Expert horticulturalist to speak at Wicwas Grange Thursday

MEREDITH – One of the nation's foremost horticulturalists and an expert on composting will give a presentation and answer questions during an appearance at the Wicwas Lake Grange on Thursday, September 6, at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Francis Gouin, a Laconia native, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland where he served on the faculty for 33 years, chairing the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture from 1990 until his retirement in 1995.

Maurice "Mo" Gouin of Meredith, who arranged for his brother to speak at the local Grange, recounted that his sibling took a serendipitous route to finding his passion for plants.

Sickened by rheumatic fever at age 9, Francis Gouin wasn't expected to live long. His mother encouraged him to help her in the family garden, a task that led to improved health and his epiphany that he liked having his hands in the dirt.

At age 12, their father allowed "Frank" to take over the family's acre-and-a-half vegetable garden and roadside farm stand. While in high school, he worked alongside his father as a plumber, tended the garden, ran the farm stand and rebuilt a greenhouse.

While Mo continued in the plumbing and heating field, earning his master status and joining those who testified before the N.H. Legislature resulting in passage of a law requiring licensing of plumbers, Frank headed to the University of New Hampshire's Thompson School of Agriculture.

Unable to afford a dorm, Gouin lived in a room above a greenhouse in return for care-taking. When not in class, he banked 65 cents an hour working in the greenhouse and received the perk of being shoulder to shoulder with distinguished horticulturists like Albert Yeager. Dr. Yeager was considered a genius in plant breeding and developed a midget watermelon and the High C tomato, which had four times the vitamin C content as a regular tomato, and three times the vitamin content of an average orange.

After honing his skills working summers as a nurseryman, Gouin transferred to a four-year program at UNH and went on to earn a B.S. degree in horticulture. Not surprisingly, he met and married a fellow horticultural student, Clara.

After graduation, they headed south where Gouin pursued his M.S. and then his Ph.D. degrees in ornamental horticulture at the University of Maryland, College Park. And to add the crowning touch to a match made in heaven, Clara earned a degree in landscape architecture from Morgan State University.

After being awarded his doctorate, Dr. Gouin accepted an appointment to the faculty of Maryland's Department of Horticulture and left a lasting legacy. He now resides in Deale, MD.

The Wicwas Lake Grange is located in Meredith Center at the intersections of Meredith Center Road, Corliss Hill Road and Livingston Road, next door to the Meredith Center Store.