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A Free Weekend

October 1, 2017
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It is not that common in the spring, summer and fall that I have a weekend where I have nothing scheduled for work, and this was one of those weekends.  I did get a lot accomplished on the home front, but there is SO much more that needs to be done.  I had inside tasks that needed attention but it was such a nice weekend weather-wise.   I  did weed-eat, fertilize and harvest vegetables, and I cut back some spent perennials and deadheaded some others.  I edged the gardens and took stock of what is left, and I watered, watered, and watered.  I really did not give as much attention to my gardens this year because it has been a frantic schedule but I don’t think I have totally lost any plants.  I do see signs of dead trees and shrubs all over central Arkansas and in looking at the forecast ahead, it still does not show much rain in our foreseeable future.  So WATER!

This time of year I love to see the hardy hibiscus called Confederate Rose–Hibiscus mutabilis.     This member of the hibiscus family is hardy through central and mid-central Arkansas but you should take cuttings if you live in the northern tier just to be on the safe side.  It grows up to 10-15 feet tall in one season and blooms in October each year.  The blooms open up pink or white and change to different shades with the time of day.

Another late season blooming hardy hibiscus is Roselle – Hibiscus sabdariffa.  This one is much more tender and may or may not overwinter in south Arkansas.  The calyx or fruit of this one can be eaten or made into a tea.

The other more common types of hardy hibiscus include the dinner plate sized blooms of Hibiscus moscheutos as well as the red star shape blossoms of the large Texas red star – Hibiscus coccineus  Many gardeners also get confused whether their plant is tropical o perennial.  If you have colors other than red, pink, white or bi-color, I would assume it is a tropical. There are no yellow or orange hardy types..  However there are red, pinks and whites in the tropical forms.     Look at the foliage and the blooms. Also compare the blooming time-period.  Most perennials have a finite season of bloom, while tropicals can bloom year-round if they are happy, warm and in full sun.  They will not overwinter outdoors but in a bright sunny room inside or in a greenhouse, they can bloom in the winter.

A kissing cousin is the deciduous shrub Althea or Rose-of-Sharon-Hibiscus syriacus.  This shrub will bloom from June through August with a few latent flowers depending on the season.    While all prefer full sun, they can bloom in partial shade, but not in deep shade.  Rose of Sharon is the toughest and most forgiving with sunlight, while the hardy perennial large-flowered forms prefer full sun and plenty of water.   All would be good additions to the garden.

I did get to spend some time in the garden and the weather was much milder, but still no rain, and none in the forecast.  Please water.

I also started putting up the Halloween decor.  I do love Halloween and have fun decorating every year. I haven’t made it to the outside yet, but I will get there.  

We have a busy two weeks coming up, so not sure how much more will get done on the home front, but it will happen.

 

A rare day spent in the office

September 29, 2017
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I had a full day in the office and it was jam-packed. We started off with a planning session with Zoom-guru Mary, preparing for our first zoom statewide MG training Oct. 18.  We have a nice-sized class with over 11 counties participating.  Then it was on to MG Appreciation Day in El Dorado planning to get meal and t-shirt counts in and all our signs and “stuff” organized.  After that I tried to finalize details for our Mississippi trip with times and addresses.  In the middle of it all we are wrapping up and thanking folks for PNG-Leadership, writing columns, doing end of the year (One of our years ends Sept. 30) and trying to catch up on mail, email and phone messages.  It was almost 5 before I looked up and left the office. Time flies when you are having fun!

I don’t know how warm it got mid-day because I did not leave the office, but it was truly delightful when I left for work and as I was heading home.  It is still way too dry, but I did not water tonight. I have all weekend to worry about that.  I did watch the weather tonight and it looks like high temps are back in our forecast with up to 89 degrees mid-week with very little possibility of rain.  Please get your sprinklers going and water, water, water!   These beautyberries (Callicarpa) look fine, but many are wilted and shriveling with dry conditions.     Cuphea Vermillionare  and  goldenrod can take the dry conditions in stride, but dogwoods and azaleas will be dead if they don’t get some additional water.  Pay now or pay later if you have to remove and replant.

Garvan, pests and office

September 28, 2017
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I hope you had the opportunity to be outside this morning–we had another taste of fall. It was cool and low humidity. As I was driving to Garvan Gardens I drove through a downpour and had to turn my windshield wipers on full blast, but for only 5 minutes.  While short-lived, I would have loved to see it at my house.  While it did get cloudy, I did not get a drop of rain, but I will take the cooler temperatures.

We taped our monthly TV spots today and the mums are already in full glory.  From the minute you see the front entrance and throughout the gardens they are planting truckloads of mums.  Many are in full bloom but some still have tight buds.  I think the heat may have sped the blooms along a bit faster than normal.  Hopefully our cooler temperatures will prevail and help the blooms last.     Mums aren’t the only thing adding color, they still have roses, ginger lilies   salvia 

porter weed  and the camellias are beginning their show. 

They also have loads of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Many photo ops all throughout the gardens. 

You could also see lots of signs of the Variable oakleaf caterpillar all throughout the gardens, from live caterpillars to squashed ones and loads of droppings.  They are just a nuisance at this time of the year, but they were out in large numbers. 

