The opportunity to become a Master Gardner in Platte County

Watching her garden grow. Sarah Cowan born in South Africa came to the United States and settled in Guernsey where she plants fresh flowers from seed, homemade blends and some plants that she winters in her kitchen.

GUERNSEY - Sarah Cowan was gardening in Guernsey for over 10 years and has been running Cowan Flowers for half of that time. Both in the area of indoor and outdoor plants. Through self-education on the internet and local Master Gardeners, she has now become somewhat an expert on her African Violets and she herself has earned the title of Master Gardener.

Although Cowan’s husband, Levi who works for BNSF got transferred out of the area and the family followed, Guernsey will forever remember it’s Master Gardner.

From Sept. 7 – Dec. 7 people in Platte County who have a love for flowers can also earn the distinction of Master Gardner and can perhaps let that certification take their passion to full bloom.

Registration is currently open to those who are interested in strengthening their green thumbs by going to:

According to the University of Wyoming extension website, “This 13-week Master Gardener training provides approximately 40 hours of education. Join live, virtual classes taught by UW Extension Educators who are experts in their fields, or watch recorded classes when it is convenient. Live classes are Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m., Sept. 7 – Dec. 7, 2021. Topics covered include: Introduction and Overview of the UW Extension Master Gardener Program, Basic Botany, Soils, Season Extension, Growing Vegetables and Herbs, Fruit Trees and Berry Crops, Herbaceous Plants, Woody Plants, Lawn Care, Integrated Pest Management and Understanding Pesticides, Plant Diseases and Diagnosing Plant Problems, Entomology, and Volunteering in the UW Extension Master Gardener Program.”

The cost to take the course is $150 and Cowan is one of the success stories as a master gardner.

“Even though the gardening process is all year around,” she said. “I order seeds in January and then progress through the year. This last winter I wanted a project that I could grow indoors. That’s where many of my African Violets have come from. I needed to grow something. Even in the middle of winter.” an expert on her African Violets and she herself has earned the title of Master Gardener.

“I grow specialty African Violets,” she said. “I am a member of the African Violet society of America and it’s such a fun group. I grow these plants from these tiny little leaves and it takes approximately a year to become established and to blooming stage. I keep them all in these tubs up in my beautiful kitchen that has the advantage of this wonderful natural light.”

Gardening has the serene moments of growing silence and the surrounding of beautiful colors, but there are days that Cowan admits that running a business, planting flowers, arranging delivery schedules, being a wife and mother can all pose certain obstacles.

“It’s challenging,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for years and there’s times when I’ll just, you know, need a moment and I’ll go and sit in the Lilly patch and have a good cry. For me, my garden is my place of refuge. A place where I can feel the ground and I can know that this is real.

“There’s this tiny seed, and I know that if I plant it and take care of it and do everything right, it’s going to grow. And in the meantime, I’m also going to grow through the process.”

From the gardens of England to the classrooms of Wyoming and now back full circle to her own garden, Cowan has acquired a wisdom that has bloomed right along with her flowers.

“I’ve learned patience,” Cowan said. “I have a sense of having faith that the seasons will come around again, just like the school year came around again. You start out in January dreaming about seeds and then in May you get the Lilies and the Alliums. And then once it starts to get hotter you get these most beautiful colors and it all goes in a cycle. It represents maybe our life in general. Everything’s going to be OK, and things are going to come around again.”

According to University of Wyoming extension director Clayton Jons, “This spring I think we had about 8-10 take the class and this will be another opportunity to become a Master Gardener.  I set in on all but one class this past spring and some the fall of 2020 and they are well done with pretty much the same instructors that we have used.”

Jons also forwarded information pertinent to this article:

Your registration fee includes an electronic (pdf) copy of your book - Sustainable Horticulture for Wyoming: A Master Gardener Handbook. You also have access to approximately 40 hours of training.


You can attend live classes weekly or watch class recordings when it is convenient for you.

