UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
UC Master Gardener Program
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program

UC Master Gardener Program News:

Search for Excellence - Gold Miner Program with the UCCE Master Gardeners of Riverside County

As we are gearing up for the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach, we thought we would highlight past winners of the Search For Excellence competition. Every three years the UC Master Gardener Program hosts a Search for Excellence (SFE) competition looking to recognize projects that exemplify the incredible impacts programs are making across the state. If your program is interested in showcasing projects happening in your county, you can find more information about the Search for Excellence competition on the 2017 conference website. The application deadline is May 1, 2017. In 2014, UCCE Master Gardeners of Riverside County took first place for their Gold Miners Program.


There's Gold in them thar hills! Riverside County is a big county, stretching from the Los Angeles metro area to the Colorado River. The main challenge of the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Riverside County was how to better fulfill their mission of educating their community on sustainable gardening practices. The answer - Gold Miners.

In November, 2010 the Gold Miner program was established with representatives from nine areas of Riverside County:

  1. Riverside
  2. Moreno Valley/Perris
  3. The Pass (Banning Beaumont)
  4. The Mountain area
  5. Desert areas
  6. Hemet/San Jacinto/ Menifee
  7. South County (Temecula/Murrieta)
  8. Lake Elsinore
  9. Corona/Norco
    Corona area gold miner Cindy Peterson and volunteers at an area event

Before this, there was very little UCCE Master Gardener activity in any part of the county except the area around the city of Riverside.

There were two goals for the program:

  1. To provide UCCE Master Gardener services to all of Riverside County, including information tables, speakers and docent services for approved organizations, and,
  2. To provide volunteering opportunities for Master Gardeners all over the county

Each representative of an area is referred to as the Gold Miner, and they are charged with finding the “golden” opportunities to volunteer in their areas.

Right away we realized that the Gold Miner from each area would need to have their own Information box, EZ Up style awing, table cloth, banner, and table so that they did not have to drive to the UCCE Office to set-up an information table each time. It took some time, but the UCCE Master Gardener Program has provided most of this to all of the areas over the past six and a half years. Among the responsibilities of each Gold Miner is to house these properties and to refill their information boxes with brochures, etc, for the events in their area. UCCE Master Gardeners can pick-up information boxes from the Gold Miner in their area for an event.

Perris/Moreno Valley: Partnership with Eastern Municipal Water District, a result of Carol Haffter’s outreach effort in the area

The Gold Miners meet monthly from September – June of each year on the fourth Thursday of the month to discuss ideas and concerns and report on their activities. Besides looking for new opportunities for UCCE Master Gardeners to volunteer in their areas, they are responsible for finding volunteers for these events and any others that may become available through other sources. Although the most common way to inform and procure volunteers for activities is through VMS, often they will call UCCE Master Gardeners in their area to ask for help. The Gold Miner is not responsible for volunteering for activities themselves (unless they want to), but for making sure there are volunteers for approved events. There has been a lot of cooperation between the areas over the last six and a half years to make sure events have the volunteers they need.

I am extremely appreciative of the wonderful UCCE Master Gardeners who have volunteered their time these past years to create and grow this project. Because of them we have greatly increased the number and quality of events that are staffed by UCCE Master Gardeners of Riverside County. As an outcome of providing more services to the county, more people found out about the UCCE Master Gardener Program and wanted to volunteer to be one.

Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 10:32 AM
  • Author: Lucy Heyming, Gold Miner Coordinator

Registration Now Open! 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference

Register and reserve lodging based on your conference needs. Tours start on Tues. Aug 22 and full conference starts on Weds. Aug. 23. (click image to enlarge)
Registration is now open for the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference. We are thrilled for this year's event to be taking place in Southern California, at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, just steps to the ocean and the Long Beach Convention Center.

The conference brings together dedicated volunteers, advisors, specialists and industry leaders from across the country to discuss the latest in home horticulture. Feedback from the previous conference and suggestions you provided via surveys, phone calls and committees shaped this year's sessions, speakers and schedule. Download the Registration and Tour Checklist before you start the registration process and prepare your conference journey.

