Largest crowd ever turns out for Ag Day 2013 festivities

May 2, 2013 under CANR News

Ag Day Bird showBeautiful weather, great entertainment and a variety of agricultural and environmental exhibits combined to make Ag Day 2013 the largest in history, with more than 8,000 visitors in attendance.

The record crowd of visitors gathered at the 38th annual Ag Day were able to see over 90 interactive exhibits and witness a variety of demonstrations including a beehive demonstration, a free flight bird show, a Seeing Eye dog demonstration, a tree climbing exhibition, live bands featuring University of Delaware faculty and professionals, and the unveiling of a portrait of Robin Morgan, former dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

New to Ag Day this year were horse-drawn wagon tours of the UD farm put on by Circle C Outfit from Bridgeville, Del., which featured Rick, one of the horses from UD’s herd.

Always popular at Ag Day are the many plant sales by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG), UD Horticulture Club and New Castle County Master Gardeners, and the ice cream from the UDairy Creamery. This year the UDairy Creamery sold ice cream to over 3,600 patrons, practically doubling the amount that they sold at Ag Day 2012.

Also popular was the free flight bird show, which is put on by a CANR alumnus. “One of the unique things that we’ve been able to offer the past few years is we have an animal science alum who does animal training and behavior, who travels around the U.S. to train educators to conduct live bird shows,” explained Katy O’Connell, communications manager in CANR. “At Ag Day, he offers two free flight bird demonstrations where he has macaws, vultures, hawks and even chickens that he trains to do live demonstrations.” The crowd for the 2 p.m. showing topped 500 audience members.

CANR Dean Mark Rieger, having been hired in August 2012, was on hand for his first Ag Day and welcomed those in attendance, saying, “We hope that you learn something about agriculture, and we also hope that you learn something about natural resources — that’s the other part of our name. If you take the farm tour and you go on the carriage ride, you’re going to see wetlands, you’re going to see streams, you’re going to see woods, you’re going to see songbirds. If you go inside, you’re going to have a wildlife display in there, an entomology display, and things like that. So there’s a lot of different things here today; make sure you get around and see all those things.”

Rieger also thanked O’Connell, who led the organization of the event, along with eight undergraduate students, Kim Yackoski, CANR assistant dean, and Latoya Watson, CANR academic adviser, before handing the microphone over to Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean, who had a special presentation for Morgan.

Robin Morgan’s portrait

The portrait — a CANR tradition that sees each dean get their portrait painted and hung in Townsend Hall — was unveiled by Rieger and Sims.

Of Morgan, Sims said, “It was my privilege to work with [Morgan] as associate dean and deputy dean for nine years. She really was committed to our students, our undergraduate students, she was committed to our faculty, she built our faculty by hiring many of our current faculty members and was committed to agriculture and natural resources as she demonstrated throughout her tenure as dean.”

After unveiling the portrait, painted by Kellie Cox, a UD alumna, Sims continued saying, “This is just a small way of saying thank you to Robin for all that she’s done. She’s now back on the faculty getting ready to teach a big class this fall so her commitment to agriculture and our students just goes on and on.”

Rieger echoed these sentiments adding, “I want to thank Robin for coming out today and all the things that she did for the college. It makes my job a lot easier having to step into her shoes when she has done so much for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.”

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Bloom season kicks into high gear for garden enthusiasts

April 11, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

In April, bloom season kicks into high gear in Delaware. In fact, it might be the single best month to get outside and enjoy the views at the area’s world-class gardens.

At Winterthur, the Winterhazel Walk will soon be the star of the show, reports Linda Eirhart, assistant director of horticulture for the museum, which features a 60-acre naturalistic garden in the midst of nearly 1,000 acres of land.

Delaware bloom season kicks off“The cold weather has held things back but before long the Winterhazel Walk will dazzle with its combination of soft yellow winter hazel and the warm lavender of Korean rhododendron. This is under planted with hellebores, which are still going strong,” she says.

These species are non-native but many of Winterthur’s native plants will soon be in bloom, too. Bloodroot is a sweet little perennial with pure white, cup-shaped flowers. You can find it in Azalea Woods and other wooded areas and thickets throughout the property.

Spring beauty is another little charmer, sporting white petals with stripes that vary from pale pink to bright pink. Like bloodroot, it grows in woodlands. Pay attention to weather conditions during your visit to Winterthur. If it’s warm and sunny, spring beauty will open its petals but on a cloudy day or at night the petals close up and nod downward.

