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Cold, Lonoke, and work

January 18, 2018
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We finally made it back to the office yesterday by 10 a.m. Many schools were still off, but the roads for the most part were clear. The problem was that some of the side roads that had melted refroze with temperatures down to 7 degrees!  Way too cold for southern states!  It only got to 28 degrees yesterday but today we did get to a balmy 41.   If the forecast is correct, each day should get a little better until a high of 61 by the weekend.  We need a break for sure.

Our online MG training started this week, and I got notification today that two students have already completed the first unit.  This is a work-at-your-own-pace class which can be done from the comfort of home.  Folks can complete it quickly or take their time. They have until April 30 to complete the class.

We also got out the information about the upcoming state MG conference in Fort Smith yesterday.    This is the preliminary information so they have time to read what we are doing before we go live with registration on February 1.

Since Julie and I are quite proficient (or so we think) at zoom meetings, we are copying something we have been doing with the other hort specialists for county agents called What’s Up Wednesdays, but doing it for agents and MG volunteers starting Monday.  We will try to hold it to the fourth Monday of the month and call it Master Gardener Monday’s.    The intent is to focus on upcoming opportunities for Master Gardeners, and what is going on in gardening around the state.  Monday is our first test-drive.

Yesterday flew by, and today I drove to Lonoke County to be the speaker for the first meeting of the year for Lonoke county.  While the roads were clear, they still had quite a bit of snow on the lawns and frozen ponds in the fields. 

In spite of the cold, we had a good turnout of members.  They covered a lot of territory and had some good fellowship as well.    They are in the process of recruiting for classes coming up in March.  They have clever signs that they are putting up around the county   plus they are having a Meet the Masters event to try to showcase their programs and generate enthusiasm. 

On my way into town I passed by what I assumed was a busted water pipe–water was spewing all over Lonoke downtown.  On my way back from the meeting, the road was blocked by firetrucks and service folks were there digging up the road to fix the problem.     Cold and wet does not sound like much fun.

This afternoon, I worked on programs for the upcoming weeks.  We did some planning on the extension exhibit for the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show, and I worked on PowerPoint and handouts for several events.  I will  be in Fayetteville this weekend for MG training, and next Saturday, Jan 27 is the Garden Thyme in Magnolia.  My good friend Natalie Bumgardner from Tennessee will be speaking along with me.  I hope you will come out to join us.  In between, we have our first MG Monday (Monday), County 76 1st quarterly meeting  on Tuesday, MG training in Garland County on Thursday and a walk through for the AFGS Thursday afternoon.  It is a busy time.

Snow, COLD, meetings, and family

January 16, 2018
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Forecasts changed quickly the past few days.  At first we had no chance of snow, then a slight chance, and then we got snow.  It started snowing last night about 9 and by bedtime we had a nice light covering with more falling. 

This morning we had an inch of snow and schools and offices were closed and it was COLD and still is.  This is not what the south is supposed to feel like!

I was scheduled to be in Fort Smith for a final planning session before going live February 1, so we improvised.  They had no snow, so folks could still come to a meeting.  I finished up handouts at home and sent them to Fort Smith to be printed, and we tested out their zoom equipment and did the planned meeting via zoom this afternoon.     I actually went quite well. I had all the handouts on the laptop and shared my screen and we went over them.  Each committee chair came to the front blue chair when it was their time to talk and we got everything done in about 2 hours.  We have some follow-up things to do at the office tomorrow, but I am sending out the preliminary schedule to all MG’s tomorrow so they can plan what they want to do before they need to pay and start registering February 1.

This past weekend flew by with a bevy of family and fun.  It was my daughters first bridal shower and my sister and one niece came in from Texas.  We visited all weekend and had a great time.  The shower was also fun, and we got to include the men and dogs in the evening.     Even though Monday was a holiday, I had to do some work at home writing columns and trying to get ready for todays meeting.  Not much down time, but what a great long weekend.

The roads seemed to be clearing pretty well this afternoon, and late afternoon we actually had a snow plow come through our neighborhood, so I should be good to go in the morning.

