“Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens” Lecture

February 21, 2013 under CANR News

If you haven’t registered yet, there is still time to sign up for C. Colston Burrell’s lecture titled, “Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens,” scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

The onset of winter brings a respite from heat, and signals the start of a season filled with berried branches and seductive silhouettes. This lecture focuses on the unique challenges of creating interest with both living and built elements and presents a variety of approaches to fashioning plant combinations that add texture, color, and fragrance to the unsung season. Burrell is an acclaimed lecturer, garden designer, award-winning author, and photographer.

UDBG Friends members: $15; Nonmembers: $20

Location: The Commons, Townsend Hall

Another event you won’t want to miss….

Plant Sale Highlights Lecture

Wednesday, March 13, 7–9 p.m.

Please come enjoy the lively repartee of dynamic plant gurus Dr. John Frett and Dr. Bob Lyons as they describe and illustrate many of the perennial and woody plants offered in the catalog and at the sale.

UDBG Friends members: $5; Nonmembers: $10

Location: The Commons, Townsend Hall

To Register for these UDBG events: Email botanicgardens@udel.edu or contact Sue Biddle at 302-831-2531


Delawareans can takes steps to avoid winter plant damage

February 18, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

native delawarePeople have been whining about the weather recently. We’ve dealt with high wind and rain from a nor’easter that walloped states to the north. We’ve had icy, sleety and snowy mornings — not enough to close schools but enough to be an annoyance. We’ve seen Old Man Winter switch on and off, from artic conditions to spells of warmth.

If plants could whine, they would be whining right along with us. Winter can be a tough time on plants, especially young plants and those that were transplanted this year. Branches can break from ice, snow and wind; leaves can get dried and burnt from salt damage, roots pushed out of the soil from frost heave; and lack of moisture can cause plant tissues to suffer desiccation.

Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet – spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20. In fact, the waning days of winter can be the trickiest for plants, when it’s common for temperatures to fluctuate wildly from day to day.

You can’t do much to prevent some types of winter plant damage – like salt burn on shrubs by the street. Most road maintenance crews persist in using road salt, not eco-friendly alternatives such as sand or calcium chloride.

But other issues are avoidable, says Carrie Murphy, a University of Delaware horticulture agent. And even when damage occurs, it often can be fixed.

For example, in the case of salt burn, the effects can be minimized by flushing the plants in early spring. Apply two inches of water over a three-hour period and repeat three days later. This will leach much of the salt from the soil.

Avoiding winter damage starts by choosing the right plants for the right place. Think about overall conditions – how much sun, rain, wind and cold your plants will experience. Don’t forget to factor in any specific microclimates within the yard, such as wet spots and windy areas.

“I have chosen plants for my garden that are fully hardy,” says UD Cooperative Extension horticulture specialist Sue Barton. As a result, Barton’s plants don’t need a lot of help in winter. She waters all of her plants thoroughly in the fall, especially if it’s been dry. She also rakes leaves into her landscape beds for a layer of protective mulch. Some years she loosely places evergreen boughs over top tender plants.

Bob Lyons, director of UD’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture, also is a big fan of mulch and makes sure that his new plantings are covered with a blanket of it before winter winds blow.

If you didn’t mulch in the fall and are worried about young plants, then get out there now – it’s not too late, notes Murphy. Mulching reduces water loss and it also helps to prevent frost heave.

When soil freezes and thaws in rapid succession, shallow-rooted plants can be pushed out of the ground. Mulching decreases frost heave by reducing the amount of alternate freezing and thawing that occurs.

Dick Pelly has been staffing the Master Gardeners’ Garden Line since joining the group in 1999. In winter, he often gets asked what to do about branches that have broken off because of ice, wind or snow.

Pelly recommends removing the broken limbs as soon as conditions are safe and weather permits. Doing so helps the tree or shrub heal faster. Damaged trees are more prone to disease.

Another question that frequently comes up is whether or not to wrap trees in burlap. Although Pelly doesn’t use burlap in his own yard, he says it can be a good way to shield smaller trees, fruit trees and evergreens from cold temperatures and wind. In coastal areas, wrapping a tree can help reduce the damaging effects of salt spray.

Highway crews may use salt, but that doesn’t mean you should use it on your sidewalks and driveway, notes Pelly. Eco-friendly and effective alternatives include sand, ashes and kitty litter.

Learn more

Those with questions about winter plant damage can call the Garden Line in New Castle County at 831-8862. In Kent, call 730-4000, and in Sussex, call 856-2585, ext. 535. A Master Gardener will return your call within 24 hours.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD’s Longwood grad students donate time, energy to Awbury Arboretum

September 25, 2012 under CANR News

“If you build it, they will come” may work for baseball fields but it’s not always enough for arboretums.

