Garden Wise: Tony McCammon leaving the University of Idaho | Southern Idaho Local News

The University of Idaho Extension lost a key member of their faculty as 2017 came to a close. Tony McCammon has served as a horticulturalist in Idaho since 2006. Among his responsibilities were community educational programs such as the Idaho Master Gardener and Junior Master Gardener programs, “Spring into Spring” classes, “Falling into Winter” classes, the “Slow the Flow Landscape Water Conservation Conference,” and various workshops and farmer safety programs. He served as the State coordinator of the Master Gardener program over the past three years and as chairman of the international committee of Master Gardeners.

When asked about his greatest successes, Tony talked about watching participants in the Master Gardener program grow and have their lives changed as they increased their horticultural skills. In his almost 11 years of Extension work he has trained Master Gardeners in counties all over the State. By his own estimate, he has trained over 500 individuals. As part of the Master Gardener Program, he developed diagnostic clinics in Payette, Emmett, Weiser, Twin Falls, Burley, Gooding, Jerome, Rupert, Shoshone and Hailey. These diagnostic clinics provided a free service for our communities to help home owners identify plants and insects and deal with pests. Although he is leaving the University of Idaho, he says he will always be a believer in the Master Gardener Program and will continue to support the members with further training opportunities.

Tony’s research has focused on a domestication program of identifying native plant species that could be tamed for landscape use. He has enjoyed yearly hikes into the wilds of the west to find beautiful flowers and other native plants that have landscape potential. In the Abajo range of Eastern Utah, he recollects finding a beautiful dwarf mint with a distinct smell like that of a pineapple. Many of the specimens he has collected are now being sold in local nurseries.

Tony’s love for education and plants will continue in his new adventures. His new company is called Bloom Horticulture Specialists and will include a design studio for artistic landscape designs. Bloom will also provide classes, conferences, and workshops including a three-day conference Feb. 8-10 here in Twin Falls and another in Hailey May 10-12. These workshops will cover all things gardening. Other workshops are also being planned, including a planting and pruning workshop scheduled for Feb. 23 in Twin Falls and for Burley on Feb. 24. In addition, Bloom Horticulture will develop online videos, courses, and certification programs. The company will also work with the nursery and landscape industry to train employees and develop precision horticulture practices. Personal consulting services will also be available to help homeowners with gardening challenges and landscape design issues.

Although Tony is leaving the university, he is not leaving Magic Valley. He will continue being a horticultural asset to the valley, but in a different role. Those interested in research-based horticultural practices will continue to avail themselves of his ongoing services.

Master Gardeners of Magic Valley, as a group, are sad to see Tony leaving the program but delighted that he is staying in Magic Valley. We have all learned so much from him. His knowledge of horticulture has both breadth and depth. Despite that extensive knowledge, Tony has never lost his infectious enthusiasm for plants which lead him into horticulture in the first place. For many, the blessings of the plant world have grown dim with familiarity. This hasn’t happened to Tony. He approaches plants afresh, with the wonder of a child.

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I am personally most grateful for his emphasis on research-based gardening. Gardening literature is a mishmash of information, some good, much bad. Included in that literature is a wealth of misinformation. When it comes to gardening, everyone is an expert, and often, it seems, everyone has a different opinion. How can we navigate our way through this corn maze to find reliable information? Tony taught us a simple Google trick. When looking up anything related to gardening, add “.edu” to the search question. This brings up university research-based information about the subject. This isn’t to suggest that all good ideas come from universities. They don’t. However, it makes sense to start with what science has established. All gardening theories and hunches are subject to empirical testing and verification. Good gardeners rely on such empirically established information.

As a Master Gardener, I wish Tony much success in his new endeavors. Knowing his competence as a horticulturalist and his exceptional abilities as an educator, I know he will continue to do amazing things for us here in Idaho. If you want to contact Tony about his new business or to get more information on his upcoming classes or workshops, please email [email protected].

Garden Wise is presented by the Magic Valley Master Gardener Association. We will try to answer questions of general interest submitted by the community. Please submit questions to [email protected].

Garden Wise is presented by the Magic Valley Master Gardener Association. We will try to answer questions of general interest submitted by the community. Please submit questions to [email protected].