Colorful Natives at UDBG this Fall

August 15, 2012 under CANR News, Events

Did the heat and drought claim a few of your prize perennials this summer?

Fill those empty spaces and add a little zing to your garden with a fabulous selection of colorful natives and other choice plants at the UDBG Fall Plant Sale. Admission is free.

  • Friday, September 7 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
  • UDBG Friends can shop early at Members Day, Thursday, September 6 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Explore color in the garden with two lectures focusing on the wide range of color available using native plants:

  • UD’s Dr. Robert Lyons presents “The Color of the Native Plant Palette…and Other Related Thoughts,” Tuesday, September 4, 7 p.m.–Lyons presents colorful, reliable natives that function within a low maintenance philosophy. UDBG Friends: $5; $10 for nonmembers.
  • North Creek Nurseries’ Claudia West explores “The Landscape’s Color Spectrum: Apply Natural Color Theories to Enhance Design,” Tuesday, October 9, 7 p.m.—Learn how native plant communities inspire harmonious landscape design. UDBG Friends: free; $10 for nonmembers.

The Plant Sale is located in the Production Area behind Townsend Hall on UD’s South Campus. Both lectures will be held in The Commons, Townsend Hall on the University of Delaware’s South Campus. Pre-registration is requested for the lectures. Contact Sue Biddle at (302) 831-2531 or email Visit our website, for more information on these and all events at UDBG.


Master Gardeners see increased demand for vegetable workshops

February 28, 2012 under Cooperative Extension

From the time he was a young boy, Clyde Roberts grew tomatoes, cantaloupes and other produce on his family’s farm in Kansas. He earned agronomy degrees at Kansas State and Cornell and worked for DuPont Ag Products. Since retirement, the Hockessin resident has been a UD Master Gardener, teaching vegetable workshops and other gardening classes.

Roberts has long and deep ties to agriculture but he meets other Delawareans who are disconnected from their food source. They know they can find the first tender asparagus of spring at the supermarket but they aren’t quite sure how it got there.

“In our beginner vegetable gardening workshop, I’ve had people who were surprised to find out that carrots and potatoes grow underground,” says Roberts. “They assumed that every vegetable grows on a bush, like tomatoes.”

Roberts is delighted to help the rank beginner as well the more experienced gardener learn the ins and outs of growing their own vegetables and fruits. The only problem he and other Master Gardeners have is keeping up with the demand.

“There has been a surge in interest in vegetable gardening workshops in the last four or five years,” says Carrie Murphy, the horticulture agent for New Castle County Cooperative Extension.

Delawareans aren’t the only ones getting excited about growing their own produce. Nationally, vegetable gardening is on the rise, according to the National Gardening Association, which attributes the trend to rising food prices and health-conscious consumers.

In 2011, an estimated one in three American households grew vegetables, whether that meant a solitary tomato plant on a deck or a large garden, such as Roberts’ five plots, where he harvests veggies from April (radishes and lettuce) until the first frost (bell peppers and tomatoes).

Edibles take center stage in the New Castle County Master Gardener spring workshop series, which kicks off March 6.  While you’ll still be able to learn about such topics as pruning and ornamental container gardening, more than half of the classes are devoted to some aspect of vegetable gardening.

“For the third year in a row we’ll have separate classes for novice and experienced gardeners,” says Murphy. “We’re also offering specialized sessions, such as a workshop devoted exclusively to growing tomatoes and another on growing vegetables in containers.”

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

In Sussex County, spring Master Gardener classes began last Tuesday and continue through late June. Edibles take center stage in several workshops, including Feb. 28, when Darrell Hager explained how to use the web and software to plan and design a vegetable garden. Grape growing will be the focus of a workshop on March 21.

Roberts will teach a tomato class on April 5 that was created last year due to popular demand. Tomatoes top the list of the most commonly homegrown vegetables (even though technically they’re a fruit).  But they’re not always easy to grow, especially the heirloom varieties.

“Heirlooms are all the rage but they’re more challenging,” says Roberts. Heirlooms aren’t disease-resistant, like most hybrids, and they’re more susceptible to cracking and bruising.

