Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association selects 2013 Plants of Year

March 11, 2013 under CANR News

Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low' can be found at the UD Botanic GardensIn her role as executive director of the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association, Valann Budischak’s responsibilities are wide-reaching. She’s even expected to organize an annual beauty pageant. In this case, however, the contestants are plants, not people, and strength and vigor are just as important as good looks.

The association has just announced its 2013 Plants of the Year and both the woody plant – Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ – and the herbaceous winner – Heuchera macrorhiza‘Autumn Bride’ — are much more than just pretty faces.

“The idea behind the ‘Plant of the Year’ designation is to give recognition to hardy, attractive plants that are well-suited to local growing conditions but may be a bit under-the-radar screen,” says Budischak. “Heuchera macrorhiza ‘Autumn Bride’ makes a great groundcover if you have shady areas, like I do. Or, if you have sunnier conditions, consider Rhus aromatica‘Gro-Low’ for its multi-season interest.”

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ is a cultivar of Delaware’s native fragrant sumac. It’s a dense, low-growing shrub that looks good almost every month of the year. In spring, tiny yellow flowers bloom at the twig tips before the foliage appears. During the growing season, Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ has glossy, dark-green leaves, which are accompanied by small clusters of hairy, red berries in late summer. In fall, the leaves turn brilliant shades of orange and red.

“This sumac cultivar makes an impact when planted in masses,” says Budischak. “When I am asked to recommend a plant for sloped areas, I usually mention Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low.’ Because it has the ability to develop roots as the stems touch the soil, it’s great for stabilizing banks and slopes.”

Birds, butterflies and other wildlife like it, too.

Budischak has bunches of Heuchera macrorhiza ‘Autumn Bride’ in her backyard. She loves this groundcover’s large, velvety foliage, which gives this plant its common name of hairy alumroot. Although it’s billed as being tolerant of full sun to deep shade, Budischak begs to differ. “Around here it’s not as happy in full sun unless you give it adequate moisture.”

Heuchera macrorhiza is a plant that really comes into its own as the growing season progresses.

“In spring it’s a nice, fuzzy, light green groundcover,” says Budischak. But by summer the large leaves are eye-catching. Then, in late summer, when almost everything else in the garden is solid green, Heuchera macrorhiza erupts in fountains of tiny white flowers that rise up out of the foliage mound on slender fuzzy stems.

The ‘Autumn Bride’ cultivar of Heuchera macrorhiza is considered to be tough and easy to grow. “It is great for covering bases of trees or other spots that get little moisture,” says Budishak. It also does well in moist shade.

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens has a nice display of Heuchera macrorhiza‘Autumn Bride’ at the entrance. People also can find Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ there, planted alongside a fence next to the herbaceous garden.

The folks at the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association aren’t the only ones holding beauty pageants for plants. The Perennial Plant Association recently named Polygonatum odoratum “Variegatum” as its 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year. Commonly known as variegated solomon’s seal or striped solomon’s seal, this shade-loving plant is a great companion to ferns, hostas and astilbes. In mid- to late spring it produces small, bell-shaped, white flowers. Its sweet fragrance makes it a great choice along a pathway.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo courtesy of Chad Nelson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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University of Delaware Botanic Gardens offers mini-series on small flowering trees

December 7, 2012 under CANR News

It will be four long months before the pink, purple and fuchsia blooms of the Eastern redbud burst forth. Even longer before we’ll see the light pink and white blossoms of serviceberry or the snow white blossoms of native dogwood.

What’s a gardener to do until spring arrives?

For Catherine Buckminster, of Newark, the answer is simple – learn. “I’ve earned a certificate in ornamental horticulture from Longwood, I take Master Gardener workshops, and, coming up in January, I’m enrolled in a mini-series on small flowering trees offered by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens,” says Buckminster.

John Frett talks about small flowering treesLast year was the first time that the UD Botanic Gardens offered a January lecture series and the response was excellent, says Valann Budishak, volunteer and education coordinator for the gardens.

