Cyndi Tourtellot- Master Gardener of the Summer

October 2023

Cyndi Tourtellot

As a child, Cyndi was fascinated by her grandmother’s bulbs which suddenly emerged in the spring unannounced.  Later she helped her son’s school fundraiser by selling bulbs.  To this day, 25 years later, she still has some of these bulbs. Around 2007 she met Chris Wiesinger, author of “The Bulb Hunter”, who identified her bulbs as Habranthus Robustus.  She became a MG in 2014 and has been dedicated to both learning and service as a volunteer.

Cyndi is an optimist:  no matter what shape a bulb is in, shriveled or misshapen, she will give it a chance to grow and produce a flower in her garden.  Cyndi feels the same way with plant propagation: it may be a challenge, but learning how to take a cutting and nurture it to a new plant is very satisfying.  When two of her Dessert Willow trees had to be taken down, she took cuttings and now has a number of new “babies” to share.   She has a number of rare plants with heart shaped leaves that she nurtures: a Bauhinia Yunnanensis vine (and others which have roots in the orchid family); a Hong Kong Orchid, and a Blue-Sky vine with lavender flowers and a cream center.  Usually, she finds these plants at plant shows- at the San Antonio Botanical Garden – and other venues.  Mutabulis rose is another favorite.  While working at the Health Science Center she fell in love with the Rangoon Creeper Vine with three separate colors of flowers (white, pink and red) and now has a very vibrant vine growing in her yard.

Cyndi retired in 2015, as an organ transplant RN, from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (now called UT Health San Antonio).  She supported her ailing brother in Indiana (he passed in 2014) by landscaping his front yard to give him some joy in his remaining time.  She had to learn a lot about plants from that region which expanded her knowledge base.

She described her interest in the Children’s Vegetable Garden (CVG).   She started volunteering on Saturdays at SABOT CVG in 2015 but found that supporting the Phil Hardberger Park CVG (PHP CVG) fit her schedule and location better.  She credits this BCMG Volunteer Team with teaching her about vegetable growing and harvesting.  She learned to adapt to container gardening in her home, helping her family and neighbors learn about growing vegetables in containers as a result of her learning.   She is excited by working with the homeschool population because the children and families are so polite and caring.  They come to the PHP CVG as part of their school day.  Several families have been with the PHP CVG since elementary school and have now aged out at 14 years of age.  These families get so excited about producing vegetables and get into “fun” competitions about who has raised the most pounds of vegetables. 

Two years ago, a BCMG volunteer at Phil Hardberger Park CVG passed away.  The CVG team created a flower bed named “Joan’s Garden” with a Forest Pansy Redbud tree in her honor.  The ice storm of 2023 greatly damaged the redbud, but Cyndi nurtured the tree back to its thriving state.  Tangerine cross vines were planted later in memory of another BCMG volunteer at PHP CVG. This year a special herb garden has been started in honor of another volunteer’s family loss. 

Cyndi commented about working with other Master Gardener Volunteers: “We learn a lot- share plants, experiences, and knowledge.”  She looks forward to going weekly and has now gotten her husband involved as a helper.  Even after a fall last year, resulting in a fractured kneecap, Cyndi still came to the garden to help and provide support to the other volunteers.  Never phased by dirty work, Cyndi has tackled the garden shed and keeps it well organized, ready for each week’s work in Phil Hardberger Park Children’s Vegetable Garden.

Interview by Judy Warren, BCMG 9/24/23