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Master Gardener Appreciation Day, Union County

October 9, 2017

I could not be more proud of the Union County Master Gardeners for pulling together and showcasing their county (in particular the South Arkansas Arboretum).  By 7:30 a.m. the gardens were a hubbub of activity with volunteers setting up registration, t-shirts, demonstration booths, as well as vendors setting up to showcase their products and MG’s to set up educational exhibits.    Although not officially starting until 9 a.m. we had a lot of Master Gardeners coming to visit by 8:30 and they just kept coming.   To get them started off on the right note–Main Street El Dorado donated spudnuts, an iconic potato doughnut from El Dorado.  There were tree walks led by Eric Sundell, demonstrations on how to plant bulbs, propagation stations, butterfly care and release, making tea at home, to painting rocks to making seed balls.    Several monarchs hatched out during the day and were tagged and released.

Plant pathologists were on hand to talk diseases, while an entomologist talked bugs.   The local Walgreens was on hand to support the Master Gardeners with give aways and free flu shots. Over 300 Master Gardeners from across the state turned out to support Union County and learn a lot in the process!  

The local newspaper turned out to cover the event, and Mayor Frank Hash was there to support it (and he provided a free shuttle to downtown).  State Senator Trent Garner came and visited with folks and enjoyed the day.   This event didn’t just happen–it took a lot of planning and hard work by the Union County Master Gardeners with leadership from Barbie Luther and Charlotte Abbott with help from their county agent Robin Bridges.  It takes a village, and these folks have a great one.  Teamwork was the word of the day.  And it was not just Master Gardeners who helped.  At least one husband (Bill Luther) did a hard day’s work and always with a smile!

The gardens have not looked better. There were fabulous displays of scarecrows throughout the garden.    Good photo ops.   Butterflies were everywhere flying around the garden, but there were quite a few caterpillars as well.   The plants which generated the most questions were butterfly magnet porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis)  Brazilian button flower (Centratherum punctatum) , bush morning glory (Ipomoea leptophylla) , the Candlestick tree (Cassia alata)    the bush lespedeza  and the large  bat-faced cuphea .

Did I mention it got hot today?  It was over 90 degrees and high humidity, but that didn’t stop folks from enjoying the day.  I think they all liked the brief respite to be inside to eat lunch.   Master Gardeners also went home with a lot of new plants and things!   Even though we took a lot of stuff down to El Dorado and left a great deal of it in El Dorado, we still had a full car on the ride home.   With one stop in White Hall before heading to LR  we left the major unloading until tomorrow.  My shower has never felt better!

It was an amazing day shared with over 300 fabulous Master Gardener volunteers in an outstanding Union County Master Gardener project.  Hats off to Union County!  They should sleep well tonight.

El Dorado, preparing for MG Day and a little bit of gardening

October 8, 2017

I did not get any gardening done yesterday except for some watering, so I made it a priority this morning before cleaning up and packing up.  I have been buying plants and they needed to get planted. I renovated some of the containers on my deck, pruned out some old wood on some shrubs and perennials, and pulled and replanted, along with harvesting in the vegetable garden.

I did get some pansies and kale and cabbage planted.  I also updated some of my fall displays.

I am thrilled to see the fall vegetables I planted a month ago doing so well. I have yellow and zucchini squash coming on as well as the largest tomatoes I have grown this year.  I think the squash did so well because the flowers are staying open longer and I have a lot of native bees around.  I had some blooms  still fully open with bees around at 11:30 this morning, while others had bees trying to get in.. 

I also planted more cool season crops today and will continue to plant for the next month. 

I had to limit myself since Julie and I were meeting up at 1 to buy supplies for tomorrow and Wednesday.  We then had to load up everything and head south to El Dorado so we will be set up early tomorrow.  We sort of looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with so much stuff crammed into my car. We were just missing Granny on the roof in her rocker!  We made it in to town in the late afternoon and organized our t-shirts for tomorrow.  A lot of folks bought a shirt.

