January 25, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

There is strong interest in gardening in western Kentucky with 20 garden clubs in Paducah, and that interest has been parlayed into the McCracken County's Master Gardeners Garden Gurus program.

"We want to offer educational programs that will advance their knowledge, and be researched based as well as help advance the beautification of the entire area," said Kathy Keeney, McCracken County Cooperative Extension agent for horticulture.

"We are three hours from Memphis, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., and St. Louis, and five hours from Lexington. There's nothing close by but we are also a hub for a five-state area," Keeney said. "This makes us a regional hub for quality educational programs that you can't see unless you go three hours away."

The program brings in nationally recognized speakers as well as offers an auction of plants suited to the area. The plants are named varieties that most people would not normally get to know such as a golden tide forsythia, which is a ground cover.

"We want people to know that there are options out there," she said. "So you have the option here of bidding on named cultivars that are award winning plants."

Keeney said the plants open consumers eyes to what is available. Most of the plants are available at quality area garden centers but they may not be widely known, she said.

The third Garden Gurus was held recently in Paducah and plans are already under way for numbers four and five. Several hundred people generally attend the January event.

The program also helps to extend the university, Keeney said. "We want people to know that the Master Gardener program is a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service sponsored program."

Three year's ago, Roger Swain of the PBS series Victory Garden was one of the Garden Gurus first speakers. This year's speakers were Richard Dubé, a landscape architect who spoke on stones in the landscape, and R. William Thomas, executive director of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.

Funds from the plant sale go to the Master Gardeners research and demonstration garden. The garden is used to show plant varieties that are compatible to western Kentucky including some of those from the Garden Guru sale.


Kathy Keeney, (270) 554-9520