Botanic Gardens tour highlights flowering magnolias

March 23, 2011 under CANR News, Events

Magnolias will be featured on the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens tour and at the annual plant sale.

When John Frett leads a guided walk of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens on March 31, he’s hoping to point out a few early blooming magnolias. More likely, though, he’ll head to the greenhouse to show off magnolias in flower.

Non-native magnolias typically start blooming in Delaware in April while the native varieties wait until May.

With plenty of other March blooms to enjoy — winterhazel, forsythia, hellebores and some dogwoods — why the rush to spot magnolias?

The walk is a spring tradition that highlights plants available at the UD Botanic Gardens Plant Sale. Along with winterhazel, magnolias will be a featured plant of this year’s sale, which is open to the public April 29-30.

Almost everyone loves magnolias. Frett, the director of the UD Botanic Gardens, is no exception. However, he’s reluctant to single out a best-loved cultivar or species. “It’s like picking a favorite child, they’re all fabulous,” says Frett.

Magnolias vary widely. The 80 or so recognized species include trees and shrubs; deciduous plants and evergreens; cold-hardy varieties that do well in Maine and others that flourish in the tropics. About the only thing they have in common are the distinctive, tulip-shaped flowers. And most — but not all — are highly fragrant.

Under Frett’s leadership, the magnolia collection at the UD Botanic Gardens has been expanded to 100 taxa of magnolia, with some 125 magnolias in all.

“The UDBG’s fantastic collection of magnolias includes a nice variety of native and non-native species and cultivars,” says Sue Barton, Cooperative Extension’s ornamental horticulture specialist.

Magnolias are widely scattered throughout the UD gardens but large groupings can be found between Townsend and Worrilow Halls, south of Townsend, and also north of UD’s outdoor pool.

In assembling the collection, Frett looked for a progression of flowering, from the earliest species, in April, to varieties that are still going strong in June. He also included rich and unusual colors, found in the hybrid varieties. In addition to characteristic pink or white petals, magnolia blooms can be light to medium purple, deep purple that is almost red, and yellow.

Barton has one of the yellow varieties in her backyard. “I bought the ‘Elizabeth’ cultivar from the UDBG sale a number of years ago because my older daughter is named Elizabeth,” she explains. “This tree will be covered with yellow flowers in about a month.”

Despite its name, “Elizabeth” isn’t Barton’s favorite backyard magnolia. That distinction goes to the native sweetbay magnolias growing near her patio. “They’re multi-stemmed so they help enclose the patio but you can still view through them so they don’t make it claustrophobic,” she says.

Carrie Murphy, the Extension horticulture agent for New Castle County, says the sweetbay is the top pick for most Delaware gardeners. “Including me,” she adds.

“The sweetbay magnolia is by far one of my favorite plants — it has beautiful late spring and early summer blooms and is lightly fragrant.”

But what Murphy really likes about the sweetbay isn’t apparent at first glance. “I love the underside of the foliage — when the wind blows and rustles the leaves, the silver underside of the leaves becomes visible and it’s absolutely gorgeous,” she says.

Several sweetbays have been added to the Master Garden Demonstration garden at the county Extension office in Newark. At the demo garden, home gardeners often ask for recommendations for small flowering trees and sweetbay nicely fits the bill. It prefers moist soil and some shade and even works well in wet sites. But it’s also adaptable to drier conditions, says Murphy.

Three cultivars of sweetbay will be available at the plant sale: “Mardi Gras,” with a butter-yellow variegated leaf; “Perry Paige,” a new dwarf variety only five to eight feet tall; and “Green Shadow,” a selection that Frett describes as “nearly an evergreen.”

Two other native magnolias will be sold, Magnolia macrophylla “Big Leaf Magnolia,” featuring huge leaves with a tropical feel and Magnolia pyramidata “Pyramid Magnolia,” which is considered rare. Also available will be three hybrids from native species, including two that originated from a cross with the native cucumber tree.