University of Wyoming Extension Master Gardener program is an extensive training and volunteer program focused on gardening and horticultural production in Wyoming.


If you have a passion for gardening and want to learn more, the Master Gardener program is for you! For those who also want to give back to their communities through volunteer service, you would be joining a group of over 200 volunteers who support locally grown produce, beautiful communities to live in, and who share a common interest - Gardening!


Throughout this 13-week training you will learn from UW Extension educators and specialists with years of experience in their fields. Whether you are a new gardener or you have had dirt under your fingernails for years, you will take away knowledge, skills and the ability to successfully grow plants in your landscapes and gardens in Wyoming's uniquely challenging growing environment. 


How This Class Works




WyoLearn is the platform used by University of Wyoming Extension for online program delivery. After you register for the class and create a WyoLearn account, you will log in to WyoLearn to access live classes, class recordings and additional resources. 


Weekly classes are live on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 p.m. You will learn from University of Wyoming Extension Specialists and Educators who are subject matter experts with years of experience in their fields. Live classes allow instructors to teach as well as interact with you and answer your questions. Class recordings will be available within 48 hours after the live class. Classes are live, using the Zoom videoconference program. You need to create a Zoom account in order to attend the live classes. Zoom is accessible using a computer, smart phone or tablet. You can create a free Zoom account here:


Class Recordings


Classes are recorded and will be made available for you to view within 48 hours of the live class. Links to view recordings are found in each module.  You will have access to these videos for at least 12 months.


Class Schedule

Live classes are Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m.

Sept. 7 – Introduction and Overview of the Master Gardener Program

Sept. 14 – Basic Botany

Sept. 21 – Soils, Fertility and Composting

Sept. 28 – Season Extension – High Tunnels, Low Tunnels, Row Covers, Cold Frames

Oct. 5 – Growing Vegetables and Herbs

Oct. 12 – Fruit Trees and Berry Crops

Oct. 19 – Herbaceous Plants

Oct. 26 – Woody Plants

Nov. 2 – Lawn Care

Nov. 9 – Integrated Pest Managment 

Nov. 16 – Plant Diseases and Diagnosing Plant Problems

Nov. 23 – No Class (Thanksgiving week)

Nov. 30 – Entomology

Dec. 7 - Volunteering in the UW Extension Master Gardener Program


Here's what you can expect



Master Gardener trainings have been offered through local UW Extension offices since 1985. Trainees receive approximately 40 hours of education on topics including: botany, soils, composting, season extension techniques (high tunnels, backyard greenhouses, low tunnels, raised bed gardening), growing vegetables and herbs, growing fruit trees and berry crops, trees and shrubs, lawn care, annual and perennial flowers, integrated pest management, diagnosing plant problems, entomology and volunteering in the Master Gardener program. Classes are taught by UW Extension educators with subject matter expertise specifically related to Wyoming growing conditions. You also receive an electonic copy (pdf) of your book - Sustainable Horticulture For Wyoming: A Master Gardener Handbook


On average, about half of those who complete the Master Gardener training participate in the Master Gardener Volunteer Program. After completing the training, Master Gardener volunteers give back to their communities through volunteer service. Volunteer activities are coordinated at the local level to address local needs and opportunities. Master Gardeners are asked to provide 40 hours of volunteer time in their own communities. Wyoming Master Gardener volunteer activities include community beautification, community gardens, demonstration gardens, educational conferences and workshops, garden tours, plant production, office support for UW Extension, school gardens, youth programs, diagnosing plant problems and yard calls. Volunteer opportunities vary by location and may not be available in all locations.


Whether you are a beginning gardener or have years of experience, you will take away knowledge and skills that make you a better gardener after completing the Master Gardener training. Many Master Gardeners continue with the program for years and years. The longer a Master Gardener stays with the program, the more they learn and the more they share. Master Gardeners typically enjoy the social aspect of learning together, volunteering together and helping others. 


Chris Hilgert, UW Extension Master Gardener Program Statewide Coordinator