After sweating through two days outdoors I thought a day inside the convention center would be heavenly, but today I froze! Just imagine how cold it was that I was cold. Tomorrow I will dress more warmly. Registration began today for the national county agricultural association and the trade show opened at 1. There was a lot of activity all over the convention center today with people coming and going. Vignettes showcasing Arkansas were all around the building. Arkansas Extension was well represented and we had lots of traffic today with many questions. Vic Ford brought some unripe pawpaws that had fallen off a tree at the station and they were the hit of our booth. We also had a lot of complements for our garden. Tonight was the opening dinner and they served in shifts based on the time on your ticket. Things seemed to flow smoothly. Educational sessions, trade show and more meetings go on all day tomorrow, followed by dinner at the River Market.
What promised to be an extremely long day, got shortened by a bunch of helpful people.
Randy and I started the day by meeting the bus and leaving at 7:30 a.m. for Clarksville and the Fruit Research Station. Meanwhile, Julie and Mary were at the convention center at 7 putting down tarps and meeting River Valley with our delivery of plants and mulch. The original plan was that Mary had to leave for a meeting and Julie would help set up extension booth and then we would all meet back up at 6 or 6:30 p.m. to put together the garden. But the plants were delivered early and a group of county agents jumped in to help Mary and Julie, and they were able to place all the big plants with the fork lift and get the bones of the garden laid out! Great help.
Meanwhile, Randy and I started our tour with a discussion inside in air conditioning about how the center started and what their research emphasis was. Dan Chapman and his staff bent over backwards to welcome our group with loads of fresh peaches to sample, along with an excellent demonstration on how they harvest stamens and pollen and hand-pollinate the crosses of blackberries that they want . We then had a driving tour of the farm where we learned about their breeding efforts in peaches, blueberries, blackberries and grapes. We also saw how they plant and evaluate the trials. I think folks were amazed that it takes up to 30 years of research for a new variety to make it into the market. After a hot and sweaty hour tour, we were treated to an excellent barbecue lunch along with more peaches and ice cream. Many dozed on the drive back into Pulaski County to head to North Pulaski Farm, an organic farm who grows produce for the farmers markets, CSA’s and local restaurants.
and then it was on to the last leg of our tour, Bemis Tree Farm. Over the years, this family operation has grown from just a tree farm, to a stump grinding operation and now they are big into bee keeping. They not only have 75 hives and raise bees and produce honey and honey products, but they have a lovely store with loads of bee related items along with beekeeping equipment and supplies. We had a short powerpoint presentation from Jeremy on the family farm and what they doing and then we divided into two groups. One took a short driving tour of the farm, while the others watched a honey harvest, then we swapped. In addition to the farming operations, they also are starting a petting zoo for families to enjoy–and we did too. Several tried their hand at extracting the honey and we all sampled the end-product in the raw and as a nice appetizer with brie and fresh blackberries.
The heat did take its toll on many, and a few opted not to join us today, while others decided they are more of a wimp than they thought. Idaho had a hard time and looked for cool spots to hang out. Just as our tour was ending, the skies turned dark, the wind started to blow and we had a torrential downpour. It delayed us about 30 minutes while we waited for it to pass. Some just had to experience it.
It was a great way to showcase our state and meet a lot of great extension folks.
When we returned we went to the convention center to set up our garden. Luckily for us, much of the hard work was done and we only had small finishing plants to put in, lay down the liner in the baby pools to look like a river, and add plants and accents and add water. We had planned to work until 11 or 12, but were done by a little after 9. We had great help and it really turned out nicely.
The National Association of County Agricultural Agents is in town, and today was the kick-off for the pre-tours. The Marriott and the Statehouse Convention Center were buzzing with activity while Arkansas was setting up, but Randy and I had a bus full of folks from 22 states across the country for horticulture tours. It was a hot day, and for garden tours we were mostly outside. July in Arkansas is probably not the peak time to tour gardens, not only because it is hot, but the gardens are usually struggling a bit too, but we saw some great gardens today.
Our first stop was Moss Mountain and P. Allen Smith and his staff were gracious hosts. We started under the big oak tree getting oriented to the site, then Allen personally led us on a tour of the vegetable gardens, an overlook of the rose garden and then the flower beds behind the house. Sampling the fresh figs right off the tree was a treat, and the tree was loaded!
