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Polly Taylor Dennler, Juliaetta

Helping Her Rural Community Blossom:

When University of Idaho alumna Polly Taylor Dennler [M.Ed., Special Education, 1991] was earning an off-campus certificate in horticultural therapy, her instructors advised her to become a Master Gardener, too. “They wanted us to take Master Gardener training because of its excellence—because we would get research-based information tailored to our particular climate and location.”

Taylor Dennler, of Juliaetta, hopes to start her own horticultural therapy business one day. In the meantime, she’s using the education she received through both programs to engage the members of her rural community in gardening. Beyond the Main Street planter boxes she cares for, the Arbor Day grants she writes, and the Juliaetta Centennial Park butterfly garden she helped design, build, and tend, Taylor Dennler teaches gardening to Juliaetta’s younger generation: elementary-school age at-risk youth, high-school age juvenile offenders, and her own 4-H club.

A few years earlier, upon returning to her Latah County hometown, the former educational consultant for Portland State University had noted a “disconnect” between the gardening expertise of the old-timers and the gardening involvement of the young. As she helped close that gap, Taylor Dennler was “just amazed at how responsive the kids were.” Juvenile offenders were soon removing sod, spreading compost, and planting bulbs in the town park and littler kids were relishing seed catalogs and delighting in hole-digging.

During the summer months, Taylor Dennler brings cuttings from her dazzling garden to the Kendrick Park, where members of her Hill and Valley Garden Club and the Kendrick-Juliaetta Arts Commission coach locals and visitors in flower arranging. “People get so excited,” she says. “They reminisce and talk about what different plants have meant to them—and they take home beautiful bouquets!”

“I’d hate to think that people are waiting to retire to become Master Gardeners,” Taylor Dennler says. “It helps you find ways to connect with your community—and the training is wonderful.”