“I encourage brand-new gardeners to grow half of their plot with heirlooms and half with hybrid varieties,” says Roberts. “I don’t want new gardeners to give up and get discouraged if they have a crop failure.”

A great way to solve problems before crop failure happens is to attend a Garden Day, held in the Master Gardeners’ Native Teaching Garden on the second and fourth Wednesday from April through September.

From 9 a.m. to noon 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.

Roberts doesn’t contend with crop failure often; instead he usually has an overabundance of veggies. If your harvest is equally successful, do what Roberts does and donate the excess to the needy.

The Master Gardeners participate in Plant a Row for the Hungry, a national program that encourages gardeners to plant an extra row at the beginning of the season and donate this produce to a local food bank. The Food Bank of Delaware is always in need of fresh produce to supplement the canned and packaged foods it receives.

Check out the spring Master Gardener workshops online. New Castle County classes can be found at this website or by calling 302-831-COOP.

For information on Sussex workshops, go to this website or call 302-856-7303.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily


Master Gardener Winter Workshops

January 5, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

New Castle County Master Gardeners are offering a variety of workshops for the home gardener this winter. Cabbages, vines, spices, and landscaping are just some of the topics on slate.

Click here for the workshop brochure.


March 2: Longwood Graduate Program Symposium

January 4, 2012 under CANR News, Events

The University of Delaware’s Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture will host its annual symposium on Friday, March 2 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa.

The symposium, “The Panda and the Public Garden: Reimagining Our Conservation Story,” will bring together the best of zoo and garden expertise to discover how public gardens and other institutions can inspire their audiences to care and advocate for conservation.

Designed for the professional staff of public gardens, conservation-oriented organizations, and cultural institutions, the symposium will take place in Longwood Gardens’ spectacular Ballroom starting at 8 a.m. Registration for the daylong event is $75 for professionals, and $55.00 for full-time students.

For more information and to register online, visit the Longwood Graduate Program website or call the program office at 302-831-2517.

Symposium highlights

Jerry Borin, former executive director of Columbus Zoo, will discuss how to gain a mass media audience for conservation, drawing on both his experience at Columbus Zoo and that of his protégé, Jack Hanna, through national television exposure.

John Gwynne, emeritus chief creative officer and vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, will speak on inspiring conservation through effective message design, based on his twenty years of creative leadership at the Bronx Zoo, and its direct link to conservation projects and expertise in developing nations.

Alistair Griffiths, curator (horticultural science) of the Eden Project in the United Kingdom, will address how to have a conservation message as the organizing principle in the life of a garden, from concept to realization. He will also present a case study on species conservation from discovery to commercialization.

Catherine Hubbard, director of the ABQ Biopark, N.M., will offer a wide range of current best practices for communicating with the public in zoos, aquariums, and gardens, with practical applications for organizations of varying sizes and missions.

Kathy Wagner, consultant and former vice president for conservation and education at the Philadelphia Zoo, will stimulate thinking about message relevance and effective evaluation techniques for measuring impact.

This year’s event includes a special new session featuring two speakers who will share their insights on the impact of storytelling and environmental psychology in communication for conservation. Sally O’Byrne, teacher and naturalist at the Delaware Nature Society, will share the practical art of storytelling. Andrew Losowsky, books editor at the Huffington Post, will address the nature and mechanics of a good story.


UDBG January Events

January 4, 2012 under CANR News, Events

January isn’t a great time to garden but it is a fantastic time to learn about it. Come join the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens this month for the following events:

“Small Flowering Shrubs” Lecture Series & Lab by UDBG Director and Professor John Frett
Lectures: Wed., Jan. 11, 18, & 25, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Lab: Sat., Jan. 21, 9 – 11 am
Members: $25 per lecture and the lab
Nonmembers: $30 per lecture and the lab

This three-lecture survey of small flowering shrubs 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.

