By Scott Woodbury
Cindy Gilberg grew up in Missouri with a sense of wonder about the natural world. Before the age of electronic devices her family snorkeled in Ozark streams in search of cool waters and underwater critters. They hiked natural areas exploring for plants and ferns and things wild. As an adult Cindy picked wild mushrooms and edible weeds and grew vegetables which she and husband Doug fed to their children Becca and Nathan, who are now grown up and following in their footsteps. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Cindy’s story reminds me of Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder who wrote: “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist”. I think of Cindy as the parent passing on a love for this earth; her audience, her readers, her colleagues and her clients being the children in her extended family.
She pursued a passion for horticulture and received a degree in ornamental horticulture from University of Missouri-Columbia. Cindy fine-tuned the art of gardening as co-owner of Gilberg Perennial Farms, a garden center that offered a wide array of unusual, hard-to-find perennials. Here, she developed extensive display gardens and devoted herself to educating the gardening public. Starting in 1993, Cindy collaborated with Shaw Nature Reserve as an event speaker and tour leader for the Native Plant Conference and later Native Plant School, both held in the Shaw Nature Reserve. In 2006 she began working in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden (Shaw Nature Reserve) designing, installing and maintaining native plantings. During this time, she got her feet wet in the native woodland and rain gardens and has since become an authority on the subjects. Her expertise with rain gardening earned her key positions working with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Rainscape Rebates program and rainscaping webpage.
In recent years Cindy was also a native landscaping consultant assisting people with landscape design, storm water management, native plant landscaping and creating habitat gardens. Cindy was also a past-president of the Greater St Louis Horticulture Co-op, Midwest Director for the Perennial Plant Association and Manager of the Wildwood Farms Community Garden.
Her ideas on native plants and landscaping are chronicled over the past decade through regular contributions to the News from Native Plant School Newsletter, Gateway Gardener, Healthy Planet, the Kansas City Gardener and Missouri Ruralist. Cindy has taught many horticulture classes for the region’s garden community, both residential and commercial for the last 30 years. She was a regular instructor at Missouri Botanical Garden. Also, with garden writer and mother Barbara Perry Lawton, Cindy co-wrote Shaw Nature Reserve: 85 years of Natural Wonders. Cindy was creative, was ever curious and possessed an intuitive design sense all of which rang clearly in her day-to-day conversations and work. She engaged people in conversation yet led by example and so often gently inspired others to follow in her footsteps. Most notably perhaps was her sense of humor and strong work ethic which she managed to hold on to throughout her life and battle with cancer. You might never know she had battled with cancer since 2007 except everyone in the world of horticulture knew her. Cindy was connected to so many people and in so many circles. Cindy often shared a lending hand, a view, an explanation, an edit, an argument, a recipe, an hour of her time, a favorite plant description, a gardening tip or a compliment all of which followed with a smile and warm hugs. She shared often and freely without question or complaint. Cindy’s wisdom, her warmth, her ideas, her jokes, her balanced opinion, openness and caring will live on in our memory and no doubt will guide our footsteps in the days to come. You will be missed dearly Cindy by all of us for many decades. Warm wishes and hugs right back at ya’!
Editor’s note: we encourage readers to share their memories of Cindy in the comments.
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