Elizabeth Siano, an intern with the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County, pauses in her removal of dried ornamental grass debris from RMGUC's cold-tolerant tropical garden bed to smile at the camera. Siano (a Westfield resident) is one of 27 Master Gardener interns who helped with the recent spring clean-up of RMGUC's Trailside Demonstration Gardens. They were preparing for their 21st Annual Spring Fair & Plant Sale, upcoming on Sunday, May 16, 2010. Fair location is the Trailside Nature & Science Center in the Watchung Reservation (Mountainside), corner of New Providence Road and Coles Avenue. Time is 12 to 5pm, rain or shine. Admission and parking are FREE. Payments in cash or by check are accepted; no credit cards.

As always, a wide variety of plants, including flowers, vegetables and herbs, will be for sale to the public at reasonable prices. Fair goers are encouraged to bring their own wagons to transport plants.

While onsite, Fair & Plant Sale visitors can also visit RMGUC's Community Sharing Garden, managed by Master Gardener Larry Verdicchio; the Berry Patch Garden, managed by MG Fred Taylor; the Flower Cutting Gardens, managed by MGs Sandy Schroeder and Joann Gornowski; the Herb & Harry Potter Gardens, managed by MG Caryl Hannemann, and 15 Themed Garden Beds.

1,230 gardening enthusiasts attended the Fair in 2009. Even more are expected in 2010.

RMGUC (HQ Westfield) are community volunteers affiliated with Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Their mission is to support land stewardship and disseminate research-based information to the public related to gardening and natural resource management. Since 1987, RMGUC has trained and certified more than 448 Master Gardeners. To earn the Master Gardener certification, interns must complete an eight-month course of study, pass a two-hour final exam, and complete 60 hours of volunteer gardening and community service. Ongoing volunteer service is required each year.

Since 2002, RMGUC has donated more than 11,000 lbs. of fresh vegetables grown in their Sharing Garden to Union County food banks and soup kitchens. Likewise, since 2007, bouquets of 7,500 flowers and greens grown in their Flower Cutting Garden have been given to cancer patients at Overlook Hospital, the Wellness Center of Central Jersey, and the Susan G. Koman Foundation. To finance these and other community services, the Annual Spring Fair and Plant Sale is their sole fund raiser and major means of support.

For more information on the RMGUC program or the Fair, call (908) 654-9854 or visit RMGUC on the web at: http://www.mastergardeners-uc.org