Registration and pre-payment required. Lab is free if registered for all 3 classes. Credit cards will be accepted for this series.  Please indicate your payment method when registering.  If credit, we will contact you for card information. 

“Gardening in Small Spaces” Lecture by Horticulturist, Writer, and Artist Eva Monheim
Tues., Jan. 17, 7 pm
Members: $5     Nonmembers: $10

The trend towards smaller garden spaces does not necessarily translate to a smaller palette of plants and design ideas. Explore the potential for a closer bond with plants and people through inspirational design and creative use of plant materials. Eva will help you to think about developing or tweaking your own special retreat.

UDBG Book Exchange
Book Drop-off:  Mon. – Fri., Jan. 9-13, 9 am – 3 pm in 112 Worrilow Hall
Book Exchange: Tue., Jan. 17, 5 – 7 pm and Wed., Jan. 18, 11 am – 1 pm and 5 – 6:30 pm in the Townsend Hall Commons
Free. All are welcome.

Are you clearing your bookshelves to make way for new acquisitions? Bring us your gently used horticulture, landscape design, soils, etc. books and alternative media. You’ll receive credit toward selecting ‘new’ media at the Friends’ Book Exchange. For more information, contact Caroline Golt at

For additional information on the courses and book exchange visit the UDBG website.   To register for classes, please email or phone 302-831-2531. Send payment to: UDBG, 152 Townsend Hall, University of DE, Newark DE 19716  


UD, Hagley horticulturalists offer seasonal decorating tips

December 2, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

An October hike always puts Renee Huber in a holiday state of mind. It’s not the reds and golds of the autumn leaves that do it; it’s because, like, Santa, Huber knows she has a big holiday job on the horizon.

She is responsible for planning and installing the holiday decorations at Hagley Museum, which includes not only Eleutherian Mills, the du Pont family home; but also the Belin House, home to an organic café; the Soda House, where special events are held; and Gibbons House, where visitors can make paper ornaments or pop corn on a wood-burning stove.

“I start thinking about each year’s theme and what materials I’m going to use in October,” says Huber, who has been a Hagley horticulturalist for 17 years. “I love walks and hikes and get inspired by what I see in the landscape. Before I go to bed, I take notes and make sketches so I don’t forget my ideas.”

By mid-October, Huber has ordered all of her supplies. In early November she gets a jump start on any tasks that can be done in advance. Mid to late November is crunch time, when she and a team of volunteers make the decorations and install them. Recently, the first visitors streamed in to enjoy “Christmas at Hagley.”

As much as possible, Huber uses natural plant materials collected from Hagley’s 235 acres. Evergreens are a mainstay but she’s always on the look out for other materials. “I love seed heads and ornamental grasses,” she says. “Pink mulhy is a native grass that’s most dramatic in fall, with pink, wispy flower heads. But after the frost, when the flower heads have turned brown, I like to tuck strands of this grass into wreaths, garlands and other decorations.”

Like Huber, Sue Barton is a big fan of natural holiday decorations. But for Barton there’s nothing stressful about the decorating process. An ornamental horticulture specialist for UD Cooperative Extension, Barton decorates her own home, not a museum that attracts thousands of visitors during the holiday season.

The Sunday afternoon she makes decorations is one of the high points of the season for Barton. She collects materials from her 7-acre property and often snips evergreen magnolias branches from a friend’s yard. And this year her decorations will include lots of Eastern red cedar and blue-hued berries, which she collected recently on a long weekend in the Outer Banks.

“It’s a lot more fun and a lot more relaxing than shopping for tinsel and garland,” says Barton. “Simple homemade decorations are nicer than anything you can buy. And they bring a touch of the outdoors inside during a time of year when most of us don’t get outside as much.”

Huber maintains a cutting garden specifically for decorating purposes, planted with a variety of evergreens, winterberry and other perennial favorites. But most of us don’t have that luxury. So it’s important to prune carefully so that your landscape still looks good when you’re done, cautions Barton.

