Ada's Debra Shepherd is seen here at a Hardin County Master Gardeners booth at the Harvest and Herb Festival this year. She's been a "master gardener" since 2016 - Ada Herald
Ada's Debra Shepherd is seen here at a Hardin County Master Gardeners booth at the Harvest and Herb Festival this year. She's been a "master gardener" since 2016. (Ada Herald/Joe Schriner)

ADA — We stand at the yearly precipice of blizzards, polar vortexes, ONU Polar Plunges… so one’s thoughts naturally turn to: gardening.

At least Ada’s Debra Shepherd’s thoughts do. Actually, they are on gardening 24/7, 365 days a year. She’s what’s called a “Hardin County Master Gardener.”

She took it up in 2016.

That was the year after she retired, following 25 years as a teacher in the Ada Elementary School. She had contracted cancer.

However, she didn’t want to become inactive, and she loves plants and people, so she decided on the gardening. There are some 40 Hardin County Master Gardeners at present.

The basic criteria for being in the group is taking 10 continuing education credits a year around, well, gardening. Debra leans toward classes on gardening landscape.

“Gardening to me is like creating a landscape of color and texture,” she said.

Her favorites are roses. Debra said she is particularly taken with growing “Old English Roses.”

She is also ‘taken’ with volunteering in Kenton’s Friendship Garden. Another requirement for being a Master Gardener here is volunteering at least 20 hours a year in Kenton’s “Friendship Garden.”

This is a multi-dimensional series of gardens and a hub for local gardeners, gardener groups, and students. There is a rain garden, perennial garden, rose beds and day lilies, raised vegetable beds, an herb garden… There is even an “ABC” garden, said Debra, where all the alphabet letters are represented by a plant.

And, there is an area specifically designed for youth to be interactive with the plants. Debra said the Master Gardeners regularly put on seminars throughout the county. What’s more, they also go into the schools to teach students about gardening.

Debra said being involved with the Master Gardeners hasn’t been just about gardening, but rather about developing more friends and having ongoing “educational experiences.”