Rose course an educational success

Published 3:12 pm Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yes, you can grow beautiful roses. That has been the message of a huge conference of Mississippi Master Gardeners and rose enthusiasts for the past five weeks.

The conference, an “Introduction to Growing & Enjoying Roses in Mississippi” encompasses five weekly two-hour sessions, and involves 481 Master Gardeners and rose enthusiast at 46 County Extension sites around the state.

Adams County Extension Office has been one of the sites for the short course. Approximately 30 Natchez area master gardeners, led by President Susan McKinley, have attended the short course programs, which were held on successive Tuesday evenings. The live programs were transmitted from Mississippi State University at Starkville to the participating county extension offices via “Interactive Video Teleconferencing.”

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The rose short course has been sponsored by Mississippi State University Extension Service, the Mississippi Master Gardener Association and the American Rose Society, an organization of rose hobbyists with a mission to support rose horticulture and education. As an active volunteer for ARS, I believe I can say this program is unprecedented in our 115 year history! Being able to reach 481 avid gardeners through the interactive video classrooms has been an amazing opportunity for the ARS. The Mississippi program will become the prototype for rose short course programs in other states where interactive video capability exists.

Adams County Extension Director David Carter believes the rose short course may be the largest of its kind in the state, as well.

Master gardeners achieve certification by extensive horticulture study. After certification, they provide educational leadership to the community in the area of home gardening and landscaping, thereby assisting extension in fulfilling its educational outreach mission, according to Carter.

It is the desire of the ARS that the master gardener curriculum include rose horticulture. As a society, we encourage everyone to grow America’s National Flower. When the course has been completed, 481 master gardeners will have added to their knowledge about growing roses, and to teach others know the joys of growing roses in their home gardens.

The course presentations have been by “Mississippi’s own,” all experts in the area of horticulture and rose-related fields, and most are from the MSU campus and the MSU Extension Service. Topics have included all the garden “jobs” — pruning, propagation, soils, insects and disease management and fertilizers. Also included have been the more pleasurable aspects of growing and enjoying roses — rose classification, roses in the landscape, easy (and beautiful) rose floral designs and crafting and cooking with roses.

Credit for developing the program state-wide goes to Lelia Kelly, assistant extension professor and consumer horticulture specialist at MSU-ES. Kelly was quick to see the merit of the idea, which was first proposed by Natchez rosarian, J. T. Smith, who I believe is one of the best rose growers in the South.

All Natchez area short course participants were invited to tour his rose garden before the fourth and fifth session, and will be invited back soon. That will be a real treat for everyone.