Winterthur’s bluebells aren’t in bloom quite yet but the buds have appeared and will soon burst into bloom. Eirhart says that bluebell is her favorite native wildflower.

“I love the bluebell’s shades of blues and the touch of pink and purple you can get in the blossoms,” she says. “Between the color of the flower buds and the last fading flowers, there is a good length of time of color interest.”

Sue Barton also is a fan of Virginia bluebells, which grow in clusters near the creek on her property. “It’s fun to come upon a mass of bluebells while walking in the woods,” says Barton, who is ornamental horticulture specialist for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension.

But it’s flowering redbuds, not bluebells, that signal that spring has sprung to Barton.

“The redbud has an extremely colorful, dark purple or pink flower and an unusual habit of flowers borne directly on the stem,” she says. “I like the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar because of its attractive bronze foliage.”

This small native tree grows wild in many of Delaware woodlands. As you buzz down I-95, check out the large stand of redbuds by the roadside, just south of Wilmington. For a more leisurely setting to enjoy redbud blooms, head to the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens. You can find flowering redbuds there, and a whole lot more.

“In bloom, or soon to bloom, are a number of natives, including silverbells, fothergilla, serviceberry, redbud, dogwood and pawpaw,” says Claudia Bradley, nursery coordinator for the UD Botanic Gardens.

She is particularly fond of fothergilla and tends to it not only in UD’s gardens but also in her own home garden. “I always look forward to seeing the fothergilla in flower,” says Bradley. “I like its bottlebrush white flowers now and, then, in fall, its awesome red color.”

Mt. Cuba Center is another great place to check out spring blooms, especially since it’s expanding its public hours. Starting April 19, you won’t need a reservation to visit on Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (From May 3 to July 26, the gardens will stay open until 7 p.m. on Fridays.)  Guided tours will still be available by reservation on other days and times.

Chilly weather delayed some of the blooms at Mt. Cuba, just as it as at Winterthur and other area gardens. But now that it has warmed up, native spring ephemerals will soon emerge in Mt. Cuba’s woodlands, reports Jeanne Frett, a research horticulturist at the center. Look for flowering liverleaf, trout lily, bloodroot, rue-anemone, cut-leaf toothwort and Dutchman’s breeches.

Trees and shrubs also are starting to bloom at Mt. Cuba. If you’d like some April flowering shrubs in your own yard, Frett suggests American bladdernut and spicebush.

“Both of these are found locally in the woodlands and at Mt. Cuba Center,” says Frett. “They’re very appropriate choices for creating your own naturalistic gardens using locally native species.”

Spicebush is one of Delaware’s most common native shrubs. On the female plants, small clusters of yellow flowers appear now, and later develop into red fruit. American bladdernut isn’t the most beautiful April bloomer but it could be the most interesting.

“More of a curiosity than a specimen shrub, the American bladdernut has bell-shaped flowers that develop into three-lobed, inflated, brown papery capsules later in the season,” says Frett.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UDBG Pre-Plant Sale Activities

March 5, 2013 under CANR News

Spring is almost here and so is the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) Plant Sale.

If you haven’t already registered, consider joining the UDBG for the pre-sale activities.

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
Guided Walk of 2013 Plant Sale Highlights
Thursday, April 3 & 4, 4–5:30 p.m.
Location: Meet at Fischer Greenhouse entrance on Roger Martin Lane
Dr. John Frett will lead a guided walk through UDBG of plants offered in the plant sale, and if there’s time, preview the containerized plants.
Min: 10 people; Max: 25 people.
UDBG Friends members: $5; Nonmembers: $10
*For this event, a visitor parking permit is required. To obtain a visitor parking permit on–line, visit; or in person, go to Parking Services at 147 Perkins Student Center, 325 Academy Street; or park in metered spaces near the UDairy Creamery.
To Register for these UDBG events: Email or contact Sue Biddle at 302-831-2531

Colston Burrell to give a UD Botanic Gardens presentation

February 6, 2013 under CANR News

Colston Burrell spent 11 years in Minnesota, none too happy with the winter weather. A noted garden designer, Burrell tried to make the best of his “six months of winter confinement.” He liked the view of deep snow outside his windows and the patterns that frost made on Joe Pye weed and other stalks in his prairie garden. Still, winter was something to be endured.

