Class of '97:

August 05, 2010

by Joyce M. Henneke, Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt

Master Gardener Ed Gregurek can be found doing all kinds of things at Victoria Educational Gardens on various days of the week. Here he is getting ready to clean the water garden, which is home to numerous koi fish.
Master Gardener Dorothy Ploeger, of Gonzales, was awarded the acclaimed emeritus status by Extension Agent Joe Janak at the awards banquet in December.
Master Gardener Linda Sprencel was found in the library reading up on gardening for this photo. A proponent of the education received from the training class, she never stops trying to learn more about plants and gardening techniques.
Organization provides long-lasting interest
In 1997, 22 people started a journey that continues today.

On that day, the first potential Master Gardeners in Victoria County assembled in a room at the county extension office to hear about the future gardening program and determine if they would be interested in the class.

With significant retention - nearly 50 percent - of about 300 who began that same journey, many are still involved and certified as Master Gardeners.

Now, 13 years later, another group will assemble Thursday afternoon to begin the journey of the Master Gardener program.

Although the original group has dwindled, Edwin Gregurek, Dorothy Ploeger and Linda Sprencel remain.

The diversity of the people in each class has certainly aided in meeting the challenge of maintaining a high level of commitment and enthusiasm as exemplified by Gregurek, Ploeger and Sprencel.


Gregurek, who gardened most of his life, became involved with the Master Gardener class of '97 after hearing about it on the radio. He wanted to see what he could gain by being a Master Gardener, so he signed up. He has been active ever since.

Becoming a Master Gardener gave Gregurek the direction for a new road in life. The organization has provided him continued long-lasting interest in gardening by joining tours and attending conferences he would otherwise not have done.

He made friends with folks he might not have met. Gregurek recalled when building the education gardens the group wanted to save money so they decided to do the trellis work themselves.

It was feasible, but some of the women had not used the tools needed nor done that type of labor before.

Ed said after he taught them what to do, the women jumped right in and helped complete the project with enthusiasm and camaraderie that is found only in a group that has common interests and goals.

Gregurek is a state recognized and awarded Master Gardener.


Ploeger grew up in the country, where her grandmother and mother maintained gardens. One raised vegetables and the other flowers and shrubs.

Ploeger has had both with a special interest in roses. She has a Lady Banks white rose bush that has climbed up a mimosa tree and crossed over to a neighbor's oak tree.

She continues to expand her gardening interests well into her 80s.

After reading the Gardeners' Dirt article on olive trees recently, she had her family take her to the olive farm, where she bought 10 olive trees to plant in her yard.

From Gonzales County, Dorothy's interest in plants led her to sign up for that first Master Gardener class. With a large yard, she wanted more knowledge to plan her garden and to be involved with people who had similar interests.

She says she made the right choice. She has enjoyed great satisfaction as a member and her advice to new gardeners is to take the Master Gardener class.

Ploeger is a Master Gardener Emeritus. It is a special award to a gardener highly dedicated and supportive of the projects and educational activities over a number of years. She is extremely proud of this achievement.


Sprencel has been interested and involved in gardening for a long time. Her involvement in the Master Gardener program was a natural step in continuing her enjoyment of gardening and increased knowledge about plants.

Learning about colors, shapes and blooms of the plants, no doubt, gave her ideas to use in her own garden.

Sprencel said the education received in the Master Gardener class is awesome. She also speaks of meeting new people who have the same interest she does - gardening.

While not gardening as much as she used to, Sprencel is still enthusiastic and appreciative for what gardening can do for us. Gardening is not static. It is an ever-changing activity that provides different interests to different people.

She says that is probably one of the attributes that attracts people to gardening - and to the Master Gardener program.


As a relatively new member to the group, I can only hope that I can follow in the exemplary footsteps set forth by the first group of gardeners from the "Class of '97."

I am sure that each class of Master Gardeners comes with dreams and anticipation.

Here is hoping the class meeting today will have its gardening dreams come true.
The Master Gardener program developed from community interest, garden inquiries and a desire for extension to be able to educate gardeners which would in turn help educate the community about plants, gardens, problems and solutions, said County Extension Agent and Master Gardener coordinator
Joe Janak.

Joe said this expectation was met and far surpassed.

One brilliant idea was the now existing Victoria Educational Gardens.

Through time, many more programs were held such as cylinder gardening, the Junior Master Gardener Program and Lunch and Learn with the Masters
- all very successful.

Joe said as with any growth there have been surprises and challenges.

Applicants have come from Victoria and nine surrounding counties.
Jackson County eventually started its own program.

From the second class, nine of the 12 graduates
have served as president of the group.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at