Master Gardeners tend Indy's public spaces

Master Gardeners tend Indy's public spaces

At some of the best addresses in Indianapolis, masters are at work in the gardens. The City Market, Garfield Park, the Governor’s Residence, Eagle Creek Park, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Holliday Park and the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site are a few of the places where Marion County Master Gardeners work their magic.

In 2012, the Master Gardeners contributed 21,564 volunteer hours teaching children and adults about gardening, beautifying Indianapolis’ public spaces, answering gardening questions from the public by email through its website at, by phone or in person, and researching insect and disease problems.

To be certified as a Master Gardener, a person must complete 50 classroom hours and 50 volunteer hours — the latter of which greatly benefits Indianapolis’ local landmarks and the residents who visit them. “Without the tireless work 
of the Master Gardeners, we would not have flower beds that continue 
to grow all summer long,” says Lesley Meier, manager of the Garfield Park Arts Center. “The volunteers water, weed and fertilize our four beds and keep them blooming for visitors to the center to enjoy.”

At the Indianapolis Museum 
of Art, Master Gardeners work 
with horticulturists on the grounds and in the greenhouses. “From my perspective, I can say that their gift 
of expertise and time is one of the most welcome donations we could receive, especially in this time of 
staff and budget cutbacks,” says Mark Zelonis, the IMA’s Ruth Lilly Deputy Director of Environmental & Historic Preservation. “God bless ‘em!”

An advantage to volunteering at the IMA is working with one of the horticulturists, such as Angie’s List member Jim Kincannon, says Master Gardener Jennifer Young. “I get to pick his brain and learn a lot,” she says. Kincannon says the volunteers help him do his job. “With the cuts, the Master Gardeners are absolutely critical,” he says.

Since 2003, Master Gardeners Ken and Georgia Hottell have been researching, planting and maintaining plants that would have been used in gardens at President Harrison’s home in the mid- to late 1800s. These include 150-year-old species of spirea and peonies. “With their work, the gardens have taken on real historic significance,” says Phyllis Geeslin, the site’s president and chief executive officer.

For consumers with gardening questions, Master Gardeners operate a demonstration garden, featuring annual flowers and vegetables, during the growing season. It’s located east of Discovery Hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Phil Johnson has been volunteering since 2005. “We may not know the answer to everything, but we can find out the answer to everything,” he says.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, the Hoosier Gardener, lives on the Northside in a midcentury modern with a “living laboratory” in her yard. She’s involved in several local gardening organizations, and she operates a year-round garden consulting business.


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