Penn State Extension Master Gardeners lauded for excellence

August 23, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Several Penn State Extension Master Gardener programs received accolades during the organization's annual meeting, recently held at the Seven Springs Resort and Conference Center in Champion. 

The Search for Excellence Awards highlight exemplary group projects that show significant learning by the Master Gardeners or the public, according to Nancy Knauss, state Master Gardener coordinator.

"All Master Gardeners are to be commended for the positive impact they have on Pennsylvania's citizens," Knauss said. "There were so many wonderful projects submitted for the competition, making it tough for the judges to decide."

David Gibby, former area extension agent for Washington State University, presented the awards. Gibby founded the first Master Gardener program in 1972 to address the needs of backyard gardeners. Today, there are approximately 95,000 Master Gardeners in all 50 states, South Korea and several Canadian provinces. In Pennsylvania, there are 3,165 Master Gardener volunteers.

Search for Excellence competition categories and winners included the following:

Community Service

First place in the Community Service category, sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts, went to the Fulton County Master Gardener program for its Victory Garden in the county. Created seven years ago, this innovative community garden educates Master Gardeners and the home-gardening public about science-based vegetable and small-fruit gardening techniques.

Lackawanna County Master Gardeners came in second for the group's Downtown Scranton Planter Project, which has helped to build community involvement and pride through beautifying Scranton with planters. Third place went to Monroe County Master Gardeners for their Middle Smithfield Township Community Gardens project to help residents grow organic foods.

Demonstration Garden

Master Gardeners in Cumberland and Perry counties walked away with first place in the Demonstration Garden category, sponsored by Davey Tree Expert Co. The group was lauded for developing at 2,250-square-foot butterfly garden in Adams Ricci Park to attract butterflies and other pollinators and to educate the public about pollinators and home-gardening best practices.

Second place went to the Westmoreland County Master Gardeners for creating a bluebird trail on the grounds of the Loyalhanna Watershed Farm in Ligonier to educate the public about growing plants that attract wild birds. The Berks County program won third place for planting and maintaining three gardens at the National Park Service Hopewell Furnace Historic Site.

Innovative Program

The Fayette County Master Gardeners received the top prize in the Innovative Program category for their project, "The MOLE: Menallen Outdoor Learning Environment," a partnership between Menallen Elementary School in Uniontown and Master Gardeners that fosters a connection between children and the outdoors by having students care for a landscaped area near the school.

Allegheny County Master Gardeners earned second place for three projects in concert with various organizations under the banner of the "Wild Gardens Project," with the primary goal of educating the public about the evolving native landscapes of southwestern Pennsylvania.


The Bucks County Master Gardener class of 2017 created a March Madness-inspired workshop called "Mulch Madness," aimed at educating the residents of Bucks County on the "Sweet 16" types of mulch that could be used in home gardens for many different types of plants, situations and price points. The group was the lone winner in the Presentation/Workshop class.

Special Needs

The Master Gardeners of Lancaster County were recognized in the Special Needs category for bringing nature and gardening to residents of Conestoga View Nursing and Rehabilitation facility by hosting a horticulture club, which provides hands-on gardening activities for residents, staff and families.


The Master Gardener program in Cumberland and Perry counties tied York County for first place for the Youth category. Cumberland/Perry won for Summer H.E.A.T. (Horticulture Exploration and Adventure for Teens), a two-day summer program for teens ages 12-15 designed to strengthen their horticultural skills and knowledge. York County was recognized for MAEscapes (Mid-Atlantic Ecological Landscaping), an outreach program presented to York County third, fourth and fifth grade students to show them the importance of promoting biodiversity and protecting the natural environment.

Placing second were the Master Gardeners of Bradford and Sullivan counties for their Rural Health and Safety Day, an annual event to improve the safety of children living on farms. Greene County Master Gardeners captured third place for their Tiny Tim initiative, which gives children the opportunity to learn what it takes to grow a plant.

The Penn State Extension Master Gardener volunteer program supports the outreach mission of extension by utilizing unbiased, research-based information to educate the public on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship. More information can be found online at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 24, 2018