Cut back to the trunk or another branch, she says. Stay away from hemlock and spruce because their needles will start dropping within days in a heated home. Barton soaks her greens overnight to re-hydrate them but Huber skips that step. Because both horticulturalists put up their decorations early, they check throughout the season to see if anything needs to be replaced.

“If evergreens become dried out they’re a fire hazard,” notes Barton.

If you don’t consider yourself a natural Martha Stewart or P. Allen Smith, no worries. Barton says to go with the flow and let nature inspire you. “I never know what I’m going to cut until I get out there and see what looks good,” she says. “Even during the crafting process, I don’t work from carefully laid-out plans.”

But if you work better with a little instruction, here are some tips, courtesy of the UD and Hagley horticulturalists:

• Be bold with color. Think beyond the classic red, green and silver. This season Huber used lots of yellow. For example, she paired yellow yarrow and bright red winterberry in several decorations to good effect. Both plants are native to Delaware and easy to grow.

• Think beyond tried-and-true evergreens. Barton often decorates with oak leaf hydrangea, which still sports fall foliage in gorgeous shades of maroon. As long as you place the branches in water, hydrangea will stay fresh in your home into December.

• Start collecting materials now even if you don’t plan to make your decorations until later in the season. When you’re out in the yard or on a walk, look for interesting berries, pine cones and nuts. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find a long-abandoned bird’s nest to tuck into an evergreen wreath.

• A basket of pine cones, in all shapes and sizes, makes an attractive, rustic centerpiece. Add a bit of greenery and fresh citrus to the basket for texture, color and a great aroma. For something a bit splashier, spray paint the cones gold.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article was originally posted on UDaily


Master Gardeners Win International Award

October 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Gail Hermenau, New Castle County Master Gardener, of Middletown, Delaware, accepts the Search for Excellence Award at the International Master Gardener Conference on behalf of the entire organization.

Three University of Delaware New Castle County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners—Suzanne Baron (of Middletown), Gail Hermenau (also of Middletown), and Eva Rotmann-Oehler (of North Wilmington)—and Horticulture Educator and Master Gardener Coordinator, Carrie Murphy, attended the International Master Gardener Conference in Charleston, West Virginia, October 11 – 14, 2011. During the conference, Gail Hermenau accepted the 2011 International Search for Excellence Award presented to the Master Gardeners for their small scale Grow your own Food themed home gardener workshops, demonstrations, and tours in the teaching gardens.

In 2009 and 2010, the New Castle County Master Gardeners responded to community need for information on how to grow your own food.  Master Gardeners worked together with their coordinator to develop opportunities that responded directly to this need.  The topics that Master Gardeners developed as part of their workshops and demonstrations included site and soil preparation, composting, plant selection, seeds and transplants, tips for growing vegetables, companion planting, beneficial insects, integrated pest management (IPM), fall gardening, harvest to table, growing berries, and putting your garden to bed.  In total, there were more than 20 events focused on the Grow your own Food theme, educating more than 300 community members.

This is the third Search for Excellence Award presented to the New Castle County Master Gardeners at the International Master Gardener Conference in just four years.


Where the wildflowers are

September 22, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Spring blooms may have their legions of fans but Sue Barton unabashedly favors the flowers of fall.

“Fall is, by far, the more interesting time in Delaware’s landscape,” says Barton, noting the juxtaposition of flowers, grasses, foliage and fruit in shades of yellow, red, orange, blue, purple, white and more.  Barton, the ornamental horticulture specialist for University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, points out that the ever-changing colors make for a new and different landscape every week.

The autumnal equinox is Sept. 23 and the fall wildflower season already is shaping up to be a beauty.

“The fall wildflowers actually start around the end of August, are in abundance now, and continue through Thanksgiving, when the late-blooming asters put on final show of color,” says Barton.

Native wildflowers currently in bloom include goldenrod, tickseed, ironweed, goldentop, ladies’-tresses, some species of coneflower and asters.

One of the best places to see fall wildflowers is Mt. Cuba Center. Along the woodland paths and in the meadow you’ll find white wood aster, purple dome New England aster, golden fleece autumn goldenrod, fireworks wrinkle-leaf goldenrod, blue-stemmed goldenrod and showy goldenrod.

