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Master Gardeners seed scholarship for hort students

The SouthEast Wisconsin Master Gardeners have been sharing their gardens’ abundance at an annual plant sale for years. They dig and divide thousands of perennials, everything from astilbes to zinnias, that shoppers stand in line to buy. Irises, daylilies and hostas are plentiful. Trilliums go quickly.

In its 25 years, the group has expanded exponentially, says Janet Wintersberger, the group’s president. The plant sale, now 15 years old, has allowed the group to help other gardeners afford Master Gardener training and support community gardens.

This year, the gardeners used plant proceeds to give CALS horticulture students another reason to study ornamental plants. The SouthEast Wisconsin Master Gardner Scholarship Fund was established to encourage students to study and practice research-based horticulture and to instill a joy of gardening and a willingness to share that knowledge, Wintersberger says.

“We owe so much to the university,” she adds. “We feel it’s a very good use of the money.”

The newly endowed scholarship is the first directed toward undergraduate students interested in ornamental plants and Master Gardening, says John Stier, chair of the horticulture department. Horticulture majors studying any facet of plants, from landscape work to plant science research are eligible for the scholarship, with preference for students with financial need from Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

The scholarship also requires a research project, Stier says. Those projects could examine anything from the cold tolerance of lilac trees and the production of ornamental, edible plants to the social use and importance of public gardens.

“Students will gain important experience in understanding how ornamentals are grown or used by society as part of the (research) project,” Stier says.

The scholarship will help the horticulture department continue to attract the best students, he added. Scholarship dollars open opportunities for students, allowing them to focus more on their studies, take advantage of field experiences or enroll in courses, such as Tropical Horticulture, that require travel or offer service learning opportunities.

SouthEast Wisconsin Master Gardeners includes more than 500 members from Milwaukee and Waukesha counties who have completed horticulture training through UW-Extension.

“We’re a group of people who love gardening,” Wintersberger says. Members also donated more than 21,000 hours of community service last year and help maintain about 40 public gardens in the Milwaukee area.

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