June 16, 2010

(Video news release

Quilts are part of Kentucky's heritage, so when members of the Capital Area Extension Master Gardeners Association were looking for a community service project, the idea of a quilt garden seemed like a perfect fit.

The group recently spent the better part of a day planting a modified windmill quilt pattern in a 39-by-10-feet bed overlooked by the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort. The idea, like any good garden, took some planning. They found inspiration by touring quilt gardens in other Kentucky counties, including many of Fleming County's gardens, and also explored the Internet for ideas. That was where they ran across a group of counties in northern Indiana, which is heavily populated by Amish, where quilt gardens abound, attracting a great number of visitors to the area.

"A lot of things came together to make this happen-us being here in the state capital, the World Equestrian Games coming (in the fall), and there being a beautification committee here in Frankfort," said Kim Cowherd, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Franklin County. "We know the folks that do the grounds here, just because it's a small community. And the manager of the grounds approached them (the Master Gardeners) about doing a bed or some maintenance on beds or some education. So it just kind of evolved from there."

"We looked at a lot of designs and did a lot of discussion," said Judy Bradley, quilt garden committee chairperson. "We got in contact with Jud Browning at the state greenhouse, and he was wonderful. He gave us all the plants and got the bed ready."

Master Gardener Terry Parker drew the chosen design to scale, and Sue Van Patten, secretary of the Capital Area Extension Master Gardeners Association, calculated the number of plants they would need to fill the bed. The final quilt garden has four squares with two different color combinations alternating between squares.

The gardeners used five different varieties of alternanthera, a foliage plant. Cowherd said alternanthera is a versatile plant for beds with graphic designs, such as a quilt pattern. It has an assortment of varieties, each one with a different leaf color. It's the plant that is often used to create the floral clock on the grounds of the state Capitol. Using this foliage plant has its advantages, as it will stay compact, is easily trimmed to retain its shape, and the gardeners won't have to worry about deadheading spent blooms.

Extension Master Gardeners is a program offered through UK Cooperative Extension. Though the Capital Area Extension Master Gardeners Association is based in the Franklin County Extension office, members came from Franklin, Anderson, Woodford, Mercer and Boyle counties to take the Master Gardener course, which provides participants with technical horticultural training.

"It's a new program here in our county, so they wanted to stay together as a group and represent this whole area. Hence the name," Cowherd said.

Graduates of the program commit to 30 volunteer hours the first year and 15 for every year following. Volunteer hours are designed to help spread horticultural information throughout a community. In Franklin County, the Capital Area Extension Master Gardeners have participated in Reforest Frankfort, answered questions at the farmers market and recently organized a plant sale. They also help Cowherd answer gardening questions from people who call or come by the extension office. They will help with Cooperative Extension's Farm/City Field Day in July.

"Of course, we can do anything. We're Master Gardeners," Bradley said.

"And Kim has our back," she added with a smile.

For more information about the Extension Master Gardening program, contact the local Cooperative Extension county office.

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