September 12, 2021

Two years. That’s how long I told my husband I would stay in Overland Park when he was transferred here. Well, 34 years later here I am, in love with this community, I now call home.

It was hard to be uprooted and transplanted in a different place. Perhaps you’ve gone through that experience yourself. I wilted and needed a lot of TLC. At the time, I was happily living in a suburb of Dallas and my Texas friends told me there was no good shopping in Kansas. Gulp. Shopping was my main hobby back then, so that hit me hard.

It had taken a while to get used to Texas in the first place. You see, I’m originally from Puerto Rico, a tropical island where there’s no change of seasons. I would swim in the ocean with my friends in February. Bromeliads, orchids, jasmine, and tropical ginger filled my garden with color year-round. The native geckos (lagartijos) came in the house all the time (we wore them like earrings) and coqui frogs serenaded us at night.

You can imagine what a change it is to move to a place where most plants and trees look dead until late March. This Puerto Rican was not having it.

It took a paradigm shift in my thinking (more like an electrical shock to my brain.) I learned about perennials that seem to die but come back every year, but I’ve planted so many now that my garden looks overgrown. New variety? Yes, give it to me! I’m like a puppy salivating when I go to my favorite garden center in the spring. I have absolutely no self-control.

I’ve made every mistake in the book when it comes to gardening, yet my neighbors think I’m some sort of an expert since I’m a master gardener. Ha! I’ve got them fooled!

My husband and I love to travel and every trip must include a visit to some botanical gardens. I love the gardens at Versailles, France and Granada, Spain. The gardens at Frida Kahlo’s old home in Mexico City are “preciosos.” But my favorite so far is The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada. Good lord, I could spend a week there!

Are you thinking like I was 34 years ago? Are you wondering if it’s going to be worth it to come to Kansas for a conference? Let me tell you what I’ve learned: you’re going to meet some of the kindest, most welcoming people here. These master gardeners mean business: dang, their gardens are stunning, and they’re working so hard for this conference. There are museums and restaurants here that rival those in larger cities. And those rolling Flint Hills are something else.

It’s impossible to describe what you’re going to experience at this master gardening conference. But I can tell you this: you’re going to be amazed!

Rosita Elizalde-McCoy