FACES & PLACES: Master Gardeners, Henley help county blossomBy Stephen Dawkins Published 8:48am Thursday, August 1, 2013
Editor’s note: This story appeared in The Clanton Advertiser’s annual Faces & Places publication. Copies are still available at the the Advertiser’s office at 1109 Seventh St. N. in Clanton, or you can read the full publication online here.
The purple crape myrtles and wave petunias in front of the Chilton County Courthouse aren’t there by happenstance.
Neither are the flowers in Corner Park across from the courthouse, nor the hanging baskets in downtown Jemison.
The clusters of colorful petals and soft lines of green leaves dispersed in planters and mulch beds throughout the county exist thanks to a group of green thumbs who, year after year, give residents and visitors alike a reason to stop and admire their surroundings.
Jemison resident Sondra Henley, president of Chilton County Master Gardeners Association, is one of the people behind these areas of botanical beauty.
Each year, Henley and her fellow CCMGA members help create Chilton’s cityscapes with flowers and plants, as well as maintaining a demonstration garden at the Chilton Research Center in Thorsby.
Henley, 64, remains humble as she talks about her mission as the group’s current leader.
“When I started my term, I wanted us to educate and celebrate,” she said. “We want our classes to be fun.”
As the daughter of an avid gardener, Henley had plenty of experience in gardening before she joined CCMGA about six years ago.
“My gardening connects me with my mother,” Henley said. “I’ve got a lot of her day lilies.”
But Henley’s gardening became paramount when she and her husband moved to Chilton County in 2005 and she realized the sight of their bare, rambling yard made her feel isolated and overwhelmed.
“I have to have boundaries,” Henley said.
She began working and shadowing Jason Powell at Petals from the Past, a nursery in Jemison, to learn gardening techniques she could apply in her own yard.
“I followed him around and learned by listening to him,” Henley said of Powell. “I’m a people person, so I began to meet people.”
In the two and a half years Henley worked at Petals from the Past, she met various gardening groups as they visited the nursery.
“One day I saw something about Master Gardeners, and I thought, oh, that will be a way to get out and meet people,” Henley said.
She has been a member of CCMGA since 2006 and served as the 2011–2012 vice president.
“Right now, we have 64 members,” Henley said. “I probably have 30 members active in leadership.”
CCMGA members help fill the planters in Clanton and Jemison in the spring and fall, in addition to the demonstration garden, their major ongoing project which contains perennials, herbs, vines, animal name plants, morning glory tower, vegetables and a rock garden.
“We work every Monday from April through August weeding, pruning, planting and watering—whatever needs to be done to keep that demonstration garden at its peak,” Henley said. “It is a big job. It’s time for us to put in a different design and a new irrigation system.”
Henley said another goal she has for CCMGA is to highlight members that exceed expectations and deserve praise for their service.