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New department head, preparing and Can plants think?

November 24, 2014

This morning we wrapped up some loose ends, went over schedules, started working on reports and then I had a meeting with our new horticulture department head, Wayne Mackay from Florida. wayne mackay nov.14 He started work the last week of October and is making the rounds visiting with folks to try to get the lay of the land. I am expecting great things in horticulture in the coming year under his leadership. He has already planned a retreat for December with the entire faculty getting together for a full day and night to discuss what we want to get accomplished together. So stay tuned!

Then the rest of the day I took off to start getting ready for Thanksgiving and doing family things. I made a really bad decision to go to Sam’s mid-afternoon. You would have thought they were giving away groceries from the people and the heaping carts. I made it through unscathed and was done for the day. Tomorrow I plan to make all runs early in the day. I have most everything purchased, but need a last-minute grocery store run and a few more gifts to buy for my sister’s family who are coming up for Thanksgiving but not Christmas. After a few errands, I plan to start cooking what I can in advance and getting organized.

It was another gorgeous day, and the forecast shows a stunning week, with a few low temps in the morning but bright sunshine and mild temperatures all week.

As gardeners we all know that plants adapt to the environment they are placed in. Cactus have thick skins and hold water for the dry spells and developed thorns instead of leaves to cut down on respiration and conserve resources. Pine trees produce more pine cones and thus seeds when they know they are dying so they have something to leave behind to perpetuate life. Trees begin shedding leaves early when stressed to save themselves. And how do they do all this without brains? I have been asked that by kids when we are teaching plant units, and that is one of those ah ha moments, where I mumble something and move on. Here is a fascinating video that gives you food for thought:

A Rainy Sunday

November 23, 2014

The rain finally arrived. It was a nice, slow and steady rain which has amounted to about an inch and 1/2 at my house. It also warmed up again today, topping out at 66 degrees–it is still 60 now. Just what our plants needed heading into winter.

I got work done inside, we went to church, went bowling and visited with family and friends, so it was a very good day, in spite of being gloomy.

The forecast for the week of Thanksgiving looks promising, which is always good since it is the busiest travel day of the year. And then shopping!

Here are your mystery plants for the week:

Mystery plant A – mystery plant nov 24.14. is a native perennial.

Mystery plant B -mystery plant nov 2014.12

mystery plant nov 2014.14 is a houseplant/holiday plant that is blooming for me now.

Mystery plant C – mystery plant c nov 24.14. is an evergreen shrub.

Good Luck!

An unexpected blessing

November 22, 2014

The forecast was for another gloomy, wet day, but we got a gorgeous, mild day, so I was wrong in saying not a great gardening weekend. Today was wonderful, with perfect weather for working outside. Before I made it outdoors, I cleaned house, did laundry and some cooking. I also went with a friend to the annual Arkansas Art Center Museum School Sale where students and teachers sell their art. It is a highlight of the year, and I think we knew half the people there. Great art and so much fun. I did buy one thing for myself, and one for a gift, but could have bought much more. If you didn’t go this year, try to mark your calendar and go next year, if you like art. They had tons of glass, great pottery, paintings, photography (our own David Dodson was there), and loads of high quality jewelry, woodwork and much more. After a great lunch at the Art Center (not where the sale was), I made it home and tackled the yard. I pulled up all the spent summer annuals, cut back all the perennials, and raked a section of the front yard. I also planted the last of the pansies I had, and also worked on pots on the deck. Clay blew the leaves off this morning, but you can hardly tell he did so this afternoon!

Have you noticed your deciduous shrubs? The frost hit them early before they had formed abscission layers to drop leaves, so they are all just hanging on. Quite ugly I think! Especially the hydrangeas. winter foliage damage nov 22.14.1

winter foliage damage nov 22.14.3 Their large leaves are soft and mushy and attached. I also have one Japanese maple that hardly ever has fall color because a freeze hits before they turn, so no color. Quite a disappointment. winter foliage damage nov 22.14.2 For taller plants that have persisting leaves, I hope they fall off before any winter precipitation. The remaining leaves, coupled with snow or ice would add extra weight and could cause limb breakage. I actually took off some leaves on a container Japanese maple that looked ugly. If you attempt this, be careful that you don’t damage the replacement buds beneath the leaf you are removing.

