Tuesday, December 04, 2007


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (12/3/07)

When I was an adolescent, I thought that Bob’s Big Boy cheeseburgers were the ultimate in fine dining. My mother took me to a fancy French restaurant in Santa Monica, Le Petite Moulin, to expand my gastronomical horizons. Baffled by the menu, I asked her, “What’s escargot?” She said, “It’s French for snails.” I hit the bœuf button. I got filet minion with mushroom sauce. After I scraped off the sauce and mushrooms, I asked the waiter for ketchup. The maitre’ de, a sallow-faced Frenchman with slicked down black hair, a thin mustache, and a flickering sneer, came over to the table and said, “Young man, you may ask for ketchup, but you cannot have it.” At the time, I wasn’t up to the lexical shift, but I got the idea. This wasn’t a drive-in with cheeseburgers, French fries, hot dogs, Cokes, and malts. Eventually, I learned that over the rim of my horizon lay a whole world of cuisine.

So it is with the Master Gardener Class coming up Wednesday, February 6. There is a lot more to gardening in the High Country than horticultural chili dogs. Freddi Steele who is in the current Master Gardener Class is also a naturalist with the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon. She’s said, “It’s an excellent opportunity to study with the best in the fields of horticulture, water conservation, high altitude gardening, and arboriculture in the Southwest.” This coming from an expert herself. There’s nothing like getting it straight from the horse’s mouth especially on subjects about which so many people have opinions but little information.

Karen Cooper, our City Council member, after years of listening to political flapdoodle, said it plainly and simply. “It’s really nice to hear from people who know what they’re talking about.”

When Dave and Jean Hockman retired to Flagstaff several years ago, Jean signed up for the Master Gardener Class. “It was a great decision,” she said, “introducing me to an absorbing new hobby and to new friends.” The absorbing new hobby is getting closer to the earth, an activity much needed in a time of so much glass, steel, concrete, and asphalt. If someone is looking for down-to-earth friends, gardeners are a safe bet. As with a lot of people who work with their hands, they’re open, congenial, and convivial.

Linda Chan’s experience has been simple. She wanted to be a better gardener than she already was. “It’s been things like compost for my garden. I knew a little about it, but now I know a lot more, and my garden’s better for it.” As an insurance agent, Linda knows the value of property and how much a good garden increases property values.

The people who take the Master Gardener Class are a cross-section of Flagstaff, but they all have one thing in common. They want to be better gardeners. This means expanding their knowledge of gardening. In the class a person not only learns about landscaping, plants, soil, water, and fertilizer, but also how to find out more. In addition to that knowledge, they also become a part of a community of gardeners. In a society in which so many people are strangers, a sense of community goes a long way.

The final test of a course is the pay-off. There’s no better pay-off than a beautiful yard, great flowers, and abundant vegetables. Just learning about growing tomatoes in Flagstaff is reward enough.

Hattie Braun is the impresario of this horticultural repertoire company, not of thousands, but of about ten. Her shows, matinees all with a different show each afternoon, run on Wednesday afternoons from 1:30 to 4:30 with an intermission, starting their run on February 6 and finishing on May 14. The stage will be dark March 19. The tickets are $200.00 for the fourteen shows and includes the Arizona Master Gardener Manual, a comprehensive playbill. The theater is the East Flagstaff Community Library, 3000 N. 4th St. For tickets email Hattie Braun at hbraun@ag.arizona.edu or call 774-1868, ext 17. Sorry, no the cheeseburgers or escargot.

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