Tomorrow is our big Master Gardener Appreciation Day at the South Arkansas Arboretum.  Union County Master Gardeners have been working hard planning and preparing for the event which kicks off at 9 a.m. tomorrow at 501 N. Timberlane in El Dorado. Tonight we met up with the planning committee chairs at the new Murphy Art District   and had a fantastic meal at Griffins.   El Dorado has changed a lot in the past 10 years but this new MAD will be a huge boon to this community.  I was quite impressed with all they have gotten done. The grand opening was just Sept.27.    And they are not done yet!  Tomorrow folks can ride a free trolley from the arboretum to the downtown square and see all they have to offer plus get to see MAD.  I hope to see you tomorrow.  It is going to be a grand day!

Bees at Bemis, and yes, it is still hot and dry!

October 7, 2017

Today was the Bemis Tree Farm and Bee company’s annual Bee Day outside of Little Rock. This family owned business started out in the tree business, and they still do trees.  They have several tree spades which can move large or small trees and they also have a variety of trees in containers.  It is nice to see a family business whose children want to continue the tradition, and in the case of the Bemis boys, they have continued and expanded.  Son Jeremy has moved into the bee business. They sell everything you could possibly need to start raising bees, or just enjoying the end game–honey!

Today was all about education and families.  There were three concurrent educational seminars in various locations, family activities including hay rides, music and childrens events.     Children of all ages were enjoying the petting zoo and there were food trucks and events all afternoon.

I had a full room for a talk on bee-friendly landscaping and there were a lot of questions. Many held their questions for one-on-one since the room did not have great acoustics and sound did echo from the honey competition  in the back of the room.  It was definitely an entire family event and they had a huge crowd.  It seems to get bigger each year.

I made it home and spent the afternoon watering.  While I did get a few showers of rain this week, it was not enough to satisfy the plants, so I watered.

We also have been gathering supplies and preparing for our MG Appreciation day in El Dorado on Monday. I head down tomorrow afternoon so we will be ready to go bright and early Monday morning. I hope you plan to join us!

If you have peeked at the weather forecast it is not fall-like for the coming week. There is even a chance for 90 degree temps!  There is a slight chance of rain several days, so I hope that increases (although not on Monday).  Funny how we want rain when it is convenient!

Monday is MG Appreciation Day and then I take 48 Master Gardeners to Mississippi for 4 days leaving Wednesday. Another full week ahead.

St. Francis County and a beautiful drive

October 5, 2017

I was the first speaker this morning in Forrest City so it was an early morning drive, but what a glorious sunrise it was. I just put the camera on the dash and clicked away.     In some of the fields there was a heavy dew and a light low layer of fog.    Truly spectacular vistas everywhere you looked.  It was an easy drive up, since I left before traffic picked up in LR.  The St. Francis County Master Gardeners outdid themselves with an outstanding line-up of speakers, decorations and snacks.     They ended up with a packed house!

I drove home in time to take care of end of year reports and trying to finalize all the details for our Mississippi trip next week.

It heated up outside, so tonight I spent time watering.  I did find some new blooms in the yard, from red blooms on pineapple sage,  to lots of flowers on the tea camellia Camellia sinensis,  and more flowers on my homestead purple verbena. 

I have also been bringing in a lot of fall color options that I need to do something with, other than water. 

Now I just need time to get them all planted.  Water is going to be critical to keep them looking good. It was a beautiful day but I sure am wanting a little bit of cool weather to linger.  We were at a high of 85 today and high 80’s with some low 90’s are still in the forecast.  That is not fall weather!

Montgomery County and more fall plants

October 4, 2017

I did not get any more rain today but I am not complaining–because I DID get some rain. I noticed already a slight greening up of yards in my neighborhood that were not watering. However, there are trees showing signs of severe stress, if not out-and-out death!   These are well-established 20 plus year old dogwoods that I do not think will rebound. Time will tell.  Driving back from Mt. Ida today I saw large swaths of color–but I don’t think it is fall color but stressed brown color. 