It wasn’t just our northern brethren that were looking a bit peaked by the time we went into the barn, but everyone was welcoming the air conditioning. We were in for a treat of cold drinks, homemade cookies and fresh Arkansas watermelon.
After a cooling off, a huge percentage of the group went on with the gardener to see the chickens. Because of the heat, we saw a huge chunk of the property, but probably did it in record time.
We loaded up and headed to our second stop of the Wye Mountain Flower and Berry Farm. This is a large u-pick and farmers market garden. Beth and Bruce Eggers are a hard-working couple. We were there at 3:15 in the afternoon, so the fields were not as colorful as they would have been in the morning. Their truck was loaded to the gills with the fresh flowers they had picked all morning in preparation for two farmers markets tomorrow morning. The tuberose beds were still loaded with buds in the field, but the bucket of them was a huge hit with folks, some of whom had never seen them before. Many walked the rows of blueberries and blackberries, and Beth and Butch explained their cropping procedures and harvest schedules. They still have new sunflowers coming of for fall harvests.
Then it was back on the bus for our final stop at Heifer Ranch in Perryville. Half stayed inside in the air-conditioning to see a video and hear a talk by a summer intern, while the other half of us took the cart tour throughout the grounds with another intern, and then we switched places. I think this sums up our thoughts on air conditioning. I often think that Heifer is better known in other countries than in our own, so it was a great opportunity to learn about an outstanding organization whose goal is to end world hunger and help people live sustainable lives. After a lovely meal, we headed back to LR.
I made it home just as it was getting dark, so no watering tonight. I did get out and water everything early today since I knew I would not be home. I also fed my fish in the morning versus evening, and I found out we have baby fish–I counted at least a dozen of various sizes. Who knew?!
Tomorrow is a full day of tours (today was just a half). Water has been our friend and we drank a lot today, so they are replenishing supplies tonight. When Randy and I get back tomorrow night, our work is not done–we get to put together a garden display. We have until midnight, but we hope to be done by 11, keep your fingers crossed!
It is days like today–and I am afraid the next two, when I wish I could stay inside, but can’t. Late this afternoon the skies turned dark and lightning streaked across the sky and I just knew it was going to cause a break in the weather and some rain, but alas, the sun came back out and not a drop of rain fell in my yard! It was muggy and hot already early this morning and it did not get much better. I spent the morning indoors and the afternoon out. If I were smarter, it would have been reversed! I finished up getting supplies together for this weekend and our extension booth and a garden display for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA). Officially the conference does not begin until Sunday, but pre-conference tours begin tomorrow, and Randy and I are hosting the horticulture tour. We leave at noon tomorrow and go through 8 pm then leave at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday to return at 6 p.m. and we will be outside the entire time we are not riding on the bus. In looking at the forecast it says tomorrow will be hotter than today and today was horrid! As much as I am dreading it, I at least live in the south. Think of the agents who will be joining us from the north! They are definitely in for culture shock.
In spite of the sprinkler system, my gardens were looking pretty bedraggled today, so I watered after I got home. I decided to hit the container plants in the morning since I won’t be around much the next two days. Some annuals seem to be taking this weather in stride–the cypress vine and penta look great. My petunias are still blooming well, but I do think they need a shot of fertilizer but that will have to wait when I have time. You need to water well before considering fertilizing when it is this hot. The blooms are a tad smaller than they should be, but they are still blooming. Both petunias and callibrachoa are heavy feeders and if they aren’t getting fed, they will slow down or stop blooming.
I drove back this morning from Hope and was on the phone almost the whole drive finalizing plans for the upcoming national county agents meeting and all my roles in it. I got home and walked my garden to pick plants to take to teach botany to a group of second graders. I had a class of 7 boys aged 7-8, and my how I had forgotten about that age. I was so busy teaching and trying to capture their attention and corral them in that I forgot to take pictures until the bitter end and I missed half the class. These are gifted and talented kids and they were quick with answers and questions and they were fearless. I had brought in a variety of herbs and vegetables from my garden, along with ornamentals to demonstrate plant parts, but they wanted to eat everything–which I had to caution against. The lettuce plant I warned would be bitter but they ate it anyway! It was bitter. Some had never tried a fresh tomato or eaten watermelon–I asked him what he did eat! The two hours passed by in a flash, and I remember now why I work with adults! LOL. It was a fun experience, and I hope they learned a lot about plant parts and why plants are important.
As I was driving home, the skies were ominous and I just knew we were going to get more rain, but even though it thundered and blew I did not get a drop of rain.
