Like her garden, Carol Stuttard thrives in the Arizona desert.
When the native of England first arrived in Scottsdale, nothing she planted in the parched earth survived, no matter how much she watered.
"Even though I considered myself an experienced gardener, I couldn’t keep anything alive," Stuttard said as she simmered tomatoes from her garden for sauce. "My grandfather was a gardener for a stately home. My parents were gardeners, too. I had my own little garden when I was a baby, but I couldn't grow anything here."
So Stuttard enrolled in the UACE, Maricopa County Master Gardeners program. During the 17-week training course she learned to grow vegetables, her favorite Princess Diana roses, and other flora.
Her 'aha' moment came when she discovered it was Arizona's alkaline soil that was wilting her petunias.
Stuttard now teaches others to garden, is president of the Scottsdale Community Garden Club, and writes a gardening column for a local newspaper.
The Master Gardeners program has provided Stuttard with more than gardening education and volunteer teaching opportunities. "I've created a huge circle of friends and people to share plants with."
She said the more than 450 Master Gardeners in Maricopa County "take something that they like – gardening – and they find other people who love it and they share that love." Lifelong friendships often bloom among the gardeners.
Stuttard credits the Cooperative Extension program with bringing beauty into her life.
"It has given me many wonderful friends and helped an English gardener overcome the despair of ever being able to grow anything in the desert," she said.