Guided walk

March 31: An hour-and-a-half walk through the UD Botanic Gardens, focusing on plant sale selections. 4 p.m. $5. Call 302-831-2531 or email [] to register. Maximum 35 people.

UDBG plant sale

Public sale hours are 3-7 p.m., April 29; 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 30. For more information, call 302-831-2531 or go to the UDBG website.

Article by Margo McDonough
Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be read online on UDaily by clicking here.


UD Botanic Gardens March Events

February 25, 2011 under CANR News, Events

Longing for Spring?  Join the UD Botanic Gardens for March events.

Wednesday, March 16 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.–Plant Sale Highlights
The Commons, Townsend Hall
UDBG Friends: Free; Nonmembers: $10
UDBG Director John Frett presents the fabulous winterhazels (Corylopsis) and many of the other plants offered at the 19th Annual Benefit Plant Sale. Refreshments served.

Thursday, March 31 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.–Guided Walk
Meet @ Fischer Greenhouse
UDBG Friends: Free; Nonmembers: $5
Dr. Frett will lead a guided walk around the gardens focusing on landscape-size plants that will be offered at the Sale.

REGISTRATION: Contact Donna Kelsch at or 302-831-2531.

Don’t forget to check out the Plant Sale Catalog on the UDBG website, Hardcopy will be bulk mailed soon.


Master Gardeners offer vegetable garden workshops

February 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Vegetable gardening continues to surge in popularity. An estimated one in every three American households grows some type of veggies, whether it’s a solitary tomato plant on a deck or a showcase of raised beds with wrought-iron garden stakes, irrigation systems and obelisks for climbing vines.

With all this interest in growing edibles, it was a no-brainer for New Castle County Master Gardeners to choose a program focus this spring. Two thirds of the workshops are dedicated to edibles.

“Our vegetable workshops fill up right away so we decided to offer even more vegetable classes this year,” says Carrie Murphy, horticultural agent for New Castle County Cooperative Extension. “For the second year in a row we’ll have separate classes for novice and experienced gardeners. We’ll also present specialized sessions, such as a workshop devoted exclusively to growing berries and another on starting vegetables from seed.”

Classes get underway in less than two weeks and continue through May. The majority of the sessions are in March, when gardeners are finalizing their plans, and in the case of some crops, starting to plant.

In Delaware, commercial and home growers typically put seed potatoes in the ground on or around St. Patrick’s Day. The Master Gardeners’ potato planting demo, on March 19, details the best methods for success, including mounding techniques and container growing.

The demo appears to fill a need, says Gail Hermenau, a Master Gardener and head of the committee that develops the workshop schedule. “Last year, we offered a tour of our demonstration vegetable garden,” says Hermenau. “When we arrived at the mounded potato beds, a number of people said they didn’t know potatoes grew like that and wanted more information.”

A new tomato class also was created because of popular demand. “A lot of feedback came my way about holding a workshop specifically on tomatoes,” says Hermenau.

Tomatoes top the list of the most commonly homegrown vegetables (even though technically they’re a fruit). Now that more backyard gardeners are growing heirloom varieties, they’re combating new challenges. Heirlooms aren’t disease-resistant, like most hybrids, and they’re more susceptible to cracking and bruising. The March 31 workshop will focus on the pros and cons of heirlooms and other varieties, as well as site selection, seed sources, transplanting, fertilizing and more.

Programming for advanced gardeners includes a workshop on maximizing yields through succession planting, companion planting, crop spacing and other techniques.

Another way to learn about veggie growing is at a Garden Day, held in the Master Gardeners’ Native Teaching Garden on the second and fourth Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to noon, April through September.

On these days, Master Gardeners work in the garden, all the while explaining what they’re doing – from scouting for pests to the right way to weed. They’re happy to answer specific gardening questions, too.

Sussex Master Gardeners also will offer vegetable-oriented programs this spring, including a March 10 session that covers the basics of site location, soil, fertilizing and watering.

