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NC State Extension

Sharing a Passion for Plants

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Volunteers with the NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ program are passionate about plants, gardening, learning, and sharing their knowledge to help others garden successfully. Through volunteer service in their local communities and as part of statewide education and outreach programs, Master Gardener℠ volunteers promote sustainable gardening both at home and across our state.

Here are examples of how Master Gardener volunteers shared their passion for plants to support statewide Extension programming in 2021.

The Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox is a one-stop shop for plant information that contains more than 4,500 plant profiles, each featuring cultural requirements, suggested landscape uses, IPM information, and images from multiple seasons. In addition, there are over 100 garden galleries showcasing mature plant combinations and inspiring hardscapes. Master Gardener volunteers contributed over 2,100 hours to enhance and maintain the Plant Toolbox in 2021. Volunteers gathered images, wrote descriptions, researched and entered data, and proofread entries.

When asked what he enjoyed most about working on the Plant Toolbox, Master Gardener volunteer Gene Cronin shared, “Prior to the toolbox, most of the plants I learned about were the ones that went in my own backyard. Doing the research for plant entries opened up a whole world of plants I was unfamiliar with and helped me to appreciate how diverse that world is.” 

Explore the Plant Toolbox to find great plants for your yard!

picture of textbook coverThanks to contributions from many Master Gardener volunteers, two great resources are now available to gardeners and horticultural educators: the Extension Gardener Handbook, 2nd Edition and an online interactive version of the Extension Gardener Handbook Teacher’s Guide!

Master Gardener volunteers supported the development and launch of these resources in many ways. Some volunteered to create questions and answers that are integrated into each chapter. Others helped document thousands of creative commons licensed photographs, while still others edited the text, instructor resources, and supporting slide decks.

When asked what she enjoyed about working on the Extension Gardener Handbook project, Master Gardener volunteer Kim Outing replied, “I liked the creative and collaborative aspect of this work. I was happy to contribute to an effort that could help make the curriculum more accessible and flexible for learners.”

Learn more about the Extension Gardener Handbook and Teacher’s Guide.

People enjoying plants in different settingsNC State Extension offers a growing number of self-paced, non-credit online courses in plant identification and horticulture therapy. The plant identification courses explore the fundamental language of botany and key identification features that are used to describe plants. Each course focus on a specific plant group, such as perennials and annuals, trees and shrubs, vegetables and fruits, or houseplants. 

In the Introduction to Therapeutic Horticulture course, students explore how therapeutic horticulture supports human health & wellness, including physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual needs. Master Gardener volunteers supported the development and launch of these courses by piloting, editing, and evaluating them, as well as serving as teaching assistants. 

Check out all the Extension Gardener online classes.

Plant These Instead logoPlant These Instead” highlights alternatives to invasive or problem-prone species commonly planted in southern landscapes. This feature of the Plants, Pests, and Pathogens webinar series promotes diversity for a healthy, resilient landscape, and gives tips on using the Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox to find the right plants for your yard. Master Gardener volunteers helped make this series more accessible by editing recording subtitles.

Watch Plant These Instead recordings. 


Learn more about how you can be part of the NC State Extension Master Gardener program!

2021 Annual Report

Explore more examples of how volunteers with the Extension Master Gardener℠ program share their knowledge to help North Carolinians learn and grow.