Go Straight to Candidates

To Learn About Their Views

The writer from the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area has a good idea for all the Virginia candidates running for governor to participate in an open forum ["League Hopes Kilgore Will Take Part in Forum," Letters, Fairfax Extra, Aug. 4].

The culture of today's politics makes it difficult to get candidates' views out to the public. Generally, we the voters are critical of the format used. We have witnessed previous forums conducted on TV at the national level. Most of them yielded little information about the candidates' views on issues that voters wanted to hear. Instead, the people running the forum did a poor job by asking the wrong questions to the presidential candidates. If you recall the last presidential forum, when the undecided voters were polled and asked if the forum helped them decide whom to vote for, their responses indicated that it didn't help much.

I would submit another idea: Let the voters submit questions to Fairfax Extra, and have its staff identify those questions that are asked by the majority of its readers and then submit these questions to each of the gubernatorial candidates for a response. The Post could publish the candidates' answers. Of course, any public organization could do this as long as the sponsor organization is acceptable to all the candidates. Just another idea.

Ronald L. Baker


Master Gardeners

Cover Wide Territory

It was with great interest that I read "The Yard Doctors Are In" [Fairfax Extra, Aug. 4] about the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association.

However, I did want to let you know that there are two units of master gardeners serving Fairfax County -- one that you featured, and the other, the Green Spring Master Gardeners, sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and supported by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Green Spring unit was formed in 2001 in response to the county's growing demand for master gardener training. A new class graduates every November; the roster includes more than 100 active master gardener volunteers.

The Green Spring Master Gardeners' projects include the EcoSavvy Gardening Symposium; speaking engagements at garden clubs, homeowners associations and other community groups to encourage responsible gardening practices; staffing the Horticulture Helpline; teaching introductory gardening classes at Green Spring Gardens; and much more. Another interesting side note is that the Fairfax County Farmers Markets where plant clinics are held are managed by the Park Authority's community horticulture department at Green Spring Gardens.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Fairfax County Master Gardener Program based at Green Spring Gardens can go to www.greenspring.org or call 703-642-0128. The fall 2005 class is full, but additions are being made to the waiting list for 2006.

Susan McDonald

Community Horticulture Program Coordinator

A Second Opinion

On Magnolia 'Tumors'

I have some good news for the Fausser family, whose star magnolia was a central topic in the Aug. 4 article on master gardeners. The "tumors" on the Fausser's magnolia tree are not tumors at all -- neither malignant nor benign. They are the normal fruits of the tree -- a fact that should have been evident upon dissection.

Perhaps these star magnolia fruits were unfamiliar to the master gardeners due to the fact that these trees are very often victims of late frosts, which blight their blooms and prevent normal fruit production. The spring of 2005 was a rare one in which most of our deciduous magnolias -- even outside the Beltway -- had a chance to complete their reproductive process uninterrupted by such a frost.

Wilson Gorham

Professor of Biology

Northern Virginia

Community College