“New Gardener in Delaware?,” on May 12, will be useful for vegetable gardeners, as well as those primarily interested in ornamental gardens. This workshop focuses on how to overcome the challenges of growing plants in Sussex’s sand, salt, humidity and heat.

“People move here from Connecticut or the D.C. metro area and think that they can garden the same way they did in their old hometown,” notes Tracy Wootten, Extension horticultural agent for Sussex County. “But Sussex is unique. We teach you how to succeed as a gardener here.”

Check out the spring Master Gardener workshops online. New Castle County classes are at this website and Sussex County classes are at this website.

Register by calling 302-831-COOP in New Castle County. In Sussex, call 302-856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough
Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.


Master Gardeners Offer Winter Workshops

January 3, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Where do Delaware gardeners go in winter?

A lucky few have second gardens in Florida or other subtropical climes, where they can put their hands in the soil all winter long. But most local gardeners simply go into planning mode, using the cold-weather months to prepare for the growing season ahead. For many, that means attending Master Gardener workshops.

“We never used to offer horticulture programs in the dead of winter; we took a break in between our fall and spring workshops,” says Carrie Murphy, New Castle County Cooperative Extension horticultural agent. “But three years ago, Master Gardeners offered a January series with an environmental theme. The response was overwhelming; gardeners came out in droves. It was very evident that this series filled a need for programming at this time of year.”

The “Keep it Green” series is on hiatus as Murphy and the Master Gardeners revise curriculum. But in its place this January and February is a winter series with an eclectic bent. These New Castle County programs include topics for experienced gardeners, such as espaliers, as well as topics for beginners, like an introductory vegetable gardening program.

The Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners also offer a winter series, by popular demand, says Tracy Wootten, Extension’s horticultural agent for Sussex County.

In northern Delaware, the “Vines and Espaliers” class on Feb. 10 will appeal to those jaded sorts who wonder “so what else is there?” Climb to new creative heights by trying espaliers — the pruning of trees and other woody plants so that they grow flat against a wall, fence or structure. Vines and other forms of vertical gardening also will be discussed.

“Tom Maddux, who is teaching this class, has created a great vertical garden at his garden in Old New Castle,” notes Murphy. “It’s fascinating to see what he has done with vines and espaliers.”

The format of virtually every Master Gardener program encourages interaction. But audience participation is a must at “Garden Line Live” on Jan. 13. This two-hour question-and-answer panel is an in-person version of the phone line that Master Gardeners operate.

Eight Master Gardener experts will field questions on anything garden related — lawn maintenance, insect management, vegetable gardening, composting, plant selection and landscape design. If the panelists get stumped, they’ve got a “life line” in Dick Pelly, a research whiz and longtime Master Gardener who will stand by with research books and Internet access.

Murphy isn’t sure what to expect but if it’s anything like the 1,100 phone calls the New Castle County garden line receives annually, there will be questions about stink bugs (a hot topic this year) and deer control (always the number one question on the phone line).

The winter series also features “Preparing Your Landscape for Spring” on Feb. 16 and “Starting Your Vegetable Garden” on Feb. 23.

In southern Delaware, the Kent-Sussex Master Gardeners will present four winter classes, including a class with a philosophical slant, “Planning/Journaling in the Garden” on Feb. 17. Instructor Jessica Clark was inspired by Fran Sorin’s Digging Deep, to present a planning workshop that’s about more than just obtaining soil samples and deciding when to add compost.

“In the words of Fran Sorin, ‘your garden should be a place where the feeling of your hands in the dirt offers a deep, primordial connection with the earth, where you can learn what can work for you in the physical garden and where it can work in your emotional garden,’” notes Clark.

A Jan. 13 house plant session details common mistakes made in caring for house plants and includes a re-potting how-to. Other offerings include vegetable gardening on March 10 and a garlic class on Feb. 10, featuring details on how to plant, grow and cure two popular cultivars of garlic.

