Master Gardener Native Plant Teaching Garden Open House Set for June 11

June 7, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

J.W Wistermayer in the Master Gardeners Native Teaching GardenGardens are teeming with sights, sounds and tactile experiences. They’re meant to be used and enjoyed, not merely gazed at from a distance, says University of Delaware Master Gardener J.W. Wistermayer.

So, even though Wistermayer spends 5 to 10 hours a week tending to the New Castle County Master Gardener Native Plant Teaching Garden, he just chuckles when he sees that the garden’s plant identification tags have been rearranged.

“When tags are out of place, I know it means that kids are getting in here and discovering the garden,” says Wistermayer. “Our garden is next to the university’s Laboratory Preschool and Early Learning Center. At drop-off and pick-up times, kids and parents come look for new blooms, check to see if birds are in the bird boxes, and listen to the wind chimes. There is one particular path through three-foot-high plants that little kids love because they’re surrounded and hidden by all the foliage.”

The Native Plant Teaching Garden gets kids excited about plants and nature but its primary purpose is to promote the use of native plants in home landscapes, whether that landscape is several containers on a city apartment deck or an acre-plus in suburbia.

If you’re stumped about what to do with a spot where nothing grows, or how to jazz up a boring landscape bed, the Native Plant Teaching Garden is the place to go. Located on the grounds of the New Castle County Cooperative office in Newark, the garden features several distinct areas, including a butterfly garden, a rain garden, a meadow, a perennial border, and a foundation landscape planting.

The Master Gardeners also maintain a fruit and vegetable teaching garden, and a compost demonstration site, both of which are located behind the county office.

If you had to sum up the Native Plant Teaching Garden in one word, it would have to be “unexpected.” The garden features a fresh, exciting design that proves without a doubt that “native plant” isn’t synonymous with dull.

The foundation landscape bed, running the length of the county office, is a perfect example of this unexpected nature. While many of us select the same-old pink azaleas or red-blossomed dwarf cherries to line our homes, the Native Plant Teaching Garden’s foundation planting is full of unexpected textures, colors and plant choices. Such as the feathery foliage and steel blue flowers of threadleaf bluestar. Or the brushy blooms of fothergilla, which will sport fiery foliage in fall. There’s nothing formal or structured about either of these native species, yet they work well in this foundation planting.

Another unexpected touch is the green roof on top of the garden arbor. Covered with vegetation, this green roof absorbs water and creates habitat for wildlife. If it was used on a home or business, its insulating effects could lower cooling and heating costs, too.

One of Wistermayer’s favorite spots in the garden is a wooden bench positioned under a river birch. From there, he can hear wind chimes that hang in a nearby maple. Wistermayer often stops by the garden on Sunday to water the plants and ends his work session with a bit of quiet time relaxing on the bench.

The Master Gardeners will be hosting an Open House at the Native Plant Teaching Garden on June 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. They’ll be joined by Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with UD Cooperative Extension, and Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Extension. The Open House is free but pre-registration is necessary. Email Murphy at cjmurphy@udel.edu.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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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.

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