$295 registration fee includes:

  • 58 breakout sessions with first-class speakers
  • 2 keynote speakers
  • Welcome conference bag and water bottle
  • Awards Banquet dinner
  • Breakfast, lunch and snacks
  • Conference activities: MarketPlace, Search for Excellence, Silent Auction, book signings … and more!

Lodging information

The conference is being hosted at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, and is minutes away from the Long Beach airport .
Nestled at the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Long Beach is the perfect blend of urban and beach making it the ideal location for the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference. The conference is being hosted at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, and is minutes away from the Long Beach airport and walking distance to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, whale watching tours, shopping and dozens of restaurants.

Special conference rate:

  • $169 single/double occupancy
  • $194 triple occupancy
  • $219 quadruple occupancy

Make your reservation at the discounted conference rate online using the direct UC Master Gardener Conference link, or call (562) 491-1234. Remember to refer to the "UC Master Gardener Conference" room block when booking. 

Conference tour offerings

Community Engagement with Gardens and Nature is one of the many exciting tour options available at this year's conference.
Join Los Angeles and Orange County volunteers for an insider's view at some of the most famous and breathtaking gardens in California. This year's tours were carefully planned to offer a unique experience for attendees as well as to inspire and educate.

Tour offerings:

  • Explore the Huntington Botanical Gardens
  • Go California Native!
  • Community Engagement with Gardens and Nature
  • Dramatic Gardens from the Desert to the Sea
  • Los Angeles Farms and Garden History
  • Visit the Activities – Tour webpage for more detailed information

This event only takes place every three years so don't miss this unique opportunity to learn, be inspired and make new connections. Please join us for this engaging event and we look forward to seeing you in Long Beach!

Posted on Monday, April 3, 2017 at 12:58 PM

UC Master Gardeners and Outreach: A Tale of Two Events

If there is one thing I appreciate about my UC Master Gardener volunteer groups, it is their desire to rethink, change, evolve and avoid stagnation. Now, sometimes there are “growing pains” involved with expanding a program or developing a new one, but the energy is needed to refresh the enthusiasm of both the volunteers and local gardeners who keep tabs on their outreach projects.

Years ago, a group of my volunteers came up with the idea to create a new community event that would bring amazing speakers into the county to deliver fun and interesting gardening topics to our local gardening clientele. They called it, “A Gardeners' Gathering”, it was created as a one-day event located in an historic fruit shed renovated to host large groups in the “middle” of the county so as to be convenient for both our urban and rural gardeners. The six speakers were chosen carefully and related non-profit groups were invited to have tables at the event.   Since it was a full day event, food and beverages were provided, pre-registration was required and the cost was relatively high (although the event was not a fundraising event).

Placer Master Gardener Larry Haughty - Photo courtesy Auburn Journal

It was very successful in many ways – one big product of the event was the first online credit card survey created and used in our office for registration. For years, we packed the fruit shed with eager gardeners looking forward to networking, listening to some great speakers, and enjoying good food too. After doing this event for years, the volunteers noticed that the same folks were attending year after year and we were limited to 130 registrant because of space limitations. This meant, there was no options for expansion of the event in its current form. So, it was brought up that maybe we should rethink the event which was difficult to contemplate considering how well it was running.

The event was reviewed in a series of meetings and UC Master Gardeners decided it was time to change it up and reach more local gardeners with a different event format.   Enter the new “GardenFaire” – an event created and put on for the first time last year reaching more than 300 people. This event had the goals of being inexpensive with no registration required, a kid's area to bring in families, less speakers, more tables and an “Ask a UC Master Gardener” area that had plenty of visitation! We believe this event has a huge potential for future growth.

Floral Display Competition - Photo courtsey of the Auburn Journal

So, here we are about to put on the 2nd Annual Garden Faire in Placer County and it shows how sometimes a pivot with an event can quickly double or quadruple (fingers crossed!) the number of people we can reach through our program. Remember, even if you have a successful event going for years - take the time to review and reconsider after a while. It may end up being the best path forward to change it up and keep all of our local gardeners wondering, “What will those UC Master Gardeners do next?”