Learn more

In New Castle County, to register or for more information, call 302-831-COOP or go to the website. In southern Delaware, call 302-856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.


New Castle County Master Gardener training offered

December 15, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Delaware Cooperative Extension in New Castle County is now accepting applications for Master Gardener volunteer educator training. Training will run Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting March 3, 2011, and continue through May 24, 2011.

Carrie Murphy, Master Gardener program coordinator, Cooperative Extension Services, said of the program, “This training program is designed to make good educators out of good gardeners. Trainees pledge to devote volunteer time to help Cooperative Extension provide research-based information to the gardening public. Without this volunteer program, we could not reach nearly as many people as we do now.”

Training will consist of horticultural and educational topics, with emphasis on hands-on experience and active learning techniques.

There is a training fee of $150. Scholarships are available based on financial need. The application deadline is Jan. 10, 2011.

Details on the Master Gardener program, training, and application materials are available on the Master Gardener website, or by email or phone request to Carrie Murphy, at [] or (302) 831-2506.

This article is also available online on UDaily.


Therapeutic community garden offers natural relief

December 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

When we’re having a bad day, many of us intuitively seek relief in nature, whether that means a hike in the woods, quick stroll through the park, or merely adding a green plant to an otherwise sterile work cubicle.

Scientists would say we’re doing the right thing. A slew of studies indicate that interaction with nature reduces stress and anger, improves cognitive performance and increases one’s sense of connection to the world.

For those who are experiencing more than just a bad day and suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, the benefits of nature may be even greater.

Recently, Cooperative Extension and the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware began helping clients of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) enjoy the uplifting benefits of nature. They developed plans for a therapeutic and community garden on DHSS’s Herman M. Holloway, Sr., Campus in New Castle.

Partners in the project include UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Center for Horticulture and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Longwood Fellows took on the garden design as their annual professional outreach project. But even before a single design was sketched, Extension and Department of Agriculture professionals got to work on an education program for the clients.

“We offered workshops to develop interest in gardening,” says Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Extension. “There was already a lot of interest; in fact, the clients wanted to begin growing vegetables immediately. So we designed and planted a 20- by 30-foot vegetable garden at the Holloway campus this past summer and showed the clients how to prep the soil, plant, weed, compost and harvest.”

First-year crops included popcorn, pumpkins, sweet corn and sunflowers.

Thursday has become “Garden Day” when Extension and Department of Agriculture staff and Master Gardeners offer structured activities at the Holloway campus.

One week, Master Gardener Hetty Francke gave a composting demonstration, another week entomologist Brian Kunkel discussed how to tackle garden pests. Even now, as winter draws near, Garden Day continues. One recent Thursday, Department of Agriculture entomologist Heather Disque gave a talk on where bees spend the cold-weather months.

Holloway clients and employees provided input into the therapeutic garden’s design.

The Longwood Fellows organized a design charrette, a brainstorming session with Holloway clients and other stakeholders, as well as representatives from the professional horticulture community. The fellows also held informal focus groups on the Holloway campus.

One thing they quickly discovered, says Longwood Fellow Rebecca Pineo, was the clients’ wish to memorialize individuals buried in a nearby potter’s field. So the garden design maintains open sight lines to this field from the main garden area. In addition, the clients will be creating garden art in on-site ceramic studios; some of these works may be utilized for memorial purposes.

Before hitting the drawing board, the fellows also researched existing therapeutic gardens. A few traveled to the Buehler Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is considered a model in engaging people of all abilities in gardening. And all 10 fellows visited Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital, which has had a therapeutic garden on site since 1817.

The final design that the Longwood Fellows created splits the one-acre garden into quadrants that feature raised beds and green walls. One quadrant will have a slate wall for chalk art, an idea suggested by clients. The design also includes a woodland walk, an avenue of mixed-species trees and two shaded plazas, which can be used for everything from picnic lunches to workshops. Smaller, semi-enclosed seating nooks appear perfect for contemplation.