Colston Burrell speaking at UD Botanic GardensBut a funny thing happened when this Richmond Va., native returned to the Mid-Atlantic. That first autumn in his new home, near Charlottesville, he watched the leaves fall and felt a sense of dread. But once the cold weather arrived, he realized he had come to appreciate the subtleties of the winter landscape.

“Here in the Piedmont region of Virginia, winter means fields of broom-sedge that look golden in the late afternoon sun, contrasted by the greens of juniper and other coniferous trees,” said Burrell. “It’s berries on shrubs like viburnums and hollies, texture from interesting barks, and catkins on native hazels and alders.”

And in Virginia, and often here in Delaware, too, it can mean days when temperatures rise into the 40s and 50s and Burrell can linger in the garden to enjoy the fragrance of daphne and the flowers of the precocious hellebores that he so loves. (He wrote a book about hellebores, which bloom as early as mid-January in Delaware.)

“Today, I won’t be lingering in the garden,” declared Burrell on a late January morning when the temperature was just 11 degrees.  But, from the window of his home office, he could still view the fruits of winterberry hollies and the shimmering plumes of silver plume grass. That was no accident. When Burrell designed his home landscape he put some plants with winter interest where they could be seen and enjoyed from inside the house.

Burrell will speak about “Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens” on Feb. 26 in Newark. His talk is sponsored by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens. An active lecturer, Burrell has spoken at Winterthur Museum and Longwood Gardens but “hasn’t been to Delaware in quite a while,” he said.

If you go, expect plenty of audience interaction. “I don’t want to suggest a particular plant and then disappoint people when they discover it doesn’t grow well in their region,” said Burrell. “But if someone from the audience can say, ‘Yes, I’ve grown that here for 50 years and never had a problem,’ then we know my recommendation is appropriate.”

Burrell plants mostly natives on his 10-acre property but he does make an exception for “precocious bloomers.” He craves flowers and fragrance in the dead of winter and uses non-native hellebores, crocus, snowdrops, winter aconite and glory-of-the-snow for an early taste of spring.

But natives offer winter interest, too. Early in the season, Burrell enjoys beautyberry’s purple or lilac berries, which brown after a hard frost. Winterberry starts displaying its vivid red berries in late autumn and they hang on through the winter. (The berries are bitter, so overwintering birds avoid them until other food sources are gone.)  American holly, with its bright red berries, is another good choice for jazzing up the winter landscape.  Just don’t plant any of these shrubs in a long, monotonous row, said Burrell. Instead, consider grouping American hollies in clusters. Beautyberry is striking enough to work well alone, as a specimen planting.

Many gardeners use evergreen trees to offset winter’s monochromatic palette. But fewer gardeners turn to evergreen groundcovers for a pop of color. Burrell likes the texture and form of many evergreen groundcovers, including Pachysandra procumbens ‘Allegheny Spurge.’

This easy-to-grow native has medium- to dark-green leaves during the growing season that become dappled or bronzed in winter. And when the cold weather is just a memory, tiny, pinkish white flowers appear on ‘Allegheny Spurge.’

Other evergreen groundcovers well-suited to Delaware include Christmas fern (good for areas of light to deep shade), barren strawberry (which looks better than the name implies), and partridgeberry, a slow-grower which never exceeds 3 inches in height.


Feb. 26: Colston Burrell speaks about “Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens” at 7 p.m. in Townsend Hall at the University of Delaware. Cost is $15 for members of UD Botanic Gardens Friends; $20 for the public. To register, call 831-2531 or email

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo provided by Colston Burrell


Hong Yin finishes up school with multiple areas of study

January 17, 2013 under CANR News

Hong Yin will graduate in the spring with 3 majors and 2 minorsHong Yin has more majors (3) and minors (2) than years it took to graduate from the University of Delaware (4).

She is majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM) and in resource economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and in operations management in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics — and minoring in economics  and international business with a foreign language. That might seem unmanageable to some, but not to Yin.

Yin, who is originally from China and who attended the University of Delaware’s English Language Institute to learn the English language, has maintained a grade point average of above 3.0 despite taking such a full course load. She said that in addition to the educational advantage of taking so many classes, she took a lot of classes for another reason, as well — to meet more people.

“I’m not from here so I figured, if I take more classes, I will know more people and then I will meet more friends. It worked out really well.”

Yin said that she enjoys all of her areas of study, and especially likes that they are so different. “For example, the FABM is more focused on the agriculture sector. Resource economics is more focused on environmental concerns that businesses are facing today. On the other hand, operations management is more about making everything efficient and eliminating waste.”