Case in point — the Awbury Arboretum, a 55-acre public garden laid out in a series of open spaces, with mature trees and shrubs overlooking scenic vistas. It’s a pocket of lush greenery in the Germantown neighborhood of northwest Philadelphia.

“Even though the arboretum is free and open daily, it’s underutilized by the community,” says Sara Levin Stevenson, a student in the University of Delaware’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture.

Stevenson and her fellow grad students hope to make positive changes at the arboretum via their Professional Outreach Project (POP). As part of the project, the students recently completed designs for signs in and around the arboretum. One set of signs should create more inviting entryways around the perimeter of the arboretum; another set will help visitors better navigate their way through the property. The students also have developed plant lists to add color and seasonal interest to several entrances.

Each year, the Longwood students tackle a new POP in early July, shortly after the first-year students arrive on campus. By the end of September, the bulk of the project is completed. As the POP acronym implies, the students pop on to a site, assess the situation, determine what can be done quickly and effectively, and then complete the job.

“I love the Professional Outreach Project because the students learn a tremendous amount in a brief period of time,” says Bob Lyons, director of the Longwood Graduate Program. “They’re immersed in a fast-paced, short-term assignment and have to think on their feet. Plus, it’s great to see how area organizations have benefited from this program.”

Past POP projects have included a design for a therapeutic garden for mental health patients at Delaware State Hospital; a program and membership development strategy for Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore, Pa.; and a meadow management plan for Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia.

Last spring, the students reviewed proposal requests from gardens throughout the tri-state area before deciding to work with Awbury. Choosing which organization to play fairy godmother to wasn’t easy, recalls Stevenson, who is a co-leader of the project.

“There were many deserving organizations but since I have an interest in community outreach I was excited that we decided to go with Awbury,” says Stevenson.

The Longwood students hope that their project encourages residents to visit Awbury more often and see it as their community’s special cultural institution with a focus on plants.

“We really want to get Awbury on people’s radar screens,” says Stevenson.

Stevenson learned about urban gardens and community outreach before she arrived at UD. After several years as a Latin teacher in Seattle, she decided she wanted an outside job, working with her hands. She joined an all-woman, organic landscaping company in Seattle and after several years became the education intern at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia.

Her master’s thesis will focus on the ways that gardens and local communities can support each other. “Places like the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the gardens at UC Davis are doing some really exciting things to engage the local community,” notes Stevenson.

First-year Longwood student Josh Darfler says he learned a lot from the Awbury project.

“Awbury is a great organization that faces some challenges,” says Darfler. “However, their ability to reach outside their walls and connect with the community is something I hope I can start to learn before this project is over. Various organizations have formed a great core network that strives to keep Awbury thriving and active through good times and bad.”

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Learn about native color in the garden at UD lecture planned Sept. 4

August 27, 2012 under CANR News

Get John Frett and Lyons talking about color in the garden and (good-natured) sparks are sure to fly.

Frett is a connoisseur of a “refined” color palette. Director of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens, Frett gets more enthused about the form, texture and structure of a plant than the shade of its blooms. In contrast, when it comes to color, Lyons’ motto is “bring it on.”

“You should see the containers on my front porch,” says Lyons, director of UD’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture. “Oranges, yellows, reds, blues, purples – I’ve got every flower color imaginable. I’m not into the bland stuff, like some people are.”

“Bob is all about ‘in-your-face color,’” retorts Frett with a chuckle.

Although they enjoy tongue-in-cheek needling, Frett and Lyons also respect each other’s talents and sensibilities. So when Frett needed an expert to talk about color in the landscape, he looked no farther than Lyons, who has lectured widely on the subject.

Lyons will present “The Color of the Native Plant Palette … and other Related Thoughts” on Sept. 4 in UD’s Townsend Hall. A kick-off event for the annual UD Botanic Gardens Fall Plant Sale, the talk will focus on readily available herbaceous plants that pack a wallop of color.

Like the spiky, show-stopping red blooms of cardinal flower. Or, the bright yellow flower heads of sunflower, which can extend a foot in diameter, on plants that are 12 feet tall. Or, the vibrant, tangerine-orange blooms of butterfly weed.

What’s more, this panoply of color comes from plants that are native to Delaware.

“Some people think that the exciting colors are only found on exotic plants and that blandness reigns in the world of natives,” says Lyons. “But bright color can be achieved with many northeastern U.S. native herbaceous species and other North American species.”

After his house burned to the ground two years ago, Lyons decided to re-build on the same site and has focused his time ever since on the reconstruction project. As a result, some invasives, including Japanese knotweed, have made inroads into his yard. This summer — his first in the new home – Lyons has plunged into revitalizing his garden.

