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ATLANTIC CITY - John Collette will be the first to tell you that he was more than a little surprised when the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Atlantic County won for the second consecutive year the prestigious Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gardening and Greening Contest Parks and Public Spaces Blue Ribbon for their work at Historic Gardner’s Basin.

“There are about 300 entries from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware in various categories, so we were very surprised when we won the blue ribbon in 2015,” said Collette, who, as the project’s lead, works year-round with Bill Johnson, Ian Skinner and five to seven other Master Gardeners, as well as Agricultural Agent Richard VanVraken of the Rutgers Master Gardeners program for Atlantic County. “To win, again, in 2016 is truly an honor.”

The PHS Gardening and Greening Contest celebrates the accomplishments of gardeners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The contest invites backyard gardeners, community gardeners and anyone passionate about greening public spaces to enter. Volunteer judges are chosen for their expertise and accomplishments in gardening. Garden entries are judged on maintenance and horticultural practices, as well as the variety, color and suitability of plantings. Design and total visual effect are also considered, with extra points awarded for creativity and sustainable practice.

Collette believes that tropical elements such as palm trees, birds of paradise and banana plants factored into the judges’ decision to award the back-to-back blue ribbons to the Gardner’s Basin project. “They are things you don’t normally see that we were able to successfully integrate into our total design,” Collette said.

There are about 100 Master Gardeners in the Rutgers Atlantic County Master Gardeners Program, which is comprised of volunteers who assist the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension in its mission to promote general public horticultural programs.

“John and the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Atlantic County have done a wonderful job in beautifying Gardener’s Basin and the grounds in and around the Atlantic City Aquarium,” said Lisa Schall, executive director of the Atlantic City Aquarium/Historic Gardner’s Basin. “Anyone who has seen the group’s work clearly understands why it is worthy of the judges’ Blue Ribbon. It adds another important element to Gardner’s Basin and the aquarium as we look to promote ourselves as a tourist destination within Atlantic City, the region and the tri-state area.”

For more information contact Rutgers Master Gardner’s of Atlantic County at (609) 625-0056.

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