Yin singled out Steven Hastings, professor and associate chair in CANR’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), for making his introductory level economics class so interesting that it spurred her to look into APEC to find a major that she liked. It turned out, that she found two.

One of those majors could come in very handy, especially to her parents. “My parents have a company in China. They sell dairy products, like baby formulas,” said Yin. “And they said, ‘If you don’t find a satisfying career in the U.S. after you graduate, the family business could benefit from your education.’ That’s why I added the FABM major.”

Yin now has Hastings as an advisor and she said that he is “really helpful. He helps students plan out what they want and he is always there, always in the office and whenever you email him, even on the breaks, it is really easy to get in touch with him and talk about what you want and then he gives you really good suggestions.”

Of Yin, Hastings said, “I have known Hong for three years, since she declared her second and third majors, both in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I was immediately impressed with her enthusiasm and motivation.” Hastings added, “While many students take random courses for electives, Hong was adamant — she wanted to take courses that counted for another major. She is a wonderfully pleasant young lady that has accomplished a great deal.”

As for her favorite part about UD, Yin said that she enjoys the outdoor areas available for students to study. “I like The Green a lot because where I’m from in China, there are not many stretches of green areas. In the summer it is really beautiful.”  Yin added that she also enjoys, “the Botanic Garden in the spring. I appreciate the plants much more because of Professor Swasey’s—Professor Emeritus in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences–flower arranging class.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley


University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Winter Learning Opportunities

December 11, 2012 under CANR News

January isn’t a great time to garden, but it’s a fantastic time to learn about it. Come join the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) this winter at the following events:

“Small Flowering Trees” Lecture Series and Lab by UDBG Director and Professor John Frett.

Lectures: Wed., Jan. 9, 16, & 23, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Lab: Sat., Jan. 19, 9 – 11 a.m.

If you have a small garden, garden room, tight spot, or just want the right plant for the site, then this is the course for you. This three lecture survey of small flowering trees will present cultural and landscape characteristics for a variety of evergreen and deciduous plants. The lab will view live plants and discuss more fully their characteristics.

UDBG Friends: $25/class and lab; Nonmembers: $35/class and lab

Lab is free if you register for all three classes. 

Registration and prepayment required: Email or contact Sue Biddle at 302-831-2531

Location: Room 132 Townsend Hall

In the event of snow, classes will be held the following evening. Payment will be refunded if cancellation is made 10 business days prior to class.

“Design Ideas and Plant Combinations for Winter Gardens” Lecture by C. Colston Burrell

Tues., Feb. 26, 7 p.m.

The best part of the gardening year begins as the asters are fading. The onset of winter brings a respite from heat, and signals the start of a season filled with berried branches and seductive silhouettes. Comfortable spaces and artful planting conspire to provide places to relax as well to grow myriad winter-blooming plants such as daphnes, hellebores, and minor bulbs that excite us and connect us to the natural world. 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.

Cole is an acclaimed lecturer, garden designer, award-winning author, and photographer. A certified chlorophyll addict, Cole is an avid and lifelong plantsman, gardener, and naturalist. He has shared his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and his abiding respect for regional landscapes with professional and amateur audiences for 35 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide and Perennial Combinations, among others. These two books will be offered for sale after the lecture.

UDBG Friends members: $15; Nonmembers: $20

Registration: Email or contact Sue Biddle at 302-831-2531

Location: The Commons, Townsend Hall


Asters keep UD Botanic Gardens colorful through November

November 12, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Some of autumn’s pleasures are fleeting. Like the sight of migrating broad-winged hawks soaring on thermals in the September skies. Like the golden leaves of the ginkgo, which drop from the tree in a few days or sometimes mere hours. Like the big, orange, once-a-year occurrence of the harvest moon.

But other autumn pleasures – like asters – endure all season long. Asters start blooming at the same time as such early fall wildflowers as goldenrod and thoroughwort. But long after many other blooms have turned brown, the aster is still going strong.

Of course, no one species of native aster blooms straight through from September to November. Most bloom for a few weeks and then, as they die off, other varieties began to flower. Some of the native varieties that bloom the latest include aromatic and heath asters.

“It’s not unusual to see aromatic, heath and other species of asters blooming in late November,” says Sue Barton, an ornamental horticulture specialist with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. “Asters continue to add a splash of color to the landscape in late autumn, when little else is blooming in Delaware.”

