‘It works for me’: Master Gardener enjoys sharing wealth of experience with flowers, vegetables

BECKY LOCK/Sun-Gazette Edie DeMarco points to a flower on the lemon tree she’s had for 30 years. Two lemons are slowly ripening on the tree too.

As winter dwindled away into spring, Edythe “Edie” DeMarco and her group of fellow Master Gardeners were becoming anxious. The promise of sunshine and budding greenery kept their spirits bright.

At 86, DeMarco is the eldest member of the Lycoming County Master Gardeners, a group of 56 men and women who volunteer their time and talents to educate others.

“Right now I’m responsible for the annual flowerbed” at the Penn State Extension’s demonstration gardens, DeMarco said.

The demonstration gardens, which are open to the public at Lysock View Complex, 542 County Farm Road in Loyalsock Township, encompass a variety of themes. There’s DeMarco’s annuals, in which are planted blooms that, in general, last for only growing season and must be replanted each year.

The perennial plot contains plants that reseed themselves and return for more than one season. There’s an herb patch, native plants, a vegetable section, an area meant to benefit insects that pollinate and, the latest, the sensory garden, an interactive area meant to engage the senses and encourage creativity.

Last year, DeMarco’s section was filled with zinnias, petunias, coleus and other plants often selected as borders.

The annuals section became “hers” by default.

“No one else chose it,” she said. But “it works for me. Annuals are pretty colorful.”

As chief of the annuals garden, DeMarco is in charge of preparing the flowerbed by loosening the soil in the spring, selecting and planting new flowers, then weeding it throughout the growing season and clearing out the debris in the fall.

“I maintain it for the whole year,” she said.

Other Master Gardeners help out in all parts of the demonstration gardens throughout the year too. In fact, to keep their status in the program, the volunteers must accrue 20 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of advanced training each year. New Master Gardeners who have not yet become certified must put in 50 hours of volunteer service.

“There’s so much involved,” DeMarco said, including monthly meetings, but it’s clear to see she thrives on the action.

“It’s a fun place. We’re so active and we all get something out of it,” she said.

In August, she plans to participate in the Master Gardeners’ GardenFest, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 12 at the

complex. Several lectures are planned and vendors selling garden-themed merchandise will be on hand. The event is free and will be held regardless of the weather.

DeMarco moved to Loyalsock Township in the late 2000s. She is a “transplant” from Buffalo, New York, and came to Lycoming County to be closer to her son, Robert Wozniak, and his family. Joining the Master Gardeners gave her “an opportunity to get to know more people,” she said.

Gardening is something DeMarco has had a lot of experience with, beginning when she was growing up in Wellsville, New York. As one of eight kids, she helped her mom and dad, particularly working in their vegetable garden.

“In Buffalo, I had my own flower garden,” she said. “I love flowers.”

Among her favorites are rose-colored oriental poppies.

“They’re almost like a carnation and they reseed themselves,” she said.

Her home also has flowers, such as daffodils and lilacs, and vegetation like succulents inside and out. A 30-year-old lemon tree continues to thrive on her deck in the summer. She moves the potted tree inside when they weather turns cold.

She also is very interested in vermi-composting, which refers to use a special type of worm — called a red worm or red wiggler — to break down kitchen scraps. The worms create a dark, rich, organic fertilizer.

DeMarco encourages anyone who has an interest in gardening or learning more about plants to consider joining the Master Gardeners.

“So many people think they can’t do it … come and try,” she said. “We want to help.

“It’s a very satisfying outlet, and you can work (in the gardens) as much as you want to. And, there’s room for mistakes.”