I also uncovered the vegetable garden I was protecting with row cover from the frigid low temperatures. It was amazing how well it worked. The lettuce and Brussels sprouts look perfect, while the cauliflower and Swiss chard in the adjacent bed do have some damaged leaves. vegetables nov 22.14.1

vegetables nov 22.14.3

vegetables nov 22.14.4 The kale, bok choy and arugula that were not covered still look great too.
vegetables nov 22.14.5

vegetables nov 22.14.6

After getting things in order, I fertilized all winter vegetables and annuals in hopes that the coming rain will water it all in. I also found more seed pods on my gardenia again this year. Don’t you think plant breeders should breed for more seed set. What a boon–great summer flowers and fragrance, and imagine a plant covered in these showy red seed pods. Imagine the possibilities!gardena seed pod.nov22.14.2

They say rain is coming, but so far it hasn’t shown up here, but it was raining in Fayetteville during the game, and what a game it was! Go Hogs!

Home, rain and meetings

November 21, 2014

Today was a gloomy day, all day long, and from the sound of the forecast, that trend is going to continue all weekend. It has warmed up a bit. It is still 48 degrees at my house tonight, but a misty rain fell most of the day. Mid morning we got a deluge at the office, but it was short-lived. We haven’t seen much measurable rainfall at my house, but it is not going to be a good weekend for gardening!

Julie and I awoke to a beautiful day at Big Cedar on Thursday, and were packed and out pretty early. We were told that there was a resort on the property as early as 1921, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that it began as Big Cedar Lodge, and it has grown in leaps and bounds since. It is a beautiful property with much to offer, but I do think they need to work on signage.
big cedar lodge nov.2014.23

big cedar lodge nov.2014.25

big cedar lodge nov.2014.26
As a child, we went to Table Rock lake almost every year with grandparents or cousins. They fished and we swam and had fun, and thought we were fishing. The whole area was pretty rural back then (in the 60’s and 70’s) but we had many great memories from those days. It is now a destination vacation, and one I should revisit in warmer weather!
big cedar lodge nov.2014.21 I bet the fall foliage was amazing even a week ago.

It was a nice drive home and since we have been back, we have had plenty to do. I have worked with 4-H, and FCS on leadership surveys for volunteers, Grant reviews, County 76, State conferences and the website. I also have spent countless hour uploading photos to a shared website. If I had a solid month with nothing to do I might get that finished.

Here are the answers to you mystery plant challenges for the week:
Mystery plant A – mystery plant a nov 17. is Acorus gramineus and I believe the cultivar is ‘Ogon’. This evergreen perennial has grass like leaves. The common name is sweet flag. It is a dwarf plant which looks like a grass or small iris, but is actually a member of the acorus family. It is grown primarily as a ground cover or accent plant. It is an easy plant to grow in medium to wet soils in full sun to partial shade. It can have scorched leaf tips if the soils are allowed to dry out or it is in full afternoon sun. Great plant.

Mystery plant B – mystery plant b nov 17.14 was one sent to me to identify. It is not the best picture, but it is definitely an Euonymus. I identified it as Manhattan Euonymus or Euonymus kaiutschovicus. Also called spreading Euonymus for its habit of growing almost as a cross between a bush and a vine. It has small yellow-green flowers in late spring with these showy fruits in the fall. It is an evergreen plant for sun or partial shade. It does not seem to be susceptible to the euonymus scale. I have had it for years and it is tough as nails.

Mystery plant C – mystery plant nov 17.14 is a summer annual called Heliotrope. It has deep, rich purple blooms all summer if it is happy. It grows best in full morning sun and afternoon shade in Arkansas, in a moist, but well-drained site. It is an old-fashioned plant that is quite fragrant, although a few who guessed it correctly, said theirs had no fragrance.

Great job folks!

Cold and travels

November 19, 2014

Yesterday morning was a low of 19 in Little Rock, but I heard as low as 10 in NW Arkansas.  Way too cold for the south!

We got a lot of work done at the office yesterday and took Holly out to dinner to celebrate her birthday (which is this Friday).

We headed north early this morning. We were surprised by how much snow was on the ground around Clinton.  They seemed to be hit the hardest between LR and  Eureka Springs.  We had a preliminary session with the staff at the Inn of the Ozarks eureka springs nov2014 (1) eureka springs nov2014 (2)and our committee chairs to see how we were going to get 500 Master Gardeners up here in 2016.  I am thrilled that we now have the state conference set for 3 years with a possible 4th year site.   2015 of course is in Saline County at the Benton Event Center June 4-6.  Then 2016 will be in Eureka Springs June   and the 2017 will be in Pulaski County (Little Rock) dates to be determined.  I have not heard a final decision, but River Valley MGs were considering 2018 in Ft. Smith.  The more lead time counties have, the easier time they will have in planning.