To satisfy his craving for color, he has planted native varieties of azalea and hibiscus as well as alumroot, Joe Pye weed and butterfly weed. A small meadow, predominantly of wildflowers, will be planted this fall. Lyons hopes to feature a jumble of hues, from the purples and lavenders of New England aster to coreopsis, in shades of lemon and butter yellow.  Closer to the house, Lyons’ garden becomes more intensely cultivated, with pops of color from native perennials such as Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica), which has bright red and yellow blooms.

Lyons also uses annuals for a blast of color. He selects non-natives, such as petunias, geraniums and impatiens, as well as annuals native to Delaware, including Black-eyed Susan and coreopsis.

Lyons’ Sept. 4 lecture will feature plenty of photos of brightly hued private and public gardens. He’ll also present info about the “fast trackers” – those new hybrid varieties of natives notable for their color. Indian Summer Rudbecka and Sunrise Echinacea are two such “current darlings of the industry,” says Lyons.

The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for members of the UD Botanic Garden Friends group; $10 for nonmembers. The plant sale will be held Sept. 7, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., and Sept. 8, 8 a.m.- 11 a.m. To register for the lecture, or for more info about either event, call 831-0153.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD horticulturalists see understated attractions of winter landscape

January 26, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The lyrics of “California Dreamin'” by John and Michelle Phillips are well known and appropriate for the season: “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey, California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”

Although many yearn to flee the First State during the long slog of winter, not everyone is dreaming of California. For every Delaware gardener poring over seed catalogs and wishing for spring, there’s another gardener like John Frett who’s outside every day enjoying the landscape, regardless of the weather.

Frett, the director of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG), loves winter and spends time in his yard or the botanic gardens every day, all year long.

“I grew up in Chicago and lived in Maine for three years,” says Frett. “Delaware doesn’t know what cold weather is.”

Beyond a hearty constitution for the cold, Frett has an appreciation for the understated attractions of the winter landscape.

“The structure of the trees, shrubs and woody plants are more evident in winter when there are fewer things competing for your attention,” says Frett.

At the 15-acre UD Botanic Gardens, the leaves are long gone (evergreens excepted) so it’s easy to see that trees come in all shapes and sizes. There are columnar, round, conical, broad-spreading, upright-spreading, weeping and elliptical trees in the gardens. And a wide range of texture is now revealed, from the peel-away bark of the paperbark maple to the ridged and furrowed bark of the tulip poplar.

But it’s not just a lack of competing attractions that makes the winter landscape visually arresting for Andrew Olson, public landscape manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture. He points out that the weaker winter sun casts a different light on things.

“The lower angle of the sun in the winter really highlights grasses and garden structures,” says Olson. “Even the silhouettes of trees ‘pop’ in the waning afternoon light. A garden or natural landscape that may seem brown and bleak can be spectacular as the sun rises or sets.”

Carrie Murphy, New Castle County horticulture agent for UD Cooperative Extension, notes that a landscape’s backbone is completely revealed in winter. “Everything is completely naked and the landscape’s overall shape and structure becomes a focal point.”

“I also appreciate how sounds move through a winter landscape — everything is much more audible — the whipping winds, rustling leaves and movements of wildlife,” she says.

Eileen Boyle looks for the small details in the landscape. “While the perennials sleep off the winter and the bulbs wait their turn, I am enjoying the daily show of the ferns, mosses and other little plants that are last to go dormant,” says Boyle, a horticulturalist at Hagley Museum and Gardens.

Fellow Hagley horticulturalist Renee Huber says that she appreciates the structure of beech and sycamore trees in winter.

“I always enjoy the sycamore trees against the Brandywine this time of year; they’re like gentle giants with white and gray blotched bark,” says Huber.

Sue Barton, UD Cooperative Extension specialist for ornamental horticulture, likes the sycamore in winter, too. Other favorites include river birch, winterberry holly and the Emerald Sentinel variety of Eastern red cedar, which has vivid blue fruit.

Bob Lyons, director of UD’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture, admits that he doesn’t much like winter. However, he does appreciate the architecture of trees now, especially when they’re outlined by a wet snow.  He particularly enjoys sweet gum, tulip poplar and deciduous hollies.

If the winter landscape looks enticing — that is, until you read the forecast and hear the winds howl — Olson has just two words of advice: “get outside.”

“Put on some layers and get out there,” he says. “You will be so glad you did.”

Here are some of the things to see in the late-January landscape:

• At the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s gardens, which are free and open to the public, a bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’) gets lots of attention this time of year because of its intensely colored red and orange stems. Also look for the black pussy willow, which is beginning to display purplish black catkins. The Kentucky coffee tree, paperbark maple and river birch also look great this time of year, says Olson.

