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Vivian chan, Boise

color her committed:

It’s been several decades since Vivian Chan started gardening on her one-acre, flood-irrigated landscape in southwestern Boise. Although she enjoys soaking up nature’s beauty, the now-retired Chan confesses that her yard had evolved—very naturally—into a haphazard mix of overgrown junipers, gone-to-seed wildflower borders, and underperforming vegetable patches. Then, in 2000, she signed up for the Ada County Master Gardener program and “started changing everything.”

Into the hungry vegetable garden went soil-rebuilding compost from grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Out from the landscape came the tired and tiresome junipers, the jumbled wildflowers, and some tedious turfgrass. Now she soaks up even more natural beauty from her vividly blooming shrubs and her sequentially flowering perennials. “The color is better now,” she says. “That’s why I did it—mainly for the color.”

Chan, an Advanced Master Gardener, gave back to her community in recent years as a volunteer tree steward for the Boise Parks and Recreation Department and as a docent for kindergartners’ visits to the Idaho Botanical Garden. Every spring, she shares her enthusiasm from a booth at the Boise Flower & Garden Show: the Master Gardener program is about learning, then doing, she tells passersby, and the cadre of committed gardeners they’ll meet makes it "just like family."

At the Ada County Extension office, Chan enjoys being out in front—of the office, that is—tending the program's drought-tolerant demonstration garden. She also delights in digging into puzzling plant problems presented by callers and visitors. "The best way to learn is from all of the questions that people ask."

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