In her Speakers Bureau biography, Dallas County Master Gardener Marian Buchanan mentioned that she grew up with “an insatiable love of the outdoors—plants and critters both.” Perhaps that is what inspired her to take the Master Gardener class in 1988 after her children left for college. One day Horticulture agent Stacy Reese told Marian that a request had come in for a presentation, and he “didn’t know nothing about potpourri;” so she took his comment as a sign that she should specialize in herbs, or HERBS (emphasis on the “H”), as she would tell students in Master Gardener class. What an exemplary educator she proved to be, for me and for so many others.
Her experience teaching junior high school prepared her well for public speaking, so joining the Speakers Bureau was a great fit, and she soon became a perennial favorite. Some of her most popular topics included “Butterflies and Herbs”, “Falling in Love with Herbs”, “Wild about Herbs”, “Wicked Plants—A Walk on the Wild Side of the Garden”, and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme—Herbs can Make your Heart Sing!”
Even before the evolution of the Speakers Bureau, Marian was the quintessential Master Gardener who found creative ways to fulfill our mission to educate the public on research-based gardening practices. She scheduled her own talks, and her reputation for excellence quickly spread by word of mouth. She welcomed school children, tour buses, senior groups, clubs and nearly anyone who wished to visit her stunning backyard herb garden.
Marian’s credentials are almost as impressive as her infectious enthusiasm. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Spanish and history. In addition to being a Dallas County Master Gardener for 25 years, she served as chairman of both the North Texas and the Hill Country Units of the Herb Society of America. She won the Search for Excellence Award of the International Master Gardener Association for her horticulture therapy program. In 1997 she won third place in the category of Outstanding Personal Achievement on the state level, and in 2007 she was recognized as the Dallas Master Gardener Speaker of the Year.
In November of 2018, an intrepid group of Master Gardeners, friends, and family braved the frosty weather to honor Marian as we dedicated the Marian Buchanan Herb Garden, which is part of the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden at the Dallas Arboretum.
In June of 2019 Marian was bestowed the distinctive honor of Texas Master Gardener Emerita by Texas AgriLife Extension Service for her meritorious contributions to the Master Gardener program in Dallas County and beyond. To date this honor has only been given to 53 Master Gardeners statewide, with 4 from Dallas County—Robert Hagen, Jerrold Johnsen, Rosa Schachle, and Bunny Williams.
Gertrude Jekyll accurately summarized Marian’s horticultural mission, when she said, “The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.” May her mission live on in the Marian Buchanan Herb Garden and in all of us fortunate enough to be inspired by the wisdom and grace of our extraordinary friend, mentor and a truly masterful Master Gardener.