Good to Grow column to feature diverse group of garden enthusiasts

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail

Regular readers of John Porter and his popular Garden Guru column knew we would have some big shoes to fill when John left his position in January as a West Virginia University Extension Service agent in Kanawha County to take a new opportunity out of state.

So it’s not surprising it took us some time to find the right folks, the right combination of gardening experience and skills. Now, as spring is about to be sprung, we think we’re there.

Today we introduce Good To Grow, a new column for gardening enthusiasts, and a new, diverse group of columnists we think will build on the very solid foundation John left. The first Good To Grow column this week is from Alex Cole.

We invite you to touch base with these folks. Send them your questions. Ask their advice. Offer suggestions for topics you’d like to hear about. And get ready to grow.

Chris Postalwait

Chris is the agricultural and environmental research station and greenhouse manager for West Virginia State University Research & Development Corporation.

He has experience implementing integrated pest management for plants, greenhouse design and environment control, soil tilth and nutrient management, small fruit and orchard management, cover crops and alternative cropping systems, greenhouse and field drip irrigation systems, wholesale commercial vegetable farming, composting, and tractor and farm equipment safety.

He is also the former owner of Orange Vine LLC, a wholesale commercial pumpkin and vegetable farm in Mason County.

Contact Chris at

Lynne Schwartz-Barker

Lynne is the senior garden designer and a partner in Flowerscape, a family-owned landscape design, planting and maintenance company, which she started in 1984. She was a 12-year member of the Charleston Beautification Commission and wrote Gardenscape, a weekly gardening column for the Charleston Daily Mail and the Sunday Gazette-Mail, from 1985 to 2006.

Lynne is an avid home gardener as well, fond of vegetables, herbs and ornamentals.

“I find it endlessly fascinating,” she said, “and after 40 years of gardening, I am always eager to learn something new.”

She has been a contributing writer and designer for the Rodale Press book “Gardening With Perennials.” She is currently working on a novel and is a board member of the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association.

Lynne can be reached at

Jane Powell

Jane combines her love of gardens, fashion and design. By day she is the communications director for a community foundation. With a history in retail and an eye for display and color, plus experience as a long-time West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener (Kanawha County chapter), she brings a unique perspective to the garden.

Jane is active in the community and volunteers with several nonprofits as well as Kanawha County Master Gardeners. She lives in a little house on a big hill in Charleston.

Her garden has sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs, all of this in the midst of dogs, deer and other creatures of the woods.

Reach Jane at

Brit Blevins

Brit is a writer, artist and plant enthusiast living in Charleston. She has recently joined the talented team at Flowerscape as a design assistant.

She comes to gardening from an artistic angle and wants to bring her love of color, vibrancy and storytelling to landscaping. Her current projects include a series of novels and a video blog.

Brit can be contacted at

Alex Cole

Alex is a native of Fraziers Bottom, the son of an Ivy League-educated horticulturist and a landscape artist. He’s been landscaping all of his life and currently lives off the grid in a small, solar-powered cabin he built on a 217-acre farm that has been in his family for six generations.

In addition to landscaping and seasonal work in greenhouses, he works at County Extension Agent Chuck Talbott’s woodland-raised pork farm. Alex has expertise in permaculture design and works in the woods with the pigs along with maintaining vegetable gardens, repairing riparian zones and creating all new perennial and pollinator gardens.

Reach Alex at

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