Master Gardeners

Master Gardener Mary Ippel works to educate the community about gardening. She is driven to keep Delaware County beautiful and growing.

Way to grow: Club unites growers, supports community

By Emily Sabens

On an unusually warm autumn evening, cars rumble down the tree-lined gravel driveway to Mary Ippel’s home outside of Yorktown, Indiana. The evening’s guest list includes retirees, a landscaper, a librarian and even a hairdresser. Ippel greets each individual with a warm smile, as her calico cat Minnie weaves between her legs.

Savory dishes begin to appear across the table as more arrive: a creamy corn casserole, ripe red tomatoes with zesty dressing and even sweet zucchini bars topped with pecans. Chatter erupts. Some speak about their latest finds at the farmers market. Others talk about the final crops from their home gardens. Many admire Ippel’s flowers and succulents, planted in colorful pots, that line her home’s back porch. Ippel and her company come from diverse backgrounds, but they all have a uniting tie: Each has earned a spot with the Master Gardeners of Delaware County.

A focus on education and beautification 

The Master Gardeners is an organization sponsored by the Purdue Extension Office. These gifted growers aim to educate the community about gardening and help to keep Delaware County beautiful.

Although many Indiana counties have their own Master Gardener programs, the Delaware County bunch first got its start in 1989. Wilma Robinson, an active member today, has been involved since the beginning when the small group’s only duty was maintaining Minnetrista’s gardens.

Today, around 100 Delaware County residents are part of the organization. Ippel got her start with the organization in 2012. Her green thumb has been sprouting for much longer, though.

Gardening teaches ‘the value of hard work’

Ippel has been an avid gardener for over 30 years. As a mother of 10, she began gardening with her children so each could learn the value of hard work. Although her kids are now grown, her garden is still filled with corn, tomatoes, beans and more.

Around five years ago, Ippel’s good friend Bill introduced her to the Master Gardeners program. Wanting to better her own skills, as well as help the community, she decided to start the training process.

Becoming a certified Master Gardener is not an easy process. After taking classes for 13 weeks that cover plant science, pests and diseases, weed management, soil and more, each must pass a final exam. The process sounds daunting; Ippel says, though, the classes benefited her greatly and helped better her own gardening skills.

The Master Gardeners is a unique group. As explained by Ippel, each gardening guru has a specialty in which he or she excels. Some are talented with trees. Others are skilled with vegetables. Ippel, though, is a flourishing florist. From daylilies to irises to marigolds and more, Ippel’s gardens are bursting with brilliant blossoms.

The main goal of the Master Gardeners is to provide to the community, explains the group’s coordinator, Mark Carter. Each member must complete at least 35 hours of community service each year. The organization sponsors garden walks throughout the community, hosts gardening workshops for both children and adults and maintains a booth at the Minnetrista Farmers Market.

Connecting for tasty, meaningful reflection

The busy year always wraps up with an annual fall picnic, hosted at Ippel’s home. The time allows for members to reflect back on the year, share advice learned from their own gardening feats and devour delicious dishes.

Before diving into dinner, Ippel stands before the group and leads a prayer. She expresses her gratitude for another year of gardening, service and friendship. For Ippel, being a Master Gardener allows her to give back to the community and share what the Lord has blessed her with, she said.

Become a Master Gardener or learn more about the group’s programs and resources.