For more information about the UC Placer Master Gardener Program and their upcoming events, visit their website at pcmg.ucanr.org

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Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 12:53 PM

Search for Excellence Competition a Highlight of 2017 UC Master Gardener Statewide Conference

UC Master Gardener volunteers that were part of a river-friendly garden project in Lodi, Ca. pictured from left to right: Curt Juran, Anita Herman, Sharon McDonnell, Kathy Grant. and Lodi Mayor, Bob Johnson.
Looking to showcase the amazing projects happening in your county? Entries for the Search for Excellence (SFE) competition are now being accepted for the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference! The conference is taking place August 23-25, 2017 at the Long Beach Hyatt and Long Beach Convention Center.

UC Master Gardener volunteers, program coordinators and advisors from around the state are invited to submit their innovative educational and outreach projects by the May 1, 2017 deadline.

Search for Excellence Prizes

The stakes have been raised and the prizes are bigger than ever before! For the first time the grand prize winner of the Search for Excellence awards will receive $1,500 for their county program. Second place winner receives $1,000 and third place winner receives $500 for their county program.

UC Master Gardener volunteers from San Diego County present "Fall Plant Extravaganza". Pictured from left to right: Mike Harrelson, KUSI host and Lucy Warren.
The top three winners are individually recognized and celebrated at the conference during the awards banquet dinner. Winners are given the opportunity to present the details of their project to fellow UC Master Gardener volunteers from across the state. Prizes are awarded to the top three highest scoring entries among seven categories.

Search for Excellence Categories

Search for Excellence gives county programs the opportunity to share successful and innovative projects in the following seven areas:

  • Community service
  • Demonstration garden
  • Innovative project
  • Research (applied scientific methodology)
  • Special needs audience
  • Workshop or presentation
  • Youth program

UC Master Gardener volunteers getting youth excited about science and horticulture at AgVenture Day.
Outreach and making an impact in local communities should be the focus of the entries, which will be judged by a team of gardening and horticultural experts selected from throughout the state. Projects eligible for consideration must take place in California, be connected to the UC Master Gardener Program and have been completed between 2013-2016.

All applicants, regardless of award status, are strongly encouraged to submit a poster for display at the conference as an opportunity to share their ideas with other county programs. Winners to be announced June 2017.

For questions about submitting a project contact your local program coordinator or advisor. Additional information and forms can be found on the conference website on the Search for Excellence webpage, ucanr.edu/sites/2017MGConference/Activities/SFE/ 

We look forward to learning about the creative and impactful projects from counties big and small!

Questions? Contact: 
(Please include county name in subject line for all email communications)

Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino, and south) 
Scott Parker 
Program Coordinator, San Diego 
Phone: (858) 822-6932 
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 

Northern California (Monterey, Kings, Tulare, Inyo and north)
Marcy Sousa 
Program Coordinator, San Joaquin 
Phone: (209) 953-6111 
Email: mgsfe@ucanr.edu 

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 8:48 AM

With PlantRight, You Too Can Prevent the Sale of Invasive Plants

It's that time of year again. Soon, over 150 UC Master Gardener volunteers will head to plant nurseries throughout the state with clipboards, cameras, and data sheets in hand. In this 8th year of the survey, they will be searching for invasive ornamental plants. But why?

The nursery survey is how PlantRight measures what is happening in California's retail nursery industry, and none of it would happen without the survey volunteers. In 2016, 175 volunteers (many of them UC Master Gardener volunteers) were trained by PlantRight to survey for invasive plants at retail locations throughout the state. If approved by your county, hours spent participating in the survey can count towards certification volunteer hour requirements. Check with your local county program coordinator. 

Survey volunteer Mary Ann Saylards recording an occurrence of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) at a nursery.

Interested in participating? 

  • Learn more about the survey and results from past surveys. 
  • Register to receive updates about the survey and gain access to the online training.
  • View either a refresher video for returning volunteers orawebinar for new volunteers that discusses invasive plants, how to conduct the survey, and includes a guest speaker each year.
    • The survey starts earlier in Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino counties and south) than it does in north of those counties.
    • Southern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on February 27th, going through May.
    • Northern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on April 3rd, going until June 20th.
    • This year's webinar includes an Introduction to the Watershed Approach to Landscaping by Pamela Berstler from G3: Green Gardens Group. 
  • Take a short quiz to demonstrate your newfound knowledge. 
  • Access to survey materials and claim your survey store (or multiple stores. 
  • Visit the store/s and record information about any invasive plants or candidate plants being sold. 
  • Submit information to PlantRight

Why is the survey important?