I did have to water late tonight. I am so excited to see buds and/or blooms on the many tropicals in the garden. While I always have plenty of tropical hibiscus and mandevilla, this year I ordered in some rare and unusual plants for the tropicals workshop at Garvan. They have been healthy and happy but few blooms up until now. I have the first bloom about to open on the goldfingers plant (Juanulloa aurantiaca) . The Rangoon Creeper is loaded with buds and the plant has doubled in size. but the Brazilian plume flower has been weak, and no sign of flowers. and seems to be suffering nutritionally. When I have researched it they say it blooms in winter, so this may be a bust, unless I bite the bullet and bring it indoors. The begonias though have made the pot showy in spite of the lack of blooms on the tropical.
I continue to get blooms on the iochroma with a combination of open blooms and loads of new buds. I am so impressed with this plant and will look for the orange one next year. I also have blooms and buds on the jasmine and orange jasmine–the storms knocked off most of the open flowers but I have a few fruits and buds coming on strong.
The perennial orange flowering Hummingbird trumpet flower (Zauschneria canum) that I bought last year has just started blooming again and the harlequin glorybower tree (Clerodendrum trichotomum) has flower buds setting. I adore this plant in bloom and with the aged flowers I just wish it were not so invasive. I pull sprouts all over the garden.
Although we may wilt and struggle in this intense heat, tropical plants love it and are coming on strong. If your garden needs some tough bloomers, try some tropicals. Most garden centers still have some.
it was a full day of education starting with our day-long invasive plant seminar at Garvan Gardens. I had great help with presentations from State Plant Board rep and good friend Paul Shell
Paul explained how plants are named to the prohibited list and talked about those plants, while Berni shared the invasive plant program for developers in Washington county and how it came about. There is basically a plant this instead of this approach. Both quite interesting. I spoke on invasive landscape plants and then weeds and invasive vines. There were a lot of questions and discussion.
A few folks braved the heat for a look at the gardens. The clethra or summersweet was in full bloom and so fragrant.
I loaded up and headed south to Hope. I somehow thought I was speaking to the beekeepers but instead it was the MGs! Great turnout and more questions.
And of course great food!
While I am away I have extra help at home babysitting.
Petals is quickly fitting in with everyone!
Today was a scorcher–and not only was the temperature high, but so was the humidity. My schedule changed this morning, so instead of going out to River Valley Nursery in the morning, we were there after lunch to pick out the remaining plants for our river garden for the National County Agents Asssociation meeting. The meeting officially kicks off on Sunday, but Randy and I lead a pre-horticulture tour Friday and Saturday, and then have about 5 hours Saturday evening to put together a garden reminiscent of what is done at the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show. Fingers are crossed that we will get it done. It was pretty hot as we walked the gardens and nursery, so I was focused on getting our job done instead of taking photos. We dropped off Randy and headed back to the office for a little more wrap up and planning.
Tonight I was invited to a friend’s 60th birthday party. It was outside from 5-6:30 and even though it was in the shade, it got a little hot after a bit. The food and fellowship helped you forget about the heat, but we were all “blooming” before it was over. Mary and her husband Mike are gracious hosts and they have a lovely backyard garden with a greenhouse, fire pit, fairy gardens and much more. The only picture of Mary I took was out of focus, but her gardens look amazing. She has a great combination of annuals, tropicals, perennials and shrubs. Look at her holiday poinsettias as shade annuals: Her Pachystachys lutea, commonly called lollipop plant or golden shrimp plant was huge. and she had a good sized pineapple on a plant she had grown from another pineapple. Other annuals included cigar plant cuphea, loads of coleus, zinnias and datura and brugmansia. One plant was quite unusual. I thought it was the hotlips plant we saw in Costa Rica – Psychotria but when I got home and looked it up, the foliage is different. Mary got it from a friend and called it lipstick plant–but this is what I call a lipstick plant Aeschynanthus species. This is where common names can be a bit misleading! If you know the name of the middle plant, let me know.
Don’t forget Master Gardeners that August 1 is fast approaching which is the early deadline for PNG Plant Nurture Grow Leadership. We are striving to get 100% of our counties represented. I think you will be quite happy with the results, if you come. If you need more information, let me know.
Tomorrow I head to Garvan for our invasive plant workshop, and then it is on to Hope tomorrow night where I speak to the beekeeper association. Busy summer!