A Woman Of Purpose

A Master Gardener Volunteer Profile
Marie Nickerson at the Zimmerman House in Manchester

“Smells mean a lot to me,” says Marie Georgi Nickerson. She loves almost all odors, even the smell of an old jacket she once wore in a horse barn. She had it on in a store one day, which prompted the woman behind her to snidely remark about the smell. Marie turned, smiled and said, “That must be my coat. Isn’t it wonderful!” Marie, president of the N.H. Master Gardener Association, talked about her love of the word “petrichor” — the earthy smell of soil after a rain — in her opening remarks at the March 2018 NHMGA Spring Symposium.

She also enthused about her love of herbs. In the early part of her life, she grew a three-foot-wide herb garden the length of her house. “I used to stick my head out the window every morning to get as much of the scent imprinted on my brain before heading off to work.” Marie was an office manager for 30 years at various medical offices, and after retiring she worked as a greenhouse manager at a home and garden store. “Even today, herbs are my favorite garden plants,” she says. “I never outgrew the magic…the sensory overload I get working with herbs.”

Her time managing the NHMGA has been “a good experience.” Her term ends in December 2018, but Marie will still be ever busy. She is a UNH Marine Docent and a N.H. Granite State Ambassador. As a seasonal employee of the Shoals Marine Laboratory, she is the steward of Celia Laighton Thaxter's historically reconstructed garden. Celia was a 19th century author, artist and poet who had a summer home on Appledore, Maine, in the Isle of Shoals.

Marie and her husband Eric of Milford have three children and eight grandchildren. She takes care of two grandchildren almost every Friday. Gardening runs in Marie’s family. She was born in Nashua in 1955, one of four children. Her late sister, Denise, who died a year and half ago, had a “well-groomed, spectacular” garden. “Her garden was a little Eden, an oasis in the city” of Nashua. Marie fondly remembers her dad, who loved gardening and had around 100 rose bushes “that he lovingly cared for.” She guesses he got his gardening passion from his mother, Marie’s grandmother. “This is where I get my love of gardening.”

One of this industrious woman’s sayings is: If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it. “I let it surprise me. I love learning. I can't stop.”

After retiring she joined two garden clubs, and is still a member of the Amherst Garden Club. Marie is also crazy about rabbits, and has a collection of about 100 in her home, 30 of which are in her kitchen along with five herb plants.

She became a Master Gardener in spring 2009. “I thought it was a great way to learn and present avenues to give back. Like I do with everything, I jumped in with both feet.” She says she had no problem getting the required MG hours to stay active.

Marie was born with a veil — a rare birth event. The veil, or caul, is a thin, shear membrane covering a baby’s face at birth. Some cultures consider it a sign the child is gifted, or has a special destiny. “I'm still trying to figure that out. I also got my last rights at 16, but didn't die,” she says. “I think I’m being saved for something, so I have to make every minute count until that moment comes.”

Photo by Dave Pushee

UNH Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers share information about home, yard, and garden topics with the people of New Hampshire. Got questions? Master Gardeners provide practical help finding answers to your questions through the Ask UNH Extension Infoline. Call toll free at 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or e-mail us at answers@unh.edu.

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Anna Boudreau
State Advisory Council Chair, Natural Resources Steward and NH Coverts Cooperator