After spending 17 years with CSU Extension as a Boulder County horticulture agent, she retired and wrote the first of her gardening books, called Gardening in the Mountain West.
The publisher took issue with her manuscript because it included “too much Latin” and refused to publish it or return her original.
Because she didn’t have a copy of the book, she was relentless in pestering him for the manuscript. Then one evening he drove to her house and threw it on the front steps where it landed with a thud.
“I didn’t care,” she says. “I got my book back.”
As the first woman to graduate from CSU’s Horticulture Program in 1977, and just the second female horticulture agent in the U.S., Barbara had to learn to stand up for herself in a male-dominated agricultural industry.
Barbara, now 93 and living in Longmont, had a long and successful career with Extension even though it was tough for a woman in those days. Apparently agriculture agents didn’t think women belonged in horticulture.
Whenever there was enough money in the Extension telephone budget, she’d make long-distance calls to the other female horticulture agent so they could commiserate.
Barbara grew up in Colorado and says she always loved gardening. Her father came from an Iowa farm and her mother raised flowers so she learned gardening at an early age. She says she always had a little spot in the garden that was all hers.
“I could plant anything I wanted and some things were dreadful.”
That early start eventually led to gaining two degrees in horticulture from CSU. Working with other Extension agents around the country, she helped get the Master Gardener program off the ground. Eventually more than 500 volunteers had signed on in Boulder County before she retired in 1990, according to her bio.
In addition to Gardening in the Mountain West (published in 1999), Barbara authored three other books. The most recent is a gardening book for children and their grandparents. She also wrote weekly gardening columns for newspapers in the region and still writes for several garden club newsletters.
The second edition of Gardening in the Mountain West is a classic text on how to garden in one of the most challenging climates in the country (and it’s still available from online sellers). She dedicated it “to the volunteer Master Gardeners of Cooperative Extension. They have had a major impact on the level of horticultural excellence now achieved by the gardeners of this nation.”
Her affinity for CSU Extension and the Master Gardener program continues today. She’s contributed a tidy sum to start the Barbara J. Boardman Fund at the university.
By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener