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Office then Crittenden County

June 13, 2017

If you were outside today you got the first taste of summer.  We had warm and humid conditions this morning and it got up to 91 degrees.  I spent the morning and early afternoon at the office planning and preparing for Saturday MG training in Hope.  We are trying to nail down the final schedule and get that out. We have a good-sized class with folks from a bunch of different counties–some driving in from 3 hours or more away!  The first class starts July 8 when I am in Portland.  We are also trying to wrap up the registration information for PNG Leadership and hope to send out registration later this week.  And lastly I was trying to finalize the final budget numbers for the 2017 MG conference. I got close but ran out of time before I had to leave for Crittenden County.

Tonight I spoke to the Crittenden County Master Gardeners who were the host of our State Conference several years ago.  This is a small, but mighty group who hosted a fabulous container with a small contingent of volunteers and continue to do great things.  Tonight was their monthly meeting, Friday they are taking a bus trip to Wilson, and Saturday they are hosting their annual landscape tour of homes!  Tonight they brought a feast of food and they transformed the room with flowers. It was a whirlwind of activity.    I did a program on the past, present and future of Master Gardeners.  At the end they presented me with two beautiful stepping stones made by one of their highly talented members Melinda Atkins.   

It was so good seeing them all again.  That is one of my most favorite parts of the MG conference planning process.  I get to really know the volunteers who are hosting and develop relationships with them. It is like coming home and Crittenden County is always a gracious and welcoming host!

On the way up I did stop by the garden of Blann Britton, who was one of the speakers at our MG state conference this year.  This businessman is a retired Crittenden County farmer, and while he may not farm row crops any more, you can’t take the farmer out of his blood–he is still growing lots of things. Roses are one of his specialities, but he also has a fondness for coleus, zinnias and begonias, not to mention hydrangeas.  He also has a huge vegetable garden which is doing remarkably well. He is finishing up with the cool season crops with some spectacular red cabbage and purple cauliflower, and his tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants are coming on strong.  He shared some with me and I can’t wait to try the purple cauliflower.

Even though it was 4:30 in the afternoon and the temperatures were up there, it did not feel hot as we walked the garden. There was a breeze and the humidity was low.  I was shocked that in his greenhouse (which is still loaded with plants) the temperature was only 82–and all he has is a fan and shade cloth!   Blann was a state winner of the Friends of Master Gardener several years ago  He just loves to grow plants and freely shares with the Master Gardeners which helps them in their projects and at their plant sale. We could have visited longer, but I needed to get to the meeting.

After a lively meeting with a bunch of good friends, I was back on the road home. Even though that stretch of the interstate is notorious for trucks and traffic, both were light all the way home and I saw a spectacular sunset.     And even though many parts of the state have been getting more than enough rainfall, now that the temps are heating up, irrigation is needed, for crops as well as gardens.   

It has been a productive but full day.  Now bed is calling!

Advanced MG Training and Work

June 12, 2017

This past Friday a very young Master Gardener program and their agent hosted an Advanced Master Gardener training on Wild Food and Edible Herbs and Flowers in Huntsville, Arkansas.   The class maxed out at 50 participants from across the state and I have heard nothing but glowing reviews since Friday night.  

Not only have I heard how much people learned, but the hospitality and warmth from the local county group was over-the-top!  The Madison County Master Gardeners proved that it doesn’t take a large county program, or an old-established one to host a quality educational event for 50 plus people.  And attitude does make a difference. One Master Gardener was so impressed with the area and folks, that she is considering moving there!  Well done Madison County!

It is this can-do attitude of Master Gardeners that makes me proud to lead such dedicated volunteers.  Tomorrow night I am speaking to the Crittenden county Master Gardeners on the Past, Present and Future of the MG program.  I know this program is only going to get better because of the quality of the volunteers we have!

In addition to writing a few columns today, we also worked on PNG-leadership and hope to get the registration forms out later this week.   We strongly encourage all counties to send at least one or two representatives to this training.  It doesn’t mean you want to be president or even an officer, but the information you learn will only strengthen your local county program.  Stay tuned to your Constant Contact account for an email with the information.

The temperature really went up today along with the humidity.  We had a couple of minutes of downpours, but they lasted about a minute.  It wet the pavement and helped raise humidity. I was glad I was indoors today.  The saving grace for the rise in temperature is that it should get rid of those pesky gnats that have been plaguing us, at least in central Arkansas. Once temperatures stay above 80 degrees, they start to disappear.  I wish we could say the same thing for the mosquitoes!

3 in a row! I think it might be a record.