The beginning of the year can be a hard time for local gardeners, says Budishak. In late fall and early winter, leaves can be raked and composted, fall cutbacks can be completed, and other garden tasks accomplished. By January it’s usually too cold to do outside work while it’s a bit too early to start seeds indoors. The mini-series fills a void for Buckminster and other gardeners who are eager to stay engaged in their hobby.

UD Botanic Gardens Director John Frett teaches the series and he’s designed it so that each of the three lectures stands alone. The series also includes a Saturday lab held in the botanic gardens and UD greenhouses. At that session, he will show off some of the cultivars previously discussed. And, rest assured, there will be plenty to admire, even without a single flower in bloom in the gardens.

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

Like Frett, Buckminster appreciates the form, texture and structure of small flowering trees just as much as the blooms. “People want flowers all season long but most trees are only in bloom a short time,” notes Buckminster, who is a member of the UD Botanic Gardens Friends’ group and a frequent volunteer at the gardens. “I select trees with a nice branching structure – like dogwoods – that are going to look good after the blooms are gone.”

Which is not to say Buckminster doesn’t appreciate a pop of color in the landscape come springtime. Her half-acre Newark yard already has many well-established, larger trees so she is currently developing the understory of smaller shrubs and trees.

“I want a better understory for visual effect, as well as to provide food and shelter for birds,” says Buckminister.

Currently, she has redbuds at the perimeter of her backyard, growing at the edge of woodlands, and dogwoods as specimen plantings throughout the property. She’d like to add some more small, flowering trees in the front, underneath larger trees, to enhance the curb appeal.

At the lecture series, Frett may suggest that she consider the wide variety of magnolias that thrive in Delaware, including native sweetbay magnolia. Like all native magnolias, the sweetbay is a late bloomer – depending on the cultivar, it blooms from May to early summer.

He’ll spend a portion of the Saturday lab session showing off the UD Botanic Gardens’ magnolia collection, which has been expanded to 100 taxa of magnolia, with some 125 magnolias in all. 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.

For those who have very limited space, Frett suggests the M. virginiana “Perry Paige” cultivar of sweetbay – this new dwarf variety tops out at only five to eight feet tall.

Other small flowering trees that Frett will discuss include native serviceberry and hawthorn and native and non-native cherries.

About the series

The UD Botanic Gardens’ small flowering trees mini-series takes place Jan. 9, 16 and 23, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with a lab on Jan. 19 from 9-11 a.m. Cost for the public is $35 per lecture or lab; if you sign up for all three lectures the lab is free. To register, or for more info, call 831-2531.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Cooperative Extension, DNLA to hold Summer Turf and Nursery Expo Aug. 16

August 1, 2012 under CANR News

Horticulture industry professionals are invited to attend the 2012 Summer Turf and Nursery Expo held at the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, on Thursday, August 16, 2012 from 8:15 a.m.-3:35 p.m.

The program is organized by Delaware Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association (DNLA) and will feature guest speakers, a choice of workshop subjects and an opportunity for industry professionals to earn Maryland and Delaware continuing education credits in Nutrient Management, ISA and Pesticide recertification. It is an opportunity for those in the green industry to increase knowledge and improve skills.

The deadline to register is Wednesday, August 8. Registration fees apply and the cost is $40 for DNLA members and $55 for non-DNLA members. Registration after August 8 and walk in registration will cost $60.

“Events such as this are great forums for education and networking among fellow green industry professionals,” says Valann Budischak, Cooperative Extension agent for UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and executive director of the DNLA. “This is the third time this event has been held in Sussex County and the first at the Carvel Center.”

Tracy Wootten, Sussex County horticulture agent for UD Cooperative Extension, is excited to be able to offer local arborist’s training. “It’s a great opportunity for ISA recertification here in Sussex,” Wootten said. “Participants will have many opportunities to see demonstrations and live specimens that will improve identification of problems in the landscape and see beneficial insects at work.”

Topics include:

  • Transportation Regulations,
  • Laws & Safety,
  • Pest & Beneficial Insect Walk,
  • Soil Health
  • Intermediate Wall and Raised Patio Construction
  • Business Planning
  • Safe Tree Removal
  • Proper Pruning Techniques and
  • Certified Nursery Professional (CNP) Plant ID Challenge & Potential Pests.