Sustainable landscaping practices were incorporated into every facet of the garden design, says the Department of Agriculture’s Faith Kuehn, a project leader. The garden design includes native plants whenever possible, uses some recycled materials for garden hardscapes, designates rain collection in barrels and by other means, incorporates a composting station and utilizes solar and other green technologies.

“This project helped me learn about working with a lot of different people,” says Pineo. “We had multiple partners and each partner brought different work styles, perspectives and creativity. It was challenging but it was a good lesson in the strength you can get from partnerships.”

“It’s been a win-win situation for all involved,” says Bob Lyons, director of the Longwood Graduate Program. “The therapeutic and community garden has great potential to improve the experience of the clients of the Holloway campus; it also served to grow the fellows’ experience in coordinating focus groups, design charrettes and conceptual designs.”

Although the educational piece of the project is well underway, the therapeutic garden is still just a design on paper. The project team is seeking donations and grants.

To learn more about the garden, contact Murphy at [] or (302) 831-COOP or Kuehn at [] or (302) 698-4587.

Article by Margo McDonough


CANR, Food Bank of Delaware Bring the Harvest Home

August 3, 2010 under CANR News, Events

University of Delaware volunteers and students from The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware spent the morning of July 30 harvesting 1,305 pounds of fresh produce from UD’s Garden for the Community.

Once the workers finished harvesting, they loaded a food bank van and headed to Sparrow Run Park in Bear where they distributed fresh produce, 30-pound meal boxes, chicken and other food items to 715 individuals.

Families received potatoes, okra, sweet corn, eggplant, peppers, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and basil fresh from the University’s Garden for the Community. The garden is located on one-third of an acre on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus on South College Avenue.

Read the full story with photos on UDaily by clicking here.


Sussex County Master Gardeners Announce “A Day in the Garden”

July 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Sussex County Master Gardeners, of Delaware Cooperative Extension for both Delaware State University and University of Delaware, invite you to their Open House on Saturday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sussex County Extension Office in Georgetown. Admission is FREE. Visitors are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event and join Master Gardeners in supporting the Delaware Does More Program – growing food and funds for neighbors in need.

The Sussex County Extension Office is located at 16483 County Seat Highway, Route 9, west of Georgetown (west of Sussex Tech High School and on the same side of the road).  Look for the blue and gold tent in the Sussex County Demonstration Garden, immediately behind the office building. Ample parking is available.

A Day in the Garden Highlights – 2010

Accessible Gardening: Tour our gardens to get ideas for quick & easy ways to make gardening enjoyable for all. See tools and gardening aids, raised beds, containers and much more. Receive tips from a visiting physical therapist for staying fit and working in the garden at any age.

New for 2010! Plant Sale!

Children’s Garden: Enjoy story time in our Peter Rabbit’s Garden. New for 2010 – Meet Mr. McGregor and Peter at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Go on a scavenger hunt or enjoy our butterflies, frogs and goldfish. Bring your camera for great photo opportunities. Come enjoy all our children’s activities – from learning about insects, to potting your own plant and more.

New to Vegetable Gardening? Learn from years of Master Gardener experience and tour our vegetable garden. Learn about the Plant A Row Program to help those in need enjoy fresh produce.

Rain barrels are great ways to catch rainwater for use in the garden.  Learn how to make your own.

Love Trains? Love Gardening? Enjoy watching our train in the garden. Learn how to add interest and greater enjoyment with both hobbies.

Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. Visit our native plant, herb, shade, bog, annual, perennial, pond, butterfly and children’s gardens. Get ideas for gardening with limited space using raised beds and containers. What varieties grow well in Sussex County? Tour our azalea, hydrangea and annual trial gardens to find out.

Have a plant problem? Bring it to our Plant Clinic for identification and recommendations.

Door Prizes will be awarded to visitors. No rain date is set for this event.

Bring a brown bag lunch and eat in our shaded picnic grove!

