There’s nothing like learning from a master. Two former service members turned master gardeners, will be teaching classes in the valley area to help residents ready their gardens for spring.
Let’s get ready for spring
Bill Kes’ gardening passion came later in life when he was inspired by the gardens he saw in Europe while in the Air Force. After exiting the military he got the chance to move to Belgium.
“We traveled throughout Europe visiting gardens, which are less attractive tourist attractions but you get to meet the people,” he said. “The gardens tell you about the people, the time, the politics of the time, how the wealthy people lived and just the scope and scale of the gardens.”
He’s had his own woodlands garden for 20 years and said he is always experimenting with shade-loving and shade-tolerant plants to see what will flourish in his garden. His current garden includes azaleas, camellias and rhododendron.
In his spare time, Kes also teaches about gardening. He will be teaching a course on pruning Feb. 18 at the Columbus Botanical Gardens.
He said what’s most interesting with gardening is the challenge of building a garden.“It becomes an art form because you are dealing with shape, form, color and it’s constantly changing,” he said. “If you look at is an art form your entire perspective changes drastically.”
Gardening with the masters
While Kes has a woodland garden, Earl Cheal of Ellerslie, Ga., owns a cooperative garden filled with asparagus, blueberries, muscadines, sweet corn, sweet potato, cantaloupe, honeydew eggplant, peppers, garlic and many other fruits and vegetables.
Cheal said it took him many years to get to where he is was today after spending 20 years in the Army. After retiring from service, it took awhile to get the property he wanted for what has now become his cooperative garden.
“I’ve always had a desire to be a farmer and this is as close to being a farmer as I can,” he said. “So that desire continued with me through my Army career and later, so I was finally able to realize a dream.”
Cheal teaches classes at the Gardening with the Masters at Oxbow Meadows.He teaches extensive gardening techniques from planning the garden to harvesting the garden. His next class is March 15 where he will teach others about the basics of growing vegetables.
“I like sharing knowledge with other people and seeing the enthusiasm of other people who have the same interests,” he said.
Learning to master gardening Although she isn’t a master gardener, Brigita Bailey, a military spouse, eventually plans to take the Gardening with the Masters program.
Originally from Hungary, Bailey learned everything she knows about gardening from her grandmother.
“She was a very country woman,” Bailey said. “I learned how to appreciate flowers and how to eat healthy and since then I keep going with whatever she taught me. It’s an everyday routine for me.”
Bailey sees the beauty of nature.
“Mother Earth gives us all the beauty,” she said. “We live a very fast life and I wish more people realize how important nature is whenever we are going to have children that is one of the first things I’m going to teach them.”
Although not yet a “master,” Bailey said she is an experienced gardener. She regularly volunteers at the Columbus Botanical Gardens.
“A great thing about volunteering, you are always learning,” she said.