For a full agenda, visit the Carvel Research and Education Center website.

Download the Summer Turf and Nursery brochure here.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. See brochure link above for more information.

Additional questions should be direction to Valann Budischack at (888) 448-1203.

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Sussex County Master Gardeners offer Livable Lawn workshop

July 18, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

The Sussex County Master Gardeners are pleased to invite the public to a workshop entitled ‘Livable Lawns’ on Monday, July 30, at Noon. The goal of the Delaware Livable Lawns initiative is simple – reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff from lawns. This workshop will provide the necessary information needed to maintain a healthy, beautiful lawn while partnering in the protection of the environment. Delaware Cooperative Extensions Associate, Valann Budischak is the presenter.

The workshop will be held at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown, Delaware. The workshop is free. Please pre-register by contacting Tammy Schirmer at 302-856-2585, ext 544, tammys@udel.edu. Or visit the Carvel Research and Education Center website.

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices. It is Delaware Cooperative Extension’s policy that that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or handicap status. If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

Photo by Bobbie Ranney

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Delaware nature-lovers share their favorite places to enjoy summer in the state

June 27, 2012 under Cooperative Extension

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. — John Lubbock

Officially, June 20 was the first day of summer, even though the unofficial signs of the season — flip flops, hammocks, water ice — blossomed weeks ago. For most of us, the workaday routine means we’re stuck inside a lot more than we’d like. When the weekend rolls around, we’re itching to get outside.

So where should we spend our precious free hours? We asked area birders, entomologists, horticulturalists and other nature-lovers about their favorite places to enjoy summer in Delaware.

Here’s what they told us:

Nature with a side of history 

My favorite spot is Brandywine Springs Park, which was an amusement park in the early 20th century and is now a county natural area.  I enjoy the sound of the water rushing through Hyde Run, a tributary of the Red Clay Creek, as I take long walks among the old trees. Since I am a history buff and a member of Friends of Brandywine Springs, I especially like the historical aspect of walking the old boardwalk area. Spending a few hours taking in the sights and sounds there refreshes me.

Eileen Boyle, horticulturalist, Hagley Museum

Flitting dragonflies

I enjoy Millstone Pond in White Clay Creek State Park. There is a small rock outcrop overlooking the pond and a nice place to sit in the shade on a sultry summer afternoon contemplating of the world around — dragonflies coursing over the pond, birds in the trees, wild flowers blooming. Just outside Delaware in Caroline County, Md., is Idylwild Wildlife Management Area. When I want to see many rare dragonflies and damselflies native to the Delmarva Peninsula that is where I go. However, one may need to suffer to be rewarded. One needs to bring water, be willing to hike a ways, and carry insect repellant.

Hal White, University of Delaware professor and author of “Natural History of Delmarva: Dragonflies and Damselflies”

A riot of blooms 

In summer, I love the rainbow of blooms in the Color Trial Garden at UD’s Botanic Gardens. Mid- to late July, it’s probably at its peak. Commercial seed companies rely on trial gardens such as this one to provide unbiased feedback about new varieties. For the public, the garden provides a sneak peek at more than a hundred yet-to-be-introduced varieties of annuals and perennials. It’s not uncommon to see people wandering through the trial garden with pencil and paper in hand to write down their favorites.

Valann Budischak, volunteer and education coordinator, UD Botanic Gardens

Cool running 

I run a lot at White Clay Creek State Park but recently I also have been working out at Lums Pond.  Especially in the summer, it is really nice to run (or walk) near a body of water. Even if you aren’t in the water, the sight and sound of water is cooling. As to plants I enjoy now, Delaware is mostly green at this point. Ferns are probably the prettiest vegetation in the summer.

Sue Barton, triathlete and UD Cooperative Extension specialist in ornamental horticulture

Sunset on the water

I like canoeing up the headwaters of Haven Lake, outside of Milford, from a public boat ramp off Williamsville Road. It features narrow channels and small islands and teems with birds, beavers, dragonflies and damselflies. You can even see insectivorous sundew and pitcher plants. Sunset is my favorite time to be on the water.