After our meeting at the convention center, we went to a local Farm to Table restaurant called Fresh to continue our meeting.  It was late afternoon before we left to head to another meeting.  We checked into  Big Cedar Lodge for the night.   After our meeting, we had a lovely dinner at the new Top of the Rock restaurant. eureka springs nov2014 (1) big cedar lodge (1) We didn’t get to see much of a view since it was dark by the time we arrived.  The signage is not great up here and in the dark the roads are windy and narrow. Luckily we didn’t see any deer.  We look forward to a better view in the morning before we head back to Little Rock.

The best pictures I got were from the Top of the Rock and the Arnold Palmer driving range.  Pretty impressive.

big cedar lodge (4) big cedar lodge (8) big cedar lodge (11) big cedar lodge (13)


Sad news and work

November 17, 2014

I got word today that a good friend of mine passed away from breast cancer yesterday. Marla Crider, long time PR director for Garvan Gardens who moved on to State Parks a few years back, gave it a good fight, but lost the battle. In spite of it all, she kept up her spirits and worked almost to the end. She had a great companion and family who stood by her through it all, and was able to go home with hospice. Marla was a special person and will be missed by many. ??????????????????????????????? I took this picture as Marla drove out of the parking lot on her last day at Garvan Gardens. Marla was a perfectionist and wanted everything done just so, and always gave it her all in whatever she did. I am sure she is already busy organizing and directing things in heaven! Arkansas lost a champion yesterday!

Today was our annual Arkansas Flower and Garden Show retreat, making plans for the 2016 show which will be our 25th anniversary event. We came up with a theme–Silver Celebrations, 25 years of gardening. We made great strides in making sure this will be a spectacular event–and it even takes place on the 25th–February 25-27, 2016. afgs retreat nov 14.1

afgs retreat nov 14.2 This year, our show is I Dig Arkansas on Feb. 20-22 at the Statehouse Convention Center. Bookmark the website to check back often for updates:

Then tonight we went bowling. Clay bought me a new bowling ball–and yes it is orange and yellow! I got the ball drilled tonight and broke it in. First throw was a strike, and the game was ok, but I can’t say I sustained that, but it was great fun.
bowling ball new nov.14.1

bowling ball new nov.14.2

It was bitterly cold today and supposedly we are getting down to the upper teens or low 20’s tonight. I am not ready for this! Try to stay warm!

A gloomy day with a chance of snow

November 16, 2014

We have another possibility of snow tonight for NOVEMBER! What does this portend for the rest of the year? We can only hope that we are getting it out of Mother Nature’s system and that will be it! Keep your fingers crossed.
It was a gloomy, misty day today, so I didn’t get any clean-up done in the garden, but all the winter vegetables had defrosted and looked pretty good–including the lettuce I did not harvest. It is amazing what a little moisture and less than freezing temperatures will do. It is also a sad state of affairs when I was thrilled that it was only 37 degrees this November 16 morning instead of below freezing temps–but it is headed back down now.

It was a great evening for a fire inside, but look at this amazing outside fire pit from a MG in Garland County.
fire Wouldn’t you love not only the fire, but the view and the lake? When this picture was taken it wasn’t quite finished, but I bet it is now.

We also got a request last week for what is the tallest okra plant? okra plant I suggested sending it into Guinness book of world records, but supposedly one was already 19 feet tall. We get all kinds of questions at the county offices!

Here are the answers to your Mystery plants for the week and your new challenges:
Mystery plant A – mystery plant a.nov102 is a cool season perennial called Arum italicaum- or Italian arum. The foliage starts growing now with cool fall weather. In late winter/early spring it has a spath-like bloom and then the foliage disappears leaving behind a berry stalk. italian arum seed pod july 15.

Mystery plant B – mystery plants nov10.14.5 is a shade loving perennial called Farfugium japonicum (previously Ligularia). The common name is leopard plant due to the spotted foliage. As the plant gets established,it will develop more yellow spots. It blooms in the fall.

Mystery plant C – mystery plants nov10.14.7 is the fall blooming witch hazel – Hamamelis virginiana. Normally quite fragrant, we did not notice any scent last Saturday when I took this picture at Garvan Gardens. Normally quite fragrant, with a bloom in late fall, plus outstanding fall foliage makes this a great addition to the garden.

New plant challenges:
Mystery plant A – mystery plant a nov 17. is an evergreen ground cover.

Mystery plant B mystery plant b nov 17.14 is an evergreen shrub.

Mystery plant C – mystery plant nov 17.14 is a summer annual


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