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Robert Chehey, boise

Collecting Plants, Sharing Knowledge:

Robert Chehey—an Ada County Advanced Master Gardener—describes himself as a “plant collector” (as opposed to a “garden designer”). “If somebody tells me I can’t grow something here, that’s immediately what I try to grow,” he says. Japanese fiber bananas? Why not! Bitter oranges? Of course!

Now that the retired medical microbiologist and his wife have downsized to a Boise townhouse on a tenth-of-an-acre lot, Chehey is gardening out of pots but still on the edge. Let’s see: How about containers “punctuated” with tropical foliage and dense with unexpected understory varieties—or staggered pots of palms and bananas?

The Master Gardener program has been “a good way to learn more about gardening and to teach what I know,” Chehey says. “It has really broadened my knowledge of horticulture.” Not only does he field phoned-in gardening questions at the Ada County Extension office, but he makes presentations on winter interest, mushrooms, integrated pest management, and other topics to local garden clubs.

“If you’re a ‘newbie,’ the Master Gardener program is obviously going to help you,” he says. “But I thought I knew a heckuva lot about gardening when I came in, and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know.”

Chehey has challenged himself to set aside the pesticide bottle and control his pests with well-timed splashes of insecticidal soap, blasts of water, and other environmentally friendly methods. “Now I’m using chemicals as a last resort rather than a first resort,” he says.

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