Jason Beale, manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford

A park that’s got it all

I like to go to Bellevue State Park because as a family it meets all our needs. Bellevue has gardens, nature trails, meadows, a pond, playgrounds, horses, community vegetable garden plots and more. My daughter, Teagan, is almost 3 years old and she likes the diversity of so many different things to look at. She is just fascinated by the horses. I jog on the trails and I also like to check out the garden plots. Many Master Gardeners have plots at Bellevue and I love to see what people are growing and how they are growing it.

Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Cooperative Extension

Biking the by-ways

I moved to Delaware in January so I still consider myself new to the state. I enjoyed Cape Henlopen many times before I moved here and now I’m making new discoveries. On summer weekend mornings, I have found that the scenic by-ways following the Red Clay and Brandywine creeks are surprisingly quiet and great for road biking.  Traveling by bike, you see so much more of the creeks, historic homes, fields and forests than when traveling by car.

Brian Winslow, executive director, Delaware Nature Society 

Woodpecker and eagle hang-out 

My favorite place at Hagley is the area that extends from the steam engine display to the boat house. The view of the iron bridge, the Brandywine, the dam and the woods is spectacular. You may even see an eagle flying over the river or our pair of pileated woodpeckers feeding in the large maple next to the boat house.

Richard Pratt, supervisor of gardens and grounds, Hagley Museum 

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily

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Autumn fern, fringetree win state’s plant of the year title

June 8, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Beauty pageants like to stress that it’s not just good looks but also talent and poise that make a winner. Likewise, the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association Plant of the Year designation isn’t given to just any pretty plant but one “particularly well suited to thrive in Delaware,” notes Valann Budischak, executive director of the association.

That being said, the newly announced 2012 Plant of the Year winners are knock-out beauties – even if these plants weren’t easy to grow you’d want them in your garden. Dryopteris erythrosora, aka autumn fern, sports a copper pink color when its leaves first unfurl in spring, eventually maturing to glossy dark green. And Chionanthus virginicus, commonly known as fringetree, is a Southern charmer, with airy panicles of fragrant, fringy flowers in May.

“Fringe tree is an apt moniker for this delightful, small flowering tree, whose white blossoms do resemble a fanciful white fringe suspended in the spring sunlight,” wrote Landenberg, Pa., landscape consultant Rick Darke, a University of Delaware alumnus, in his 2002 book The American Woodland Garden.

Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania are the northernmost habitat for the fringetree. It also grows in south Jersey, nearly all of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, into the Deep South, and as far west as Texas.

With its ethereal appearance, you’d think fringetree would be a high-maintenance plant. But it’s a cinch to grow in full sun to partial shade. “Fringetree prefers moist, well-drained soil but it also will tolerate extremely dry conditions,” says Budischak. “And it’s especially well-suited to urban sites because of its high pollution tolerance.”

Dozens of fringetrees planted in the I-95 median north of Wilmington to the Pennsylvania state line are exposed to exhaust fumes 24/7 but look just as good as if they were growing in the wild. These trees were installed as part of the Enhancing Delaware Highways project, a joint venture between UD, the state Department of Transportation and Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH).

DCH also has planted fringetree in several spots in Wilmington, including a 911 Memorial Garden on Scott and 14th streets and along a railway embankment on Union Street. At the embankment planting, fringetree was mixed with Eastern ninebark, a hardy native shrub, and a variety of perennials, including false indigo. Fringetree also works well on its own as a specimen tree.

“I like fringetree because it’s very stalwart, very dependable and it’s a good habitat for pollinators and other wildlife,” says Lenny Wilson, assistant director of horticulture and facilities for DCH.

Female (fruit-bearing) fringetrees are especially attractive to wildlife. Bluebirds, thrashers, finch, vireo and eight species of caterpillars enjoy the tree’s dark blue fruit, according to Doug Tallamy, chair of UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. The trees aren’t labeled “male” or “female” at the garden center so the only way to know if you’re getting a female tree is to buy the plant in the fall, after the fruit has appeared.

