to adorn the surrounding grounds with hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees. The landscape plan, designed by local landscape architects Anita Silverman and Eric Takayama, called for plantings native to the area with the stock that was available at the time. The beautiful stone and rock beds, rain gardens and sun/shade orientation were all considered in the design.

How these gardens have been maintained and sustained over the years is a story that involves very little financial investment but much perseverance. Until just recently, when a monetary budget was introduced, Martha Dively and I have worked with volunteers and Master Gardeners to weed, add compost and mulch the gardens. Conservation District employees have also assisted us with some pruning and irrigation installation. Plants were not moved or thinned, no new plantings were introduced and some beds were left to fend for themselves.

Two years ago, it occurred to Martha and I that we would never realize the Master Gardener mission of community education by simply mulching and weeding.  In discussions with the Conservation District Board members and District employees, we determined we could start raising funds for garden maintenance.  We now rescue plants from our own gardens, as well as from building sites in the area, and sell them at the District’s yearly native plant sale.  We have also applied and received grants to renovate and revitalize some of the garden beds.

Working with the Invasive Species Network, we have begun placing extensive signage throughout the gardens.  These signs identify the flowers, shrubs and trees as well as provide other information about their growing requirements.  We have begun offering garden tours every Monday evening, preceding our work bees, and are reaching out to high school students in the area to work in the gardens for credit. 

At our native plant sale May 20, we were able, for the first time in all these years of garden maintenance, to use the gardens to demonstrate how the plants being sold look and act in their natural environment.  We saw gardeners exploring the beds, reading the signage, and then asking lots of questions. We nearly sold out of hundreds of plants.  Needless to say, this is a dream come true for both Martha and me.

With all of this positive growth there is one caveat.  Our Monday evening and Wednesday morning work bees have not been well supported. This spring has been especially light on help. We know there is a lot of competition for volunteers. (Martha and I must enjoy what we do because we always show up.)  A heartfelt thank you to Jeanne Hunter and Joanne Johnson. They have been tireless volunteers and really worked hard to get the gardens in shape. Also, the newly established Wild Ones chapter have adopted the butterfly garden so look for creative new energy there.  We are so grateful for the work of the Conservation District employees; especially Tricia Forgrave and Tom Vitale, who sometimes volunteer on their own time.

I invite you to take some time to meander the path around the building before or after your next meeting at the Boardman River Nature Center.  You just might notice a flower or shrub that could fit nicely into your garden design while, at the same time, encouraging pollinators.

Scholarship recipients and Master Gardener Trainees Christine Koubek and Lori Piggott (2017)

Master Gardener Scholarship Recipients

by Cheryl Gross, Adv EMG

We were thrilled to award our two 2017 Master Gardener College Scholarships to women who recently completed the Master Gardener training class at the Horticultural Center, Christine Koubek and Lori Piggott.  Christine and Lori are pictured below at Master Gardener College:

We asked them each for a brief introduction:


I was born and raised in Illinois. My indoctrination into gardening came early in life. My Dad was an avid vegetable gardener who used to carry me, as an infant, out to the garden in the morning to water. My mom was the flower gardener. She taught me to prune roses at 7. They both had me planting things as a tot, and by 11 I had graduated to rototilling and using the riding mower. My Dad would go to the local farm for cow and chicken manure. I now fondly grow my own heirloom tomatoes because of that memory and have always loved nature in all forms.

My appreciation for nature and gardening has been an avocation all my life. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have an indoor plant or animal under my care.  I was a member of the friends of the Oak Park Conservatory and a graduate and volunteer of The Openlands Treekeepers program in Cook County, Illinois. My husband and I were members of the Midwest Fruit Growers Association. For years we maintained memberships at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and the Morton Arboretum.

After vacationing here in NW Michigan for years, we bought a few acres near Beulah in 2011 and in 2016 moved to Michigan. We now live here full time and love it despite jokes from our friends about how “you guys are the only people we know to retire and move North.”  I feel so grateful to be a part of the community here in NW Michigan and now MGANM.

I look forward to learning more and sharing any knowledge I gain from Master Gardener College. My husband and I took a beekeeping course at Tillers near Kalamazoo last year. I’m interested in other pollinators too. So, I’m particularly interested in the class on Building a Bee Hotel.


I recently stopped working, so I could focus on my family and projects for which I feel truly passionate. One of those projects is starting my own business building furniture and home decor called Second Story Art and Design. The other project is playing in the dirt. My mother had her Master Gardener Certification when I was a child, and her father was a proud rose gardener, so it definitely runs in my blood. I started completely renovating all of our flower beds this year. I meant to only work on one or two this season and finish the others next spring.  But once I started, I forgot about that and just kept going. I’d like to learn more about perennials, bulbs, soil quality, and landscaping. Finishing the MSU Master Gardener Volunteer Training program has been a highlight of my year, and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can and sharing that knowledge with anyone who wants to listen. Thank you for the opportunity to attend the master gardener college!

We look forward to getting to know Christine and Lori better!

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