The information volunteers gather is vital to PlantRight for three main purposes:

1. Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list, and retiring those that have been largely phased out of retail.

Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius), a familiar sight in California wildlands. It has invaded at least 23 counties in California and can produce up to 12,000 seeds per plant, making it difficult to control once established. Photo by Joe DiTomaso.
The first PlantRight invasive plant list was developed using the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) Inventory as a starting point and included 19 plants, focusing on the highest priority invasive plants still sold in garden centers.

To keep the list relevant, as plants from the original list are no longer sold, they are “retired.” To retire a plant, it must be found at less than 1% of nurseries surveyed for 3 years in a row. This doesn't mean that they are gone from our landscapes. Plants like Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and arundo (Arundo donax) have already invaded wildlands in California, and there's still much work to be done to control their spread. Since the invasive plant list was first published in 2006, 15 plants have been retired, which is excellent progress. You can help with these retired plants by removing them if they are on your property or volunteering with groups that remove invasive plants.

There are 7 plants currently on PlantRight's list of invasive plantsThe 2016 survey results for these 7 plants can be found in the Fact Sheet and Full ReportFour of these plants were part of the original list of 19: green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum),pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)highway iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis), and big-leaf periwinkle (Vinca major)

Three plants were added in 2014Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima)yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).  

2. Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.

In late 2012, PlantRight recruited several horticultural experts (all volunteers, from diverse sectors of industry, academia and conservation) to establish their Plant List Committee. These individuals engage in the complex, involved, and time-intensive process of working with PlantRight to decide which surveyed plants to add to the invasive plant list and which non-invasive alternatives to suggest. Each fall, PlantRight solicits input from the Plant List Committee and an extended network of experts to see what plants might be hopping the garden fence and escaping into wildlands. 

Rows of Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima) at a nursery. While green during the wetter part of the year, this grass will turn golden brown at the top as its seeds ripen — its many, many seeds. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are dispersed by wind, water, contaminated soil, automobiles, and animals. Photo by Jan Tilford.

To appear on PlantRight's invasive list, a plant must meet the following criteria:

  1. When evaluated by PlantRight's Plant Risk Evaluator (PRE), it rates as being “high risk” or is on the Cal-IPC Inventory
  2. It is found in 3% or more retailers surveyed in the annual Spring Nursery Survey
  3. Its invasive range is large enough to warrant action, and its inclusion is supported by both the Plant List Committee and Steering Committee

There's one more way PlantRight uses the survey information – helping use their energy and time strategically.

3. Informing industry outreach strategy with information about sales in different regions and store types.

On the left, green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), one of the original 19 plants that is still on the plant list. Pennisetum setaceum was found at only 3.7% of nurseries in 2016 as sales continue to decline from 2012, when it was found at 7.7% of nurseries surveyed. Photo by Bobbie Wright.
PlantRight has worked across the nursery supply chain to raise awareness about invasive plant issues and benefits of planting right. In recent years they been recruiting retail nursery partners. These partners commit to sell exclusively non-invasive plants — you won't find any plants on our plant list at a retail nursery partner's store. Knowing who is selling invasive plants and in what regions of the state helps focus their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.

Get an exclusive look at the results of this year's survey (before they go online) by attending the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach on August 22-25, where PlantRight will be giving a presentation and celebrating the participation of UC Master Gardener volunteers in this effort. 

Can't participate in the survey?

You can still help by sharing what you've just read, sharing the Plant List or Mexican feathergrass species spotlight, shopping at PlantRight retail partner locations, and educating your friends and neighbors. You can also participate in their Continuing Education program if you would like to expand your knowledge about invasive garden plants in California. You are welcome to still watch the webinar if you can't participate in the survey. A recording of each webinar will be shared on the PlantRight YouTube channel immediately after it concludes.

Learn more about PlantRight at www.PlantRight.org. Stay up on the latest from PlantRight on Facebook and Twitter, and InstagramHave a question? Contact us at PlantRight@suscon.org.

Note: this blog post is an updated and abridged version of Where invasive plants are sold in California – and how we know, which was shared by PlantRight in October 2016 and summarized the results of the 2016 survey and plant list update process. 

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 11:53 AM
  • Author: Stephanie Falzone

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