Unlike fringetree, autumn fern isn’t native to Delaware. However, Budischak is quick to note that autumn fern is not invasive and spreads very slowly over time via creeping rhizomes. An arching, vase-shaped fern, it grows in medium to wet soils, in partial to full shade. Ultimately, it reaches a height of one and one-half to two feet.

June 13 Garden Day

If you have questions about growing fringetree or autumn fern, head to the June 13 Garden Day at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension office in Newark.

Master Gardeners will be on hand to lend their expertise at this event in the Native Teaching Garden. It is held from 9 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, through September.

There also will be an evening open house in the garden June 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  Call 831-COOP for more info about either event.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily

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Create a backyard rain garden

May 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Want to do your part to help local rivers and bays? Create a backyard rain garden.

It’s fairly easy to build your own rain garden and it can pay big dividends for nearby watersheds.

Stormwater runoff is one of the leading sources of pollution in waterways, according to Valann Budischak, a horticultural associate with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. But rain gardens can be a great way to manage stormwater. Rain gardens are shallow depressions, planted with perennials and woody plants, which collect water from roofs, driveways, other impervious surfaces and turf grass (which, like a driveway, is lousy at absorbing water).

Rain gardens slow down and reduce runoff and thus help prevent flooding and erosion. In addition, the garden’s soil and plants filter pollutants in rainwater.

“Rain Gardens for the Bays” was launched last year to encourage homeowners to build rain gardens to improve water quality in the Delaware Bay, Delaware’s inland bays and Maryland’s coastal bays. Partners in the project include UD Cooperative Extension, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware Nature Society and other agencies.

In addition to doing good, rain gardens look good. “Rain gardens are an attractive way to reduce impact on the environment,” says Budischak. “And you don’t need a huge property to have a rain garden.”

She has seen successful rain gardens as small as 10 feet by 15 feet. On the other end of the spectrum, rain gardens on UD’s Newark campus range from less than 1,000 square feet to more than 3,000. In addition, a large rain garden was installed on the Lewes campus last year, says Tom Taylor, UD’s landscape engineer.

Rain gardens were at UD long before the term “rain garden” was coined, says Taylor. He spearheaded the installation of a rain garden – at the time called a bio-retention basin – at the Dickinson residence complex in the early 1990s.

UD’s rain gardens have always had an environmental function but now the gardens serve an educational role, too. “The key is signage,” notes Taylor. “It’s important to have signs at the rain gardens so that people know what they’re looking at and understand how they can do something similar at home.”

Taylor added plantings to a bio-swale at his Lewes home and used the campus gardens for inspiration. Plants on the exterior of a rain garden must tolerate both dry and wet conditions while plants inside the garden need to handle very wet conditions. (A rain garden’s interior is designed to hold water for up to 48 hours.)

On the edges of a rain garden, Taylor likes native ornamental grasses, asters, goldenrod, blueberry bushes and red-twig dogwood. For the interior, he frequently chooses clethra, cardinal flower, iris, button bush and winterberry. Other options that Budischak suggests are turtlehead, Joe-Pye weed, dwarf fothergilla, sweetbay magnolia and river birch.

Living in Sussex County, Taylor doesn’t have to contend with the single biggest obstacle to a successful rain garden – heavy clay soil. That’s a problem most New Castle County residents must overcome because clay soil inhibits water infiltration.

Taylor recommends replacing a foot and a half of heavy clay soil with a rain garden soil mix to improve drainage.

Other considerations in building a rain garden are size and location. Although it would seem logical to install a rain garden in a low area that doesn’t drain well, this is a poor choice because it won’t support plant growth. The ideal place for a rain garden, says Budischak, is gently sloping ground where stormwater drains off grass or impervious surfaces.

Garden size depends on the size of the area from which you are capturing runoff, soil type and depth of the garden. Many homeowners seek professional advice about the garden’s size and soil requirements before tackling installation and planting. UD Botanic Garden intern Rebecca Pineo created a how-to guide to rain gardens, which can be found online.

For more information about the Rain Gardens for the Bay program, go to the website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

The original posting of this article can be viewed on UDaily.

 

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