The Fulton County Master Gardeners have been working with Fulton County Hospital to match the beauty of the new structure with the beauty of the grounds; saving the hospital nearly $100,000 in much-needed funds.
"Angela Richmond, administrator for the Fulton County Hospital, got in touch with Gail Plumlee to see if the Fulton County Master Gardeners would be interested in doing the landscape around the hospital," Becci Bartz, president of the Fulton County Master Gardeners said.
"We got an idea of what she had in mind and had Glenda Plumlee draw up a design. We then divided the project into phases," she said.
Initially, the group was only going to work with the front of the new entrance and the area around the flagpole. The plan was for this to be completed before the hospital's grand opening date, according to Bartz. "However, Tony Caudell, head of maintenance, was able to get the prisoners from Calico Rock to come out on several occasions to do the labor. Good communications with him and his crew was the key to getting the job completed," she said.
Bartz said the design has changed slightly from Plumlee's original drawing but the basic idea is still there.
"We have the prisoners and the Fulton County Hospital maintenance department to thank for all the labor," Barts said.
Taking the ground from barren, rough, rocky dirt to the current green pleasantry was a challenge, Bartz said, but with some creative planning the group was able to work out solutions.
"We were able to save some expense, by reusing and relocating some of the pre-existing shrubbery. Mulch was laid and grass was planted. River rock was placed by the front entrance doorway, along with some perennial plants. Skyrocket junipers and several large rocks are currently the focal points," she said.
Although the grounds have been improved, planning is already in place for expansion and additions, Bartz said.
"The plan is to later get a more interesting focal point, like a sculpture or a water feature for the area to the left of the doorway. Shrubs were planted along the wall facing the road, again, this was not in the immediate plan, but thanks to the prisoners and Fulton County Hospital maintenance crew, it was accomplished. More grass is to be planted and some rocks placed for water control," she said.
The Fulton County Master Gardeners accepted the task to help the hospital because, Bartz said, it was so close to their mission.
"The goal of the Fulton County Master Gardeners is to be a viable, visible, volunteer organization. So, to be asked to help on this project was a great way to show our support for the hospital and to help out the county by planning and designing the landscaping. We want people to know who we are and that we do fun projects. Yes, it was a lot of work, but boy aren't the rewards great?" she said.
The group has their fingers in a lot of pies all around the county and Bartz said, that is the way they like it.
"We help with the Fishing Adventure, 4-H County-O'Rama, 4-H Gardening Project as judges, Fulton County Fair, and judges at other county fairs. We work with the Fulton Country Extension Office in whatever they need. We have done work at the Salem City Park and the Salem Visitors Center, the Fulton County Courthouse, the Fulton County Federal Building planters and we are currently doing work at the Viola City Park," Bartz said.
"The Viola City Park sign and planter is now complete. Ralph Moore and Ernie McIntosh built the planter. McIntosh and his wife Carrie also donated the limestone rock and sand used to finish the project," she said.
"Our only fundraisers are the tree and shrub sale in the early spring and a plant sale about a month later for the gardening needs. We also try to do some field trips and attend statewide meetings. Some of our field trips have included a blueberry farm, worm casting farm and Baker's Heirloom Seed Company. We have also been involved with growing and testing new southern pea varieties and new tomato varieties for the University of Arkansas," she said.
The organization was formed in 2002 when a group of interested county residents began the process of building the foundation.
"Joan and Luis Covas were the only two master gardeners living in Fulton County at the time. They had to work out of another county until then. With Nancy Cole, Connie Adams, Gail Plumlee and I, the group came up with by-laws and a plan. Since then we have done the various county projects and a few other one-time landscape projects," Bartz said.
Bartz said the Fulton County Master Gardeners are actively seeking new members and they encourage county residents to get involved.
"Anyone can join. Each year the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Division offers master gardener classes in each county. In our case, it is for four different counties at the same time," she said.
"Once a person completes the five week, 40-hour course they receive a certificate as a Master Gardener from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Division. Each new Master Gardener is asked to return 40 hours of service work to their perspective county in return for this education," Bartz said.
Young potential master gardeners are also encouraged to become a part of the organization.
"In 2004, Nick Bartz (16) was the youngest Master Gardener in our county. Izard County can boast twin girls who joined in their teens as well. Mostly people who are retired or semi-retired enjoy the benefits of the program. Anyone who enjoys gardening and learning more about gardening or who wants to share what they know about gardening, is a welcome addition to any Master Gardener Program," she said.
Service oriented people who enjoy getting their hands dirty are the typical Master Gardeners, Bartz said. "The camaraderie, field trips and mingling with other Master Gardeners is all bonus," she said.
The Fulton County Master Gardener Program hopes to continue serving Fulton County far into the future.
"We are always available to answer horticulture questions and if we don't know we will find someone who does. We are a diverse group of people, some of us were born and raised here, some of us are transplants (no pun intended) but we all have the same goals in mind, to serve our communities and to educate others and to be educated," Bartz said.
"I don't think I have ever walked away from a meeting or encounter without learning something. We would love to see the program grow, the more members we have the more we can do," she said.
For more information contact Fulton County Extension Agent Brad McGinley at 870-895-3301 or Becci Bartz at 870-895-4861.