ATA and Birthday Celebration

January 12, 2018
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The temperatures were definitely colder as I left LR this morning on my way to the Arkansas Turfgrass Association meeting, but we dodged a bullet on winter weather.  I talked with some nurserymen from Paragould and they had an interesting drive this morning dealing with an inch of sleet.   I heard an excellent speaker from a young businessman Josh Landreth who owns Ace of Blades, a lawn care company in NW Arkansas.  His company won the lawn of the year and he talked about how he did it and what it meant to him and his business. I was thoroughly impressed by his talk, not only in the educational content, but his integrity.  He also talked about positive attitude and how often people in the service industry get beat down.  He said people are often quick to insult and slow to complement.  Maybe we should all look at ourselves and how we treat others.   I think both the ATA and AGIA had good conferences and good trade shows this year. I had a lot of questions from the folks listening to my talk on tough but beautiful plants. 

I was surprised by some of the landscapes I saw in Hot Springs–their winter ornamentals looked much better than many I have seen in LR.  

Then tonight I got to celebrate with Beth and Martha Ray.  Many of us are turning 60 this year, and luckily they are beating me to the punch. Today is Beth’s birthday and Martha’s is next week.  I don’t turn 60 until April, so I am much younger!  It was a delightful evening.    All in all a good day.

Ark. Green Industry Association and Ark. Turfgrass Association

January 11, 2018
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Today was the annual AGIA (Ark. Green Industry Association) composed of nurserymen, greenhouse growers, landscapers and other horticulture folks, plus the annual ATA (Arkansas Turfgrass Assoication) composed of lawn care companies, golf course and sports field professionals and other grounds people.  They each have separate educational tracks with a combined trade show at the Hot Springs Convention Center.  It was an early start for me, because I wanted to be there for the first speaker Todd Lasseigne, who is the CEO of the relatively new Tulsa Botanic Garden.  He spoke twice today on some interesting ideas of using plants in unique ways.  He was a very enthusiastic speaker and really got folks excited about plants.  

I have not been to the garden yet, and from the pictures it is something I need to put on my list of things to do. I am considering planning a MG bus trip to Oklahoma later this year, so this would be one of the stops.

There were several other talks today with a very useful one on pesticide rotations to avoid resistance of the pesticides.  The afternoon was open to attend the trade show.  There was a good mix of plants and turf displays.  I was quite impressed with Reynolds Greenhouse display.  Not only did they showcase some of their great new plants, but this living wall made with cinder blocks was too clever!   Culbersons also had a huge display and they are experimenting with the new LED lights this year in their greenhouses, so used them in their display as well.   At this event they also announce to the members the upcoming new additions to the Arkansas Diamond program.  I am happy to say that they are still using the display built by our own MG Charles Gunn from Phillips County.   One of the plants I am particularly excited about is the Vermillionaire cuphea.  It performed beautifully in my garden last year and is a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.  It was great visiting with nurserymen from across the state and all the vendors. One vendor had the largest potted crape myrtle I have ever seen.    It dwarfs the over 6 foot tall magnolia beside it.  It was easily 30 feet tall!

It was another weird weather day.  I had to use the air conditioner in the car this afternoon and the storms that were predicted did not materialize, even though I had my raincoat and umbrella.  It got up to 63 degrees and was balmy and the sun was shining.  By sunset the sky was getting cloudy and the rain was beginning to fall and the temperature was dropping.  It is now down to 40 degrees and still dropping.  A possible winter mix later with temperatures in the high 20’s!  Crazy!

Tomorrow I am back in HS speaking to the Turfgrass folks.

Zooming again and AFGS

January 10, 2018
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Once you start zooming, it seems you just can’t stop!  The technology is great, and we are using it as often as we can. Monday was a volunteer training session and today we met with the agents who will be participating in the online MG training which starts next week.  Julie Treat is the lead for this effort, but since neither of us have ever done an online class, we are using the online guru Julie Robinson as our go-to person to help train us as well as our volunteers.  Today the two Julie’s led the discussion and gave both the agents and I an overview of how the class will work.  I think it is going to be great!     We have almost 60 people from 9 counties taking this first online class.  I am expecting great things.

