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Cornell University Cooperative Extension Albany County Memorial Garden

by Al Casagrandi

In 1977 Albany County Cooperative Extension became part of Cornell University’s Master Gardener program.  The first Albany County Master Gardener was a gentleman by the name of Dwight Morton.  Dwight actively remained in the program until the time of his death in 1990.  In April of 1991, the Men’s Garden Club of Albany, of which Dwight was also a charter member, decided to establish a Memorial.  On the east side of the Extension building a small Concolor Fir tree was planted overlooking 300 feet of sprawling lawn.  A month later in May, a small group of Master Gardeners planted a modest perennial garden around the base of that tree.  Unaware that this simple act of gardening would one day become so meaningful, they christened their work “The Memorial Garden” A permanent plaque soon followed that read, “Dedicated to Master Gardeners who will be with us always in memory”  For the next 10 years, with help from dozens of Master Gardener volunteers, the garden grew in size and became a genuine  connection to horticulture.

This garden of many features is the result of people working together sharing ideas and horticultural talent.  The Memorial is coordinated routinely  by Master Gardener volunteers.  Some create new settings, change existing sites, pull weeds, mulch and prune back plants.  Everything learned about gardening is passed on to consumers and home owners through lectures, tours and talks in the Garden.  “Talks In The Garden” is a monthly summer program offered to the public free of charge. The emphasis used in the Memorial Garden is centered around a “how-to” technique in gardening performance. The focus is on back yard perennial gardening.  We have included herbs, cacti, succession of bloom perennials, climbing vines, flowering shrubs and trees.  There is the excellence of seeing what grows well in this area..  The success of the Memorial Garden is the result of Master Gardeners who share the joy of gardening and especially the friendship of working together.

Left: Cleome - Spider Flower

Left: Burgundy Day Lily - Savory  Right: Lavender Day Lily - Broadway Dreamer

Left: Zinnia - Salmon Rose Right: Scotch Thistle - Onopordum acanthium

Looking to the east over a sprawling quarter acre of lawn, there has been assembled several hundred varieties of perennials hardy to the area. The selections represent an American and International perennial story.  There are 24 individual garden beds nestled here and blended together presents a picture. The garden area including grassy walkways  is approx. 52,000 sq. ft.  Almost everything you see  growing here is a selected zone 4 or 5 plant. The International Garden, with its inventory of zone 4 plants is without exception astonishing to visitors.  As late summer approaches, a visual delight is the Blue and White Circle Garden located next to plumes of giant elephant perennial grasses.  Color in the garden is represented by an all season show stopper the English Knot Garden. The Hosta-Picnic Garden,  Phlox Garden, and the 24 karat White Remembrance Garden are known as speciality gardens and designed around a particular theme.  Located through the maze of small cottage gardens is the Allegheny,  Concolor,  Arbor,  Helderberg,  Scented,  4H,  Key, Native Plants, and the Original First Garden.  A touch of local heritage is represented by the Mother Ann Lee Shaker Style Herb Garden. 

Always with an eye to the future, Master Gardeners recently added a vegetable garden. Designed with raised beds and unique growing ideas, Master Gardener’s share this garden with Cooperative Extension Human Ecology dept.   For calmness and tranquility the  Zen Mediation Garden and Desert Garden frame the Master Gardener’s Memorial Rock.

This is truly the story of Master Gardener’s love for Horticulture. 

Left: Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea Right: White Coneflower - Echinacea pallida

Left: Coneflower - Echinacea angustifolia Right: Bee Balm - Monarda Cambridge scarlet

Left: Bee Balm - Monarda New England blue Right: A decorated boot.

The vision for the future is to include a small parking area for gardeners and visitors.  Also in the works are plans for a sidewalk allowing the approach to the garden more  handicapped accessible.  There is also a willingness to construct a small green house which will house special seedlings and allow Master Gardeners to expand on growing  plant selections of unusual annuals and perennials.

The garden is open 7 days a week and folks are welcomed to visit, bring their lunch, if they wish, and enjoy the picnic tables located in the Hosta shade garden. (This is a carry in-carry out picnic setting)  The garden gazebo is also available for resting and conversation.    If one listens carefully, you can almost hear a flower grow.

Master Gardener’s Memorial Garden, 24 Martin Road, Voorheesville, NY 12186

Tel: 518-765-3500

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