Other fall highlights include black-eyed Susan and two varieties of Joe-Pye weed, (Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’) and (Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’), according to Jeanne Frett, horticultural research manager of Mt. Cuba.

Plus, goldentop is abundant in the center’s meadow and ladies’-tresses dots the woods. One of Frett’s favorite fall wildflowers is Chelone, commonly known as turtlehead because the flowers are shaped a bit like a turtle’s head. The species that Frett prefers sports hot pink flowers and grows throughout Mt. Cuba’s woods.  She also likes Gentiana clausa,aka bottle gentian, which features vivid purple-blue flowers.

Winterthur Museum’s gardens also are a good place to check out colorful native wildflowers. The museum’s Quarry Garden woodlands feature asters and alumroot. Barton says that this woodland is a great place to observe the way that nature creates patterns in the landscape, such as the drifts of blooms often found under trees.

“For those plants that are dependent on distribution by birds, you’ll find a lot more plants directly under the trees or near the trees,” says Barton. “The birds distribute fewer seeds the further you get away from their nests.”

Barton enjoys looking for patterns — both natural and human-made — in the landscape. “There’s often an element of surprise, you wonder why a particular species is abundant in one spot and not another, and then you realize that the conditions are different in terms of moisture or sunlight or some other factor,” notes Barton.

“I like change in the garden and in the landscape,” she adds. “Natural patterns in the landscape provide that element of change, and so, too, do the varying colors of fall’s flowers, grasses, foliage and fruit.”

Mt. Cuba and Winterthur both offer wildflower walks. Events at Mt. Cuba include “Autumnal Wildflower Garden” tours through Oct. 2. For tour days and more information, go to or call 302-239-4244.

At Winterthur, “Wednesday Garden Walks” are held each week; wildflowers can be seen on the Oct. 5 walk, titled “The Purple and Red of Sycamore Hill,” and on the Oct. 12 “Harvest-Time Hike.” For more information, go to or call 302-888-4600.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo courtesy Mt. Cuba

Also online on UDaily 


Sept. 20: UDBG Friends meeting, lecture

September 14, 2011 under CANR News

On Tuesday, September 20th at 7pm the UD Botanic Gardens will host its Friends’ meeting and a lecture by Gary Smith.  Smith’s lecture is entitled “Unleashing Creativity in the Native Garden.”

Designers solve problems; artists raise questions. Step beyond “solutions” in garden design and find delight in a world where there are more questions than answers. After exploring a visual vocabulary of shapes, patterns, and processes, we’ll look at artists’ techniques for observing and recording it all. You’ll learn how to unleash the artist within yourself, making meaningful gardens that express the relationship between local sense of place and your own creative spirit. Artist, Landscape Architect, and UD Alum Gary Smith celebrates connections between people and plants, combining art and horticulture to explore ecological design and artistic abstraction. Current projects include the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Winterthur. Gary was an Associate Professor of Landscape Design at the University of Delaware from 1989-98.

Location: Townsend Hall Commons
UDBG Friends: FREE; Nonmembers: $10
Registration requested. To register: Email or call 302-831-2531.

Need a gift for that special someone?  Gary’s new book, From Art to Landscape will be available for purchase at $27.95, a 30% discount. Gary will sign copies following the lecture.

We’re sorry, but no credit cards will be accepted for the evening’s event.

Fall’s a Great Time to Plant!  Take advantage of the weather.  We will be open for business in the plant sale area from 5-6:30pm.


CANR student receives National Garden Clubs Scholarship

June 29, 2011 under CANR News

Matthew Fischel, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has received a $3,500 scholarship from the National Garden Clubs, Inc., one of the leading volunteer gardening organizations in the world. Fischel, a soil chemistry major, was one of 35 recipients, nationwide, of the National Garden Clubs’ scholarship program.

The program promotes study in the fields of agriculture education, horticulture, botany, biology, forestry, agronomy, wildlife science, land management and related areas.

Photo by Danielle Quigley