U of A Cooperative Extension: Master Gardener

Zann Wilson and Laurie Foster (Photo by Ellen Sosin)

Four Master Gardeners Receive Honors

Ellen Sosin, Pinal County Master Gardener

One of Saddlebrooke/Saddlebrooke Ranch Master Gardeners’ longest-serving members, Zann Wilson, will be relocating and leaving our group. In addition to our Master Gardener sending her off with a personal tribute honoring her and her service, she was one of only four people in Pinal County who recently received recognition from the Pinal County Extension Office for over 1,000 hours of service.

On April 2 at the Maricopa Agricultural Center, the University of Arizona Pinal County Extension office offered a day of education and recognition for the over 150 Master Gardeners who serve Pinal County. The University of Arizona’s extension agent Anne Leseene honored Master Gardeners who have given an extraordinary amount of service to their communities. The Saddlebrooke/Saddlebrooke Ranch Master Gardeners were extremely proud to have four of their members receive awards. Zann, along with Laurie Foster, received honors for providing over 1,000 hours of volunteer time to their community. Also honored from the Saddlebrooke/Saddlebrooke Ranch group were Elissa Cochran and Ellen Sosin, with over 500 hours each.

Zann Wilson has been earning her 1,000 hours in Pinal County since 2012. Prior to coming to Arizona, Zann served as a Master Gardener in Indiana, and prior to that, in North Carolina, earning her a collective 20 years of service to this organization. She has worked tirelessly to share her knowledge and love of gardening with our communities. She started the Gardeners Exchange in 2014, offering gardening talks at the Ranch. She is known by many residents who always feel comfortable to reach out to her with questions. In addition, Zann has provided help and guidance to the Ranch Architectural and Landscape Committee when asked, and was the inspiration behind a comprehensive list of recommended plants for our communities to use, which is located on the Master Gardener website.

Zann and husband Mike Wilson are moving back to Indiana in May to be closer to family. It comes as no surprise to learn that Zann will be rejoining her Indiana group of Master Gardeners when she settles in.

Back to the Garden—Snakes— Eco-engineers?

Rattlesnake (photo by Jim Hoagland)

Sheilah Britton, Pinal County Master Gardener

Snakes and serpents have always held a sacred place in religion, literature, and mythology. Interestingly, they seem to be the yin and yang of symbolism. Sometimes they assume superhero status, while other times they represent evil and destruction. Here in the Southwestern deserts of the United States and Northwest Mexico, snakes live their duality in the midst of human intervention. And while most snakes are harmless, the rattlesnake does cause real concern in our communities.

Arizona claims 13 species of rattlesnakes, more than any other state. In the deserts, rattlesnakes are most active from March to October, but they are known to bask in the sun every month of the year. The most commonly seen snakes are the Western Diamond-backed, Mohave, Black-tailed, and Sidewinder. I personally have spotted a western diamondback and a sidewinder on my property. Both were relocated by firefighters from Golder Ranch Fire District (GRFD). Adam Jarrold, acting chief with GRFD, reported responding to nearly 3,000 snake calls districtwide for 2021.

When I asked Anne-Marie Braswell, community relations manager for GRFD, why snakes are attracted to our communities, she replied with a better question: “They were here first, so I suppose we should be asking, ‘Why are we attracted to their community?’” She continued, saying to eliminate water from your yard. “Snakes are attracted to pools, fountains, birdbaths, etc. Snakes are also attracted to rodents. Keep a tidy yard in order to minimize the risk of pack rats or other rodents using any piles of brush or debris as a den.”

“Snakes are attracted to areas that attract their prey,” says Robert Villa, a research associate and curator at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. Snakes feed on frogs, insects, rabbits, rats, packrats, mice, and other rodents. As gardeners, we can appreciate snakes for their appetites and also for their ability to facilitate secondary seed dispersal. When snakes consume rodents and other species, seeds are expelled into the larger environment. This supports the growth and survival of plant species. Some have even labeled snakes as ecosystem engineers.

According to the CDC, an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, and about five of those people die. The number of deaths would be much higher if people did not seek medical care. If a venomous snake bites you, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the bitten area changes color, begins to swell, or is painful.

If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:

• Move beyond the snake’s striking distance.

• Remain still and calm.

• Remove jewelry and tight clothing.

• Position yourself so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.

• Clean the wound with soap and water.

• Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.

• Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.

• Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol.

• Don’t try to capture the snake.


We all want to live in this complex environment. The more we know about the wildlife with whom we share our space, the better we are able to appreciate the desert. As Villa suggests, “Be aware of your surroundings and think about the moral value of co-existing with wildlife.”

SaddleBrooke/SaddleBrooke Ranch Master Gardeners are volunteers trained under the auspices of the University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension, Pinal County. We offer educational programs and classes to residents of our communities.

Do you need advice or have questions about your own garden? Send an email to [email protected] and include your name, address, phone number, and photos of your issues.

Visit our website extension.arizona.edu/saddlebrooke-master-gardeners for more information.

Master Gardeners Presents ‘Spicy Shrubs for the Desert Southwest’

Zann Wilson, Pinal County Master Gardener

Join your SaddleBrooke/SaddleBrooke Ranch Master Gardeners on Wednesday, May 18, at MountainView Ballroom West at 1 p.m. for “Spicy Shrubs for the Desert Southwest” with Starr Nursery owner Greg Starr. Greg will discuss a treasure trove of little-known shrubs, including some fantastic flowering perennials. Gregg is the author of Agaves and Cool Plants for Hot Gardens (recently revised new edition), which will be available for purchase. Greg will also have plants to sell, so bring your cash or checks.

After graduating from the University of Arizona with an Master of Science degree in horticulture/botany, Greg opened Starr Nursery in 1985, specializing in new and unusual drought-tolerant plants. Over the course of 20 years, he wrote Cool Plants for Hot Gardens to help homeowners and landscapers in the Desert Southwest select appropriate plants for their landscapes. Don’t miss this informative, live, in-person program. Bring any garden or landscape questions before the program to ask your Master Gardener.

If you have any questions, contact [email protected]