Just added! What’s wrong with my plants? – A garden walk focusing on pests will immediately follow the Open House event. This free workshop runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and does require pre-registration. Learn about the most common landscape pests in Sussex County. Learn how to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to spray less and save money. Learn how to identify beneficial insects that help keep the “bad” insects in check. What makes your garden attractive to beneficial insects. For more information, contact Karen Adams or visit the Master Gardener workshop page.

For More Information: Contact Tracy Wootten at 302-856-2585, ext. 538, or Karen Adams at ext. 540,  Please visit our website for detailed directions, photo gallery and more information:


NCC Master Gardeners Celebrate at Awards Ceremony

May 26, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

The University of Delaware New Castle County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners celebrated their awards ceremony in April, also national volunteer recognition month.

The Master Gardener of the Year Award went to Gail Hermenau of Middletown, Del. The Career Service Award, with 8 or more years of service to the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, went to Eva Rotmann-Oehler of Wilmington, Del. The Rookie of the Year Award, awarded to a new Master Gardener in the program, went to Richard Heiss, also of Wilmington, Del.

Additionally, more than 20 Master Gardeners were presented the “100 or more hours of service” award for the 2009 year, and more than 20 individual and team awards were presented to the group.

New Castle County Master Gardeners play a key role in distributing information about environmentally friendly practices for the home gardener. Topics include integrated lawn and garden pest and disease identification and management, plant cultivation, turf issues and problems, in addition to landscape design and wildlife habitat development.

New Castle County Master Gardeners are vital links in an educational chain that begins with research from the University of Delaware and the horticultural industry. Delaware Cooperative Extension specialists then translate this research into practical, usable methods that can be used by Delaware gardeners.

Education is at the heart of all Master Gardener activities, which can take many forms, including teaching by example and demonstration, and hands-on work with people of all ages.

Master Gardener volunteer educators have undergone training in a wide variety of horticultural and environmental topics coupled with training in educational methods and program evaluation. Monthly meetings bring all volunteers together to continue the learning process. The result is volunteers committed to reaching out to help county residents—adults and children alike—improve the quality of their lives.

Meeting the educational needs of thousands of citizens requires the dedication, creativity, and hard work of many volunteers. Contact Extension Education (at 302-831-2667) for more information on Master Gardener programs. Additional information can be discovered on the NCC MG website:


Volunteers plant seeds of hope at UD Garden for the Community

May 10, 2010 under CANR News, Events

Volunteers from the University of Delaware and Food Bank of Delaware began the first stages of planting at the University’s Garden for the Community on Friday morning, May 7.

Located on one-third of an acre of land on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources site off South College Avenue, the garden will provide a steady stream of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits to Delaware’s hungry this season.

Volunteers spent the morning mulching, spreading compost and straw, harvesting radishes, planting cabbage and more. They were joined by U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle and Laura Coogan from U.S. Sen. Tom Carper’s office.

“What a great partnership we have with the University of Delaware,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “The abundance of fresh produce they provide throughout the summer and fall months helps ensure that we get nutritious foods into the hands of those that need it most.”

“The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is very happy to continue our successful partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware by again planting our Garden for the Community,” said Tom Sims, deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Last year, thanks to the help of more than 100 volunteers, our garden provided the food bank with more than 7,000 pounds of fresh, locally grown vegetables.”

Volunteers will be needed at the Garden for the Community throughout the summer months to help harvest, pull weeds, plant late summer crops and other tasks. Those interested in learning more can visit the Garden for the Community website.

In addition to helping at the garden, the Food Bank of Delaware also encourages the community to keep hungry Delawareans in mind as summer’s crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, string beans and more begin to sprout. Surplus donations can be donated directly to the organization’s hunger-relief efforts.

Donations are accepted at the Newark (14 Garfield Way) and Milford (1040 Mattlind Way) warehouses weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit the Food Bank of Delaware website.

View the full story and photos here on UDaily.