June 11, 2017

Was it not an amazing weekend?!  Although it was more humid today than yesterday, it was still delightful working outdoors.  I had the entire weekend at home–third one in a row without working.  I think it may be a record, since I will add next week to the list!  It is amazing what you can get done if you have some time.  I tried to divide my time between inside and out, but inside lost out yesterday.  I have spent a lot of time on the kitchen lately so I had neglected the garden.  I got a lot done.  I used the weedeater to edge and cut back weeds all around the yard, and I did use the hoe and pulled some by hand.  I broke down and used landscape fabric this year under the mulch close to the street.  Obviously I did not overlap well enough and you can see where one piece ended and the other began.   This shot was pre-weeding and I pulled many of the long strands of zoysia out, and spread 8 more bags of mulch.  I pulled up all the broccoli, cabbage and lettuce this weekend.  I used every bit of the broccoli, except the roots. I chopped leaves, stalks and spears and cooked them with chicken stock, onions, garlic and seasoning to make a base for broccoli cheese soup for later–it tastes great and I will freeze it for later use.  I replanted in some of the areas. I am trying corn for the first time.  Not sure how it will work in such a small space but Clay has been wanting me to plant corn, so I gave it a go.  I fertilized all the beds, and watered  and staked a few things.  I also pruned and pulled plants that were over-dividing. I still have more thinning out I need to do. I am sharing with friends.

I still had some plants to plant, so I got those in the ground and planted caladium bulbs. I spread mulch in the vegetable gardens.  I trial new plants every year and so far this year, I have to say I am quite impressed with cuphea vermillionare, and not just because I like the color.     I have it planted in full sun and partial sun and has not stopped blooming nor wilted yet.  I also love the new verbena ‘Stormburst’ It looks great planted next to other annuals and next to my bright orange coneflower. 

I also really like the double ruby superbells callibrachoa    I try to plant in several situations and they all look great.  I also love the wasabi coleus and the summer wave purple torenia.  The garden is coming along nicely this year.  I even have a volunteer gourd or pumpkin growing from one of my pumpkins I used for decorations last year.  

My big leaf hydrangeas are still looking great and now the panicle hydrangeas are kicking in. I have several in different beds and they are beginning.    It has been a very good year for hydrangeas.

We also started a lower deck project yesterday.  Clay rented the home depot truck and got all the wood home and while he took the truck back, the kids and I moved the lumber to the back.  Then they got a lot done. It should be finished later this week.     Clay is teaching Katie and Ben a lot and they were good pupils.

I almost have everything put back in the kitchen and you could actually sleep in the bed in the spare bedroom again.  We still have art to hang, but there is only so much time in a day, but it feels great to get things accomplished. I even blew out the garage today–there is something satisfying about using a power blower.  Dust was flying everywhere, but now the garage is almost clean and we have one car back in, so the end is in sight.  Only a little more painting in other rooms before the work is 100% done.



A great day for a garden party

June 9, 2017

Martha Ray and I were invited to a garden party at the home of Judy and Larry Nash in Wheatley today. We got a bit delayed leaving Little Rock as I had some nails in my tire, which resulted in a new tire!  We finally made it and what an event it was! Judy and Larry are gracious hosts, and they know how to make people feel welcome.    

They are the glue that holds their Monroe county Master Gardener program together, but they invited Master Gardeners from Arkansas, Phillips, and Prairie Counties in addition to all the Monroe County Master Gardeners.  It was a great turnout.   Social gatherings help to bind a group of volunteers together, and getting to tour this phenomenal garden in addition to eating and drinking great food is simply a bonus. The Nash garden is a wonderful mix of evergreens, tropicals, perennials, bulbs and annuals.  They had three pawpaw trees absolutely loaded with fruit–more than I have ever seen. 

The agapanthus was stunning  along with crinum lilies, daylilies  and rain lilies.   The semi-tropical royal poinciana was in full bloom.  and the tropical plumeria plants had buds about to open.   Everywhere you turned in this garden, there were surprises, from seating areas or fountains, statues or blooming plants.   Master Gardeners were taking pictures fast and furious.  This small evergreen caught the attention of several.  Distylium ‘Vintage Jade’ is a member of the witch hazel family with small red flowers in the winter. I have not seen many blooms on it in the past,  but it is a low-maintenance evergreen shrub.  While it is touted as a full sun plant, in every planting I have seen it used it was growing in light shade. They also have both the purple and the white vitex plants, both of which were in full bloom.    This plant blooms best in full sun, and can be a bit bushier replacement for crape myrtles.  The bees and the butterflies love it.

All the Master Gardeners that were in attendance had a great time learning about each other and the plants in the garden. There were a lot of pictures being taken, and cuttings being shared.  That is also the beauty of Master Gardeners.  They want to share what they have done, and will share plants along the way.  Judy and Larry are no exception and kept encouraging people to take a cutting of that–it roots so easy!

This is a small group of Master Gardeners who does big things!  I think it is a great idea for other multi-county groups to emulate.  Not only do you learn gardening, but you grow your volunteers!