Today was also a good day to catch up on things at the office.  We are trying to wrap up the statewide PNG leadership conference. There were a flurry of thank-you emails today and the evaluations went out to participants. Please take the time to fill them out and give us your feedback.  We do use these to improve and plan the next one. I think you can tell that each one just gets better and better.

I also got some other pictures today from the conference. Here is the winning project of the year from Craighead County– a youth school gardening program.     A truly inspiring teacher, MG and project!  I have visited their school in Jonesboro and it just gets better and better.

PNG is a wrap, and I hope you are watering

September 27, 2017
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It was an amazing last day of PNG – Leadership.  Nate Bell, a farmer and businessman and previous state representative set the tone this morning with a top-notch performance on advocacy and grass-root efforts.  He did an impressive job and really spoke to the issue of how we can sell our story.  I think we all left with great ideas on how we can start advocating for the MG program and Extension.   We had two more concurrent sessions, ending with another great meal and then a final wrap up of our conference.  I did a wrap up with updates on what is coming up in our programs, and then a talk on kindness and happiness.  I am ready for Arkansas Master Gardeners to take the lead in starting a kindness campaign.    I challenged participants to do 3 random acts of kindness per day of the conference.  Over the weekend as I was updating my powerpoint presentations, I did a lot of computer work on kindness, empathy and happiness.  I was impressed that the United Nations had commissioned a happiness study published in 2012 and updated on a regular basis.  Denmark ranked #1 in happiness, followed by Switzerland.  The US came in 13th.    I truly believe that our society has become a bit desensitized to empathy and caring about each other.  I want Master Gardeners to lead the way and get back to why they became volunteers and start a revolution.  Happiness breeds happiness and kindness is contagious.    The international happiness day is March 20, but I am proclaiming October 13 as Arkansas MG day of happiness.  Let’s keep sharing smiles and happiness and grow our programs in a positive way.

I made it home and unpacked and started watering.  As I was driving home the skies were cloudy and the radio reported some heavy downpours in parts of central Arkansas, but not a drop of rain fell in m yard.  I am truly worried about some of the dogwood trees I have been seeing on my drives home and even some large trees.  We have had roughly almost a month without rain and it has been hot to boot.  Water please! 

Planting, Nurturing, and Growing a Stronger Program

September 26, 2017
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It has been an amazing day of leadership development at the Arkansas 4-H Center.  We had over 200 Master Gardeners, Agents and Speakers representing 40 counties in attendance.  Master Gardeners learned how to utilize zoom sessions, learned about plant sales, youth projects, mentoring, community gardens, money management, program development, retention, parliamentary procedures and much much more.  People shared what was working in their own counties, asked questions on how to improve projects and interacted.  The goal is to recharge our volunteers and agents and give them new tools and ideas to strengthen their programs back in their own counties.  We hope they take back the ideas they learn and share with their members.  Our director started us off by welcoming us and sharing his thoughts on volunteerism and extension. The chair of this committee Joan did a fine job leading her committee and had things well-organized.  We also had some outstanding meals and a highly successful silent auction.    Our fundraising committee was on hand selling a wide array of useful items and they did a booming business.  Holly helped by selling calendars.  Our after dinner speaker did a great job teaching us about the history of the Ozarks, and afterwards we had a lively game of garden trivia with 11 teams.  

I think teams learned a lot while having fun in the process.   Tomorrow will be another full day, with a lot more to learn and share.  We are blessed with great volunteers!

Preparing for Leadership

September 25, 2017
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Our planning committee has worked feverishly planning a wonderful leadership program which begins tomorrow.  Today, several of the committee members came to put together final packets and get ready for the day.     We also had silent auction items coming in.   The committee finished their tasks, and the board members continued to meet.  Linda did a great job leading the meeting. 

We have a very full day tomorrow.

September 24, 2017
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It was another scorcher!  Hot and dry!  I think a lot of folks think that since it is fall and we did have a taste of cooler weather, that watering is not necessary. I have seen many scorched plants–from annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs. If you have to replace trees, it is not an inexpensive task–not only to replant but to remove a dead tree–so water!    I did spend the day watering. I started on the deck and proceeded to all areas of the yard. I also blew off the deck and the walkways. Leaves are falling in earnest with this dry weather.  It was too miserable to do too many strenuous gardening chores, but I did prune, pull a few weeds and harvested as well as fertilized.

The vegetable garden is looking good in spite of the heat. I still have okra, peppers and eggplants coming on strong and the newly planted squash and tomatoes look really nice. 

 I also have blooms on my Roselle plant – Hibiscus sabdariffa which I got from Union County MG Barbie.   It is a beautiful 3-5 ft. plants with red stems and leaf veins. The bright red calyxes can be used to make “zingy” tea, sauce, syrup, or jam, or candied whole for an unusual treat. For strongly flavored teas, simmer for 10-20 minutes. Roselle was called “Florida cranberry” in the 1890s. The flowers and young leaves are edible and have a citrus tang.

Although my toad lilies are a bit aggressive, they are so nice in the garden now and the bees adore them. 

I think I am 100% recovered from jet lag, but I did receive a box of things I ordered and shipped, so I got to have a taste of Italy with fabulous Prosciutto with Arkansas melon and pecorino romano cheese.  It invoked good recent memories. 

I also spent quite a bit of time preparing presentations for my week ahead.  I think I am prepared, and hopefully the yard is too.  Fall–I am counting on you to make an appearance very soon!

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