There are 33 native species and varieties of the genus Aster in Delaware, according to Bill McAvoy, a botanist with the Delaware Natural Heritage Program. Several of these varieties are classified as rare in the state. Asters are found in a wide range of habitat – woodlands, swamps, marshes, wet meadows and old fields. Some species are tall and bushy; others are groundcovers. Most prefer sunny conditions but some do well in shade.

Asters are tough and reliable, which is why they are popular with both home gardeners and commercial landscapers. “Asters – both natives and non-natives – are some of the easiest perennials to grow,” says Barton. “They don’t require much watering, fertilizing or other care.”

Doug Tallamy likes asters because they contribute to healthy local ecosystems. Asters are a valuable food source for a variety of pollinators, including native bees, honeybees, butterflies, beetles and flies, says Tallamy, chair of UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.

“As one of the latest blooming widespread plants, asters are very important as a carbohydrate energy source for butterflies, bees, beetles and flies,” says Tallamy.

If you’re looking for a good aster to plant in Delaware you couldn’t do better than talking to Jeanne Frett, a research horticulturalist at Mt. Cuba Center. A few years ago she conducted a performance evaluation of asters in conjunction with Victor Piatt, the center’s former trial area gardener.

The duo evaluated 56 different asters over a two-year period for such factors as color, bloom period, foliage quality, disease resistance and more.

Varieties that got top marks include smooth aster, prairie aster and calico aster. A late bloomer that scored well is the large-flowered aster. Some years, this aster may start in mid-October and finish by Halloween. Other seasons, it doesn’t flower until mid-November and then continues blooming past Thanksgiving.

You can see these varieties of asters – any many more – at Mt. Cuba. Public garden tours are held Thursdays through Sundays; registration is necessary. The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens also has a great selection of asters. Late bloomers there include Aster oblongifolius “Raydon’s Favorite,” a showy variety that sports a profusion of blue-lavender flowers with yellow centers.

Mt. Cuba Center is located at 3120 Barley Mill Road in Hockessin. For more information, call 239-4244.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens is located on the grounds of Townsend Hall off South College Avenue in Newark. The garden is open dawn to dusk daily and is free of charge. Parking is available at meters or by purchasing a parking permit for $3 online. To learn more, call 831-0153.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Sept. 8-10: UDBG Plant Sale

September 9, 2011 under CANR News

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardenswill hold its annual fall plant sale, featuring groundcovers and a host of fabulous fall bloomers, from Sept. 8-10.

The sale will be held in the production area across from the Fischer Greenhouse, behind Townsend Hall on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus.

UDBG Friends can enjoy a members-only day at the sale on Thursday, Sept. 8, from 4-7 p.m. To enjoy this and other benefits, visit the UDBG website.

Hours for the general public are Friday, Sept. 9, from 4-7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens are open year around to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. The gardens contribute to an understanding of the changing relationships between plants and people through education, research, extension and community support so as to instill an appreciation of plants in the landscape and the natural environment.

This article was originally posted online on UDaily.


Sept. 6: Great Groundcovers

August 22, 2011 under CANR News, Events

Homeowners tired of fighting English ivy are invited to join Chanticleer’s Dan Benarcik as he presents “Great Groundcovers—Abundant Options” on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m., in the Townsend Hall Commons on the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus.

The talk is sponsored by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) and the cost is $5 for UDBG Friends members and $10 for nonmembers. Reserve a place by calling 302-831-2531 or email

Benarcik offers aesthetically pleasing, regionally appropriate and culturally-suited options as alternatives to English ivy, Japanese pachysandra and liriope. Both native and responsible non-natives will be featured in the illustrated lecture that may have some replacing lawn areas with some low maintenance options.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens are open year around to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. The gardens contribute to an understanding of the changing relationships between plants and people through education, research, extension and community support so as to instill an appreciation of plants in the landscape and the natural environment.



UD Botanic Gardens announces events

August 2, 2011 under CANR News

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) has announced several late summer, early fall events to include classes, lectures, and the annual fall plant sale.

Programs include:
Dyeing with Indigo and Other Garden Plants: Saturday, August 13
Great Groundcovers–Abundant Options: Tuesday, September 6
Fall Plant Sale: September 8-10
Unleashing Creativity in the Native Garden with Award Winning Landscape Architect and Artist Gary Smith: Tuesday, September 20

For more information please visit the UDBG website ( and click on the Events & Education tab.