By Fairlee Latawic, Awards Committee
In 1987, on its 100th anniversary, the Connecticut Horticultural Society (CT Hort) established the Gustav Mehlquist award to honor our member Dr. Gustav Mehlquist for his extraordinary contribution to horticulture in the State of Connecticut. Dr. Mehlquist, who had been long recognized as one of the leading horticulturists in the United States, was a member of CT Hort, the American Rhododendron Society, the Connecticut Nurseryman’s Association and a professor of Plant Science at the University of Connecticut.
Born in Sweden, Dr. Mehlquist, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 1936 and in 1939, earned his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley. He was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Biology and Plant Science in 1947 and subsequently studied orchid genetics in England. After many years of outstanding work in plant breeding, specializing in orchids, delphiniums and carnations, Dr. Mehlquist joined the staff at the University of Connecticut in 1952 where he continued his work as a horticultural researcher, plant breeder, hybridizer, educator and writer. While at UConn his interest in rhododendrons led to the development of several vigorous cold-hardy varieties.
Every year CT Hort seeks nominations for this prestigious award named in his honor. This year, it is with great pleasure that the Society has selected Sarah Bailey as the recipient of the Mehlquist Award. Sarah’s horticultural career, born of a true love for gardening and the environment, has led her to hone gardening and design skills throughout the gardens of the Farmington Valley and beyond. Many know her as the Hartford County Coordinator for the UConn Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and she is also the pesticide safety educator at UConn. Sarah is a Certified Advanced Master Gardener and a Connecticut Accredited Nursery Professional. Under her direction, the Master Gardener (MG) Program has provided interns with horticultural training and knowledge that is then shared with the community through volunteer diagnostic and identification services and educational outreach. Over the years, Sarah has educated and inspired hundreds of MGs who in turn have spread out across our state to beautify and inform others. Sarah’s reach and impact on Connecticut’s gardening community has been significant.
Sarah’s work to transition the MG class to an online platform in 2018 helped bring the Program into the 21st century. This shift makes it easier for students that are still in the workforce to participate, as the in class commitment was reduced to 4 hours per week. Each day, Sarah leads her team of County Coordinators to provide science-based information to home gardeners. She works tirelessly to meet the challenge of sustaining the MG Program with limited funding from UConn and federal sources. The program is largely self-sustaining with revenue from MG and Advanced MG classes.
Sarah has been a long-time member of CT HORT who has tirelessly volunteered her service and horticultural expertise for the benefit of the Society, particularly at the Spring and Fall plant auctions. She has also served on the CT HORT board of directors and is a regular contributor to our Newsletter.
Congratulations Sarah Bailey!