I had a brief respite in the office after our zoom session before heading to the Arkansas Flower & Garden Show board meeting.    This is going to be a whole new experience for all of us.  The 2018 show will be at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds and NOT the Statehouse Convention Center.  I remember when we moved from Robinson Center to the Statehouse and how different it was.  CHANGE CAN BE GOOD!

We will have plenty of parking and it will be FREE!  If you buy something big, you will be able to drive up to a loading dock and pick it up.  We will take over the fairgrounds, holding events in the Coliseum, the Hall of Industry, with the Federation of Garden Club’s flower show and the How To sessions in the Arts and Crafts Building and the big speakers in the Farm and Ranch building.   Volunteers and vendors will have new experiences too. Volunteers will no longer have nametags but will be mailed a comp ticket to use to get in the gates the day they work.  It is only good for one day.  If you are working two days, you will get two comp tickets.  Those working on set-up days will also get a comp ticket for each day they work to use one day during the show.  Vendors must have their nametags before they get to the gate.  If vendors or volunteers forget their nametags or comp tickets, they will have to buy a ticket to get in.  Our volunteers will not be working the gates–the staff of the fairgrounds will be and they won’t know who is volunteering and who is coming to the show. It will be a learning curve, but it will work.  Everyone needs to bring a positive attitude and it will go like clockwork.    We have more room to spread out at the fairgrounds and we will see some exciting new things.  The show will be open Friday March 2-Sunday March 4.  Friday and Saturday are from 9-5 and Sunday is from 10-4.    For those who have already signed up to volunteer, please read the information you are sent with your volunteer assignment when it comes.  Don’t expect things will be the same as last year, because we are changing.  And remember, Change is good!

County 76 board, gardening and cooking

January 9, 2018
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Today was our first official County 76 board meeting of 2018.  We got a lot accomplished in a short period of time.  We went over plans from the retreat and items that needed to be finalized before our first quarterly meeting for all members on January 23.    Besides a lot of hard work, we did celebrate Julie’s birthday (a day early).    Be looking for some emails in the next few days to all Master Gardeners who receive Constant Contact emails.  We have a lot to share.
For gardeners, the weather is never far from discussion.  We did have some more showers today and while it warmed up a bit, the damp and gloomy weather made it feel colder than it actually was.  I have been getting a lot of plant questions on when to prune, what to do with already winter damaged plants.   I have some winter annuals including Swiss chard and purple mustard that look pretty sad.    I don’t think they are dead, but unless I plan to cover them if the temps drop below 28 degrees, there isn’t much I should do.  I do plan to cover if it gets that cold again so I will cut off the damaged foliage and pay attention to the weather and cover if necessary.  But these are annuals.  If you have perennials or evergreen groundcover or shrubs that have winter damaged foliage, ignore it.  That will serve as a buffer to any more cold weather.  Cut it off when new growth begins in the spring.
I also got this question yesterday: I was out watering Saturday and noticed these ‘Rose Hip’ looking buds that are on my gardenia plants. 
I have never seen these before.  The plants are least 5-6 years old & are the Dwarf Frost Proof variety, 
can you tell me what it is or what caused them?
     They are actually seed pods on the gardenia plant.  I started noticing them about three years ago on my single gardenia ‘Daisy’.   I think they are attractive and I just enjoy them. I am sure you could grow a gardenia from seed, but it would take time and patience, and I think cuttings would be a whole lot more effective.  But enjoy the color.
As I am entering the new year, my goal is to try to waste less food and use what I have at home.  Tonight I was trying to follow that goal and I had some corn tortillas from a local taqueria that I have in abundance–and have had for a while (they seem to last forever).  I actually made my own baked taquitoes tonight.   I have to say, they were pretty darn good. Baked, not fried and filled with a mixture of ground turkey, vegetables and spices.  Tasty!

Zoom and face-to-face

January 8, 2018
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What a full and productive day.  The morning was spent writing and doing PowerPoints, creating handouts and working on programs. Then after lunch we held a zoom training for mentors for the new class of trainees which start next week