In the Spotlight—Susan Sivey Parcel, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

When it comes to questions about growing herbs and nourishing vegetables, Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) Susan Sivey has answers. Since 2016 she has taught the herb unit to incoming Secrest Arboretum MGV interns and has volunteered at the Friends of Secrest Arboretum plant sales. In summer you will find Susan promoting the MGV program and  answering gardening questions at the Wooster Farmers’ Market. In the past you might have encountered her teaching gardening classes at Wooster’s Local Roots.

A Wayne County native, Susan spent much of her early life on her family’s farm. At 3, she followed her father along his vegetable garden rows, dropping seeds in the holes he made.  Today she lives with her husband, Charles Snodgrass, on the farm property where they have built a home and created extensive gardens and landscaping. Over the years she has raised hostas, many perennials, and over 350 daylilies in addition to vegetables. She has given away many of these, replacing them with shrubs and more “useful plants,” such as elderberry, raspberry, and asparagus, while concentrating on “pollinator friendly plants.” As she gained more gardening knowledge, she gave up tilling and converted her vegetable gardens to raised beds which she enriches with leaf humus and manure.

She comments, “Gardening is a part of every day of my life. Even in the winter, I have plants growing in the house that are food or herb plants for harvesting. I am a vegetarian, so I try to grow much of what we eat. I freeze, can, and ferment foods and cook mostly from scratch. I have a hoop house and unheated greenhouse. Until the January cold blast, I had greens still growing.” Susan adds, “My favorite gardening task, especially since I’ve gotten older is watering. I love the excuse to stand there with the hose and enjoy the plants and nature without having to bend over and actually work. Yes, I know that watering the roots is better!”

Susan's GardenAlways looking for gardening answers, Susan enjoys trying new plants. When she had difficulty growing standard celery, she discovered a solution with the flat-leaf biennial herb parcel, which tastes like a combination of parsley and celery without the stalk. Susan has shared this plant with her MGV students along with starts of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Parcel has become a staple in her extensive gardens, and each year many MGVs request new starts from Susan.

Throughout her gardening life, Susan has had many great teachers, including Joe Cochran, Denise Ellsworth, Paul Snyder, and Kingwood Gardens’ Charles Applegate. She first trained  as a Master Gardener in Knox County in 2006 with most of the required 50 volunteer hours occurring at Secrest Arboretum. She has earned two MGV specializations under Denise  Ellsworth, one in Backyard Gardening and Local Foods, and the other in Pollinators. Both specializations greatly influence how she now gardens. When the Secrest MGV program restarted in 2016 with Paul Snyder, she was able to recertify. During the recent pandemic, she took many online courses to further her knowledge of
herbs. Currently, she is interested in learning more about the wild herbs, ginseng, and golden seal.

Of herself, Susan states, “I am a retired special education teacher and administrator, a wife, a gardener, an herbalist, a knitter, and a golden doodle mama.” Beyond improving her own  gardening practices, she has enriched the gardens of countless others as she teaches them about best practices. Susan Sivey is truly a master gardener.

--Pat Warner, Secrest Arboretum Master Gardener Volunteer