Deb Rademan: The gardener with the green thumb hooks up with like-minded people
By Gerry Tritz[email protected]
Deb Rademan doesn’t have a green thumb by accident.
The Jefferson City native has gardened most of her life, ever since her mother inspired her love of plants when she was young. Her mother, she says, “was the queen of African violets. She had African violets all over the house. Her mother knew how to maximize their beauty, including where to put them to give them the right amount of light.
Gardening is a science, but it is also an art.
“It kind of takes an artist’s eye to see how to combine plants to make them look good together,” Rademan said. “Because you incorporate color, texture, size, and you also have to consider where the plant needs it. It’s a combination of a lot of things.
The Jefferson City High School graduate received a degree in agriculture with a major in horticulture from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 1985, she accepted a job in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, where she maintained the State Capitol grounds. After 25 years, she retired with the title of horticulturalist in 2010.
But after just two years, the state asked him to return to oversee the grounds of the Governor’s Residence and Lower Gardens. She did so until 2016.
She didn’t take the Jefferson City Master Gardeners course until 2008, when a friend invited her to take it. Despite a degree and a career in the field, she says she learned some things in class. She had known how to do various things with plants, but the class reminded her why it was done that way.
It was two years later that she became involved with the Master Gardeners, taking over the maintenance and additions to River City Gardens in 2011.
She and her co-chair made improvements to the gardens beside the Missouri River in north Jefferson City. But 90 percent of the gardens were destroyed by flooding in 2019.
“It was very disheartening,” she said. “But when Parks came to us and said, ‘Are you interested in some areas of Riverside Park? We jumped at the chance.
Now the club is in the process of planning with the city’s parks department to have a botanical garden in Riverside Park. It will be designed to beautify the park, but also to educate local residents about plants.
In 2016, the club handed over the management of its greenhouse to Rademan, a title it still retains. The work requires planning for the Master Gardeners annual plant sale, his only fundraiser of the year.
It’s like Black Friday for plant sales. Each year, the sale takes place in early May and buyers eagerly queue in advance to make their choice of plants. This year he showcased over 20,000 plants, including hanging baskets and all popular vegetables.
The nonprofit has raised more than $ 40,000 this year to fund its various projects across the city.
Greenhouse maintenance is close to a year-round commitment that intensifies as the sale draws closer. Rademan commands many plants, and some are grown by seed.
It’s more than a casual hobby for someone who is retired.
Does she like work? “I have to,” she laughs. “It’s frustrating sometimes, but yeah, I love the job. I think I like people the most. It’s a like-minded bunch who are all basically looking for the same thing, the same knowledge.
As soon as the sale is over each year, she begins ordering soil and pots for the following year, then places orders for plants in September.
There’s always more to learn, and Rademan said part of his motivation is keeping up with new plant varieties.
But it’s the folks at Master Gardeners who inspire him to keep going.
“It’s camaraderie,” she said. “It’s the satisfaction of seeing the plants grow and look their best and the satisfaction of seeing the happy customers who come here and buy them, and they come in droves. “