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Native New Yorker Becomes Master Gardener

Sandra Paget credits her Russian heritage and its attachment to the concept of Mother Earth with turning her into a master gardener, despite the fact that she has lived in New York City most of her life. Sandy and her husband Dr. Stephen Paget, head of Rheumatology at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, are native New Yorkers. "We both grew up in Brooklyn and now we live in Manhattan," she says with a laugh, explaining that she does all her gardening at their weekend home in Pound Ridge, Westchester. "I taught myself how to garden, but I think I have gardening in my blood!" she says.

After creating a butterfly border with plants to attract area butterflies, Sandy installed a cutting garden and a perennial border. Most recently, she has planted an herb garden using knowledge she learned at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, where she trained as a master gardener through the University of Connecticut's Master Gardener program.

"When my children left home I wanted to do something that was intellectually challenging," Sandy says. Originally, she thought she might pursue a Master's in speech pathology, but then she decided to further her knowledge of gardening. "All the people who come into the program want to learn how to grow perennial borders," she says. "When they graduate, they're more concerned about combating invasive plants and GMO s (genetically modified organisms)."

Sandy says that the yearlong program is rigorous. Students attend class every Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from January to May, and then they have to sit an exam. From May to September, the students work at plant clinics at the Arboretum. These are open to the public and free of charge. "People come in with plant or bug problems and we research and diagnose the problem," she says.

Sandy is currently chairing the Bartlett Arboretum garden tour and patron party, the annual fundraiser for the Arboretum. The tour is on Tuesday, June 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features five private gardens in Stamford. Participants can also attend a lunch at Bartlett Arboretum where many of the gardens will be open to visitors. There will also be vendors under the tents.

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