Thank you Judy and Larry!

It was a delightful day in the garden, but it is getting hotter. They are predicting our first 90+ days this weekend. I did water tonight when I got home and had some friends by to see the kitchen.  It is so much fun to entertain again.  I think the Nash’s like it just as much as I do! Great day.



Pollinators Workshop and Godspell

June 8, 2017

I hope you had a chance to be outside today because it was a beautiful day.  Any time we can have full sunshine in June with really cool morning temperatures and it doesn’t get above 81 degrees is cause to celebrate. Tonight it is even cooler–quite delightful!

We had an excellent pollinators workshop today at Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs. This was the second of four seminars I conduct at Garvan each year and today we had a full house and a wide variety of people and presenters.  Bee expert Jon Zawislak kicked us off on a talk on pollinators covering everything from native bees to honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, bats and more.  Then I talked about how to have a year-round bee garden. After lunch Saline County Master Gardener Pat Gipson spoke on butterflies and I ended with native plants that attract butterflies.  There were tons of questions for all presenters and the evaluations were glowing.     We had a full hour at lunch so participants could have time to explore the gardens.  There are so many plants in bloom right now.   The peacocks were also showing off.  I did walk down and look at some ailing daylilies during the break.  

I made it home with time to switch vehicles, unload and then leave again for a night at the Rep with a friend to see Godspell.    It was an interesting interpretation of the musical with a lot of acrobatics.  A fun night for sure and definitely a full day!


Hot Springs

June 7, 2017

What great weather we had today! I was out walking my garden early today and it was delightful–low humidity and relatively cool temps. I wished I had the whole day to spend in the garden, but that was not to be. My summer annuals and perennials are putting on a show 

I also am getting some blooms on my panicle hydrangeas. 

I then drove to Hot Springs for the state EHC conference. They had a great crowd and the room was packed for my first session and half full for the second. Lots of questions. 

One person brought me a sample of her lady Banks rose that she asked me about last year. She said hers had thorns. And it does. Who knew the WHITE lady Banks rose has thorns? We all do now. 

I willsick with my thornless yellow one!

I am spending the night since I have my workshop at Garvan in the morning. I was able to connect with my friend Ketha. It was great catching up, and it was such a pleasant evening. 

Planning, preparing and color

June 6, 2017

We are a bit over half way through 2017 and while I still have events in the fall of 2017 that need some attention, we are fully engaged planning 2018.  We have been meeting for months planning the 2018 State MG conference (and by the way, the Doubletree Hotel in Fort Smith is now taking reservations!),WW,HILTONLINK,EN,DirectLink&fromId=HILTONLINKDIRECT

Of course, online MG registration for the conference educational parts will not go live until February 1, 2018.

Today I had a meeting out at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain to start the planning for the 2018 30 year MG Birthday celebration (and my retirement).  I met with Joyce and we started working out the kinks. MG’s only–mark your calendar for Saturday, October 13 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. for our big event.  Of course, details will follow once I have them.  This time we are planning to do EVERYTHING at Moss Mountain, lunch, tours, etc.     It is going to be a great event.  I was excited just talking about it today with Joyce. After my meeting, I did get to wander the gardens, and they are looking great.    

I need to find the variety of this daylily–it looks like a rose!    Some other bright orange daylilies were right up my alley as well.  

Lots of sunpatiens in bold, bright colors as well as the non-stop blooming sweet alyssum. 

While I normally consider Russian sage (Perovskia) a late summer bloomer, it was in full, stunning glory today.  Reminiscent of lavender and the bees were working it!  Also loads of lilies  of all sizes and shapes along with cannas and crinums. 

The gardens looked really good.  I was lucky that it was still mild as I walked the gardens, because it got pretty darn hot this afternoon. Even after all our recent rain, I had dry raised beds and containers, so I watered when I got home tonight.

Back at the office, we are trying to wrap up payments for state conference along with writing columns, doing powerpoints and basically getting organized.

This afternoon, Julie and I met with the PNG (Plant, Nurture, Grow- Leadership) chair to discuss the fall event.    We really would like participation from ALL counties this year.  Please mark your calendars and plan to come to the Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, September 26 and 27.  This event is open to all active Master Gardeners and County Agents.

Tomorrow I am out of town overnight, and I am sad to leave my new kitchen. I have cooked dinner every night this past week and am LOVING it.  Tonight, along with chicken parmesan, I was making my favorite tomato caprese salad.  I got Katie to pick me some basil from a plant in the low garden. It had a slug on it! I usually don’t have anything that gets my herbs! One more reason to plant them in my elevated raised bed. Needless to say, he is no more!

Tomorrow I do two sessions at the state EHC conference then we have the all day workshop on pollinators at Garvan on Thursday.

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