• Evergreen fans will want to check out the UD Botanic Gardens, which has a large collection of both conifer and broad-leaf evergreens. Native species include the loblolly pine and American holly. And you’ll find many other hollies — the UDBG features 50-plus varieties and is a test arboretum for the American Holly Society.

• At Hagley Museum and Gardens, snowdrops are in bloom in front of the Hagley residences and skunk cabbage is blooming in the woods and by the river. Boyle notes that the bright orange rose hips on old-fashioned antique variety roses provide perching and food for local birds.  Hagley arborist Richard Pratt loves Hagley’s osage orange in wintertime. “It stands like a large bronze sculpture with its deeply furrowed copper-colored bark on its majestic trunk and its crown spreading high and wide into the sky,” says Pratt.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily


University reaches articulation agreement with Longwood Gardens

January 13, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware and Longwood Gardens have reached a five-year articulation agreement that will allow students who graduate from Longwood’s Professional Gardener Program to complete their bachelor of science degrees in the agriculture and natural resources major in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

The Professional Gardener Program at Longwood Gardens is a two-year, tuition-free program offered every year to approximately eight individuals who have obtained at least a high school diploma and have one year of horticulture experience. The program trains students to be gardeners skilled in the art and science of horticulture. Students work in all areas of the garden and receive classroom instruction from Longwood staff and outside instructors, some of whom are professors at UD.

Kimberly Yackoski, assistant dean of student services in CANR, was heavily involved in the process for the University and said she is excited for the benefits that the program offers for both the University and Longwood Gardens.

Concerning the benefits for UD, Yackoski said she is excited to have students from the Professional Gardener Program attending the University and bringing their real-world experiences to the classroom. “For the students who choose to continue at UD, I’m confident they will make a positive impact on other UD students by sharing their horticulture knowledge and the experiences they had during their time at Longwood.  It’s a win win for everyone involved.”

Doug Needham, the head of the education department at Longwood Gardens, Robin Morgan, dean of CANR, and UD Provost Tom Apple signed the agreement by the beginning of December, 2011, which delighted Yackoski. “Our goal was for the articulation to be approved by the end of 2011 and we were thrilled when that goal was accomplished.”

Working with Yackoski on getting the agreement finalized were individuals from UD and Longwood Gardens. They included Tom Sims, deputy dean of CANR and the T.A. Baker Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences; Bob Lyons, professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; and Needham and Brian Trader, Longwood’s coordinator of domestic and international studies.

Lyons said he is “very excited about this new articulation agreement because it adds an undergraduate dimension to the already strong graduate program relationship between Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware.  It also recognizes a high standard of rigor by Longwood’s course work instructors who are committed to excellence in the classroom.”

Said Needham of the agreement, “Education is deeply embedded in our mission at Longwood Gardens, and we are passionate about providing our students with a rigorous academic experience, coupled with experiential learning through rotational work internships in the gardens.”

Because of this, Needham said, “It is critical to us that our students have the option to continue their education toward a baccalaureate degree, and we are very pleased to further our ongoing educational partnership with the University of Delaware through this articulation agreement. Graduates of our two-year Professional Gardener Program now will be able to transfer their coursework and complete a B.S. in agriculture and natural resources at UD.”

Trader, who is also an adjunct faculty member at UD, said that his role in the agreement was to meet with faculty from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and familiarize them with the classes being taught in the Professional Gardener Program to make sure the courses were of the same caliber as the courses being taught at UD.

Of the Professional Gardener Program, Trader said that it is “really a program that allows students to couple academic learning in the classroom with an immersive hands-on applicable experience in the gardens.”

Longwood currently has an articulation program with Temple University, and Trader said that about a dozen students from the Professional Gardener Program have received their degrees from Temple or are currently taking advantage of the opportunity. He said that after the success with the Temple articulation program, it only made sense to try to form one with UD.

“Longwood already has a strong association with UD because of the Longwood graduate program and because most of the Ph.D. staff here at Longwood are adjunct faculty at UD,” said Trader. “Some of the students in the program come from Delaware and the opportunity CANR provides is very attractive to our students.”

Trader also sees the benefits for both sides, saying that for Longwood, “It shows the caliber or the strength of the academics that we’re delivering here. It will allow us to recruit better and it could potentially increase some of the diversity and enrollment in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, not necessarily in number but in background and experience.”

Now that the agreement has been finalized, Yackoski said that she looks forward to seeing the relationship between Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware grow even stronger. “We’ve had a relationship with Longwood for quite some time, but this has made it even stronger. They have a lot of the same goals that we have, which includes helping students grow and be the best they can be.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article was originally published on UDaily