Sharing the garden path

PHOTO BY TOM BUTZLER Tina Clinefelter is captured in these photos as a very active volunteer in many gardening education projects. Here she is seen fourth from left, leading a tour of a local garden.

As a child, I was given a corner of my parent’s garden to raise cantaloupes and have been fascinated with plants ever since. This early interest has brought me great joy throughout life, as I can walk in a landscape, forest setting, or a garden and get lost in the plant world and everything associated with it.

But there are times where you want to talk about and share this information. My wife’s interest in horticulture only goes as far as mowing the lawn. (I guess that is a starting point I can work on.) Anything beyond that is just an eye roll. And who can blame her or anybody else, as most folks don’t want to talk about plants, their attributes and pest issues for hours.

Into that void stepped Tina Clinefelter, a retired small carpet business owner. The two of us could spend hours talking horticulture and looking at pictures of various plants and their qualities.

Her upbringing was somewhat similar to mine. Her childhood was spent in the English countryside, exploring everything that was around her, especially plants.

That interest was always in her back pocket as she raised a family and help run the carpet business in Pennsylvania. Upon retiring, Tina needed a hobby to keep her physically active and mentally sharp. She returned to her childhood experiences and her love of plants.

PHOTO BY TOM BUTZLER Tina helps water tomatoes in a high tunnel variety trial. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To prepare herself for a better understanding of the plant world, she participated in Penn State’s Master Gardener program in 1996. It is an intensive 40-hour training course that covers topics such as botany, insects, plant diseases and soils. In return for the training, each individual is to volunteer 50 hours in some type of horticulture education to the local community.

Tina returned those 50 hours and kept running. She passed on her love and enthusiasm of horticulture by volunteering thousands of hours by participating in activities such as the county fair, workshops and lectures. One of my favorite efforts of hers was the gardening column in this paper. She was able to mix humor in with her article that made it an easy read, at the same time imparting a bit of gardening wisdom.

While she is not giving up all her gardening outreach efforts and activities, Tina is changing gears. Last week’s gardening column was her last. I could say I will miss the column (which I will) but I will still get some of the unique English humor on her stops in the Penn State Extension office.

We are planning a spring trip down to one of the arboretums in southeast Pennsylvania for a whole day of plants. I can’t wait!

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PHOTO BY TOM BUTZLER Tina pulls a concrete roller to prepare seed bed for grass seed in a turf trial.

Tom Butzler is a horticulture educator with the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service and may be reached at 570-726-0022.

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