I did drive to Mt. Ida to speak to the Montgomery County Master Gardeners today.  They had a full house and it was gratifying to hear all their reports on what they are doing in the many projects they have across the state. I was also extremely pleased to hear a report on the PNG -Leadership conference and encouragement for others to attend.     Outside their county office are two demonstrations–one on gardening and one a blackberry trial.     I was also pleased to see in a very visible spot inside the county government office the display promoting the Master Gardener program.   Maybe something on how to sign up and join would be good.  Here is another great example from the Craighead County (Jonesboro) Fair booth.    We need to always think of how to promote and advertise our programs, and please share with me, so I can share statewide.  Sunday starts the official MG Appreciation Week in Arkansas, so I hope your county is promoting our programs!

As I was driving back to LR my car was on autopilot to see what a local Hot Springs nursery had for sale. So many fall plants and pumpkins and gourds.     They did have quite a few vegetable transplants, including bok choy, pak choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and more, but one I have not seen before were radishes.  You could buy and harvest the same day! 

Although not tempted to buy at the end of the season, they had a very different and beautiful double, light pink mandevilla.  

I made it back in time for another meeting in Little Rock.

Tomorrow I head to Forrest City early since I am the first speaker at their event.  Then Saturday is the Bemis Tree Farm Bee festival, and Sunday we head to El Dorado to get ready for MG Appreciation day at the South Arkansas Arboretum.  I hope to see you at one or more of these events.


RAIN! and Fort Smith

October 3, 2017

It was overcast as we left Little Rock and Julie and I had not traveled far before we hit rain, and we had rain pretty much the rest of our trip up to Fort Smith and back.  At times it came down pretty hard, and at other times, it was a light misty rain, but it was rain, and boy do we need it!  More is predicted for tomorrow.  We may good time on our journey north, so we stopped in at a few garden centers to see what they had.  Walking a nursery in the rain is not the easiest thing, and you can tell we are die-hard gardeners because we still bought a few things.     We also saw a unique selection of organic fertilizers at one of our stops, where we also found some really good deals on fall plants and met up with one of our MG’s who manages the garden center.   While we could have used more time, we were on a schedule and had to get to a lunch meeting.  We met up with the 2018 chairs and planned our afternoon meeting with the whole crew.  Julie has had a rough day when it comes to glasses.  She stepped on and broke her new glasses at home this morning so was using her old pair and then she broke them.  A little black electric tape did the trick holding them together and created bat-girl Julie for our afternoon meeting.   I think it is a head-start on her Halloween costume.  Here she is trying to get into character.   Luckily, she did not wear them long while we were in the meeting or I would not have accomplished much. Every time I looked at her I burst out laughing.  Unfortunately, I won’t see her tomorrow as I am on the road, but I wonder what the new lens look will be?!

We did have a good turnout of our 2018 planning committee and heard from all our committees.  We are getting closer to a firm schedule.  Remember, we go live February 1.  Mark your calendars.  The conference is May 31-June 2, with some great pre-tours on May 30.  

We were back on the road driving home by 5:30, and made it home by 8 or so.  I had forgotten the joys of driving in the rain at night, something I did not miss.

Tomorrow I am out to Montgomery County for their monthly MG meeting, then on to Forrest City on Thursday for their “Fall into Gardening” Seminar from 9 – 2.  It is a busy time of year.

Office, writing, practice and RAIN!

October 2, 2017

It was a pretty day today with mild temperatures.  As we left the office late, it was overcast and it smelled smoky, so we thought there was a fire nearby. The radio said a chance of rain. I did not get my hopes up.  Tonight about 7 p.m. it started to lightly rain, and at 9 it continues.  I am elated, and while it hasn’t amounted to even a half-inch, at this point I will take whatever I can get!  There is supposedly a chance tomorrow too–Bring it on!!

Today I saw some more instances where the crape myrtle bark scale was just beginning its hold on the plants. This is a large planting of a crape myrtle allee and luckily we have spotted the problem, before it is too much of one. 

We also have started the practice sessions for teaching the MG zoom training in October. We have 50 or so people from 12 counties participating.  This is new territory for us all.    Thankfully we have Mary’s expertise to help guide us through it. While all of us are quite used to presenting in person, we have to now present to a camera and be live to folks across the state.  All of the sessions will also be taped to be used for on-line MG training beginning in January 2018.  New times!

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