Friday, March 27, 2009

Viva Las Vegas?

Originally, I envisioned my missive about the International Master Gardener Conference to be a daily posting of the happening of the previous day. BUT, something unexpected happened to change my plans which I will get to in just a bit.

The flight, albeit long was fairly uneventful as flights go and in spite of a four hour layover, managed to end without crashing in the strong winds we encountered upon landing. Frankly, I wanted to kiss the pilot and would have, if not for that whole locked cockpit door thing they have going now. Unexpectedly, the desert air felt as if it had a recent infusion of arctic air and to think I packed shorts, halter tops and bikinis :(

Monday was the first full day of the conference. It consisted of the traditional welcome to the community and some interesting statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture followed by a keynote speaker, Jeff Lowenfels, who spoke on a topic I've been curious about for some time now: mycorrhizae. I also bought his book "Teaming With Microbes" in order to attempt to understand the science behind his lecture. Although I did not realize it at the time, I realized later that he is not a scientist and so I must look closely to make sure his assertions are backed up by science. I look forward to the read.

The second half of the morning was taken up presenting various awards to MG groups for their projects. Among them: a children's garden in Lafayette, LA, a series of backyard ecosystem workshops in New Castle, DE, an inmate veggie garden in Kane Co., IL, organic gardening brochures in Toronto, ON, a waterwise garden in Sandoval Co., NM, a gardener's companion calender in Placer Co., CA and Junior MG awards for Menard, TX.

A choice could be had for either lectures or tours for the afternoon. When attending a conference of any kind, I pretty much choose lectures/learning over tours/visiting. The first session was on Latin names of plants. Although I picked up some trivia, it wasn't what I'd thought it would be and was mildly disappointed. Clearly the presenter was knowledgeable but did not share with us much as to how to understand the latin names and finished in only 30 minutes of the 60 minute session.

My second session was "Art From Found Objects". It sounded fun! It was entertaining and inspiring. While I am not a person who likes mega amounts of ornamentation in my garden space, I did come away inspired and amused. The photos are not the best since I took them of the powerpoint screen but I am going to post them so all can see some of what she collected. You may see them here as soon as I get them posted this evening.

The third and final session for the day was "Community Gardens 101". I had been anticipating this lecture for awhile! Some gardeners in my community are interested in starting a community garden here in Newport for those that are being hit hardest by the economic crisis. This HAD to be filled with information and resources! Right? Wrong! Some parts were dry and the others were inspirational (the guy HAD to be a preacher in his off time) but in the end, we did not come away with any nuts and bolts to build our gardens with.

Truly, I wish I had gone on the tours this time. Oh well, Tuesday morning would bring those! Breaking with my usual habit, I did decide to go on two tours to four different gardens instead of lectures on Tuesday. I was jazzed! Then dinner and a show that night!

Tuesday dawned cold and windy, what I was coming to expect from Las Vegas in March (*sigh*). I dressed warm but very snazzy and accompanied my fellow gardeners to the waiting tour buses. First stop, a home in a subdivision where all the homes look alike. You definitely don't want to try to make your way home on your own if you are drunk because you'll end up in someone else's bed!

Driving into the neighborhood, we all looked at each other because, surely, these tiny lots could NOT house a garden for a tour. The space was very small indeed. Surprisingly, it showed what you can do with a small space but we were still puzzled about it being a tour stop at an international conference. I will mention, the hosts were wonderful, the gardens were impeccable and the plants were well-labeled!

On to the next stop: a two acre garden. My juices were flowing in anticipation of THIS one! About all I can tell you about this garden is: nothing was labeled and what we had been told should take an hour to cover, only took 30 minutes. BUT, that was just fine with me. For upon arrival at this garden, the bus driver did not lower the bus for my exit after I'd had to reboard to retrieve something resulting in my falling off the bus, not expecting the long drop-off. Making a long story short, my right ankle broke and sustained significant tearing of a number of ligaments. Hence, why I was glad the tour only took 30 minutes instead of the aforementioned 60 expected minutes. I felt shocky but didn't want to be any trouble so I waited on the tour bus. (Shhhhhh! This is my story and I'm sticking to it! My dad doesn't need to know it happened table dancing!)

After returning to the resort, my state coordinator Janet Carson took me to the emergency clinic for treatment. Traveling alone, I have no idea how I would have managed without her assistance i.e. getting my meals, helping me pack, and transporting me. She was a Godsend! The new perspective I have gained as a 'handicapped' person was enlightening. Many a kind stranger helped me all the way back to Arkansas and for them I am extremely thankful!

Needless to say, I cancelled the rest of my trip and conference attendance to return home. Not exactly a stellar time, nor what I'd expected. Numerous comments were made regarding how much better the Little Rock conference was two years ago compared to this one. The accomodations were a disappointment in Vegas. For less money, I could have stayed at the Bellagio and will when I return next time.

The Neon Lights Tour on Monday night was fun! Take it if you end up in Sin City.

The changes which have taken place over the 20 years since my last visit were phenomenal! And while I did not have the vacation of my dreams, I met some terrific people. I look forward to seeing more of Las Vegas and doing the photography I missed upon my return . . . someday.


Garden Wise Guy said...

Yipes! All that anticipation, preparation and perspiration ruined by a bus step. I'll be optimistic and philosophical and suggest that everything happens for a reason, but sometimes that's just a load of crap. Stay in touch with the folks who made the greatest impressions on you and take the rest in (is he really going to use this pun?) take it in stride. (There, I did it).

Heal fast and stay off the bar top for a few months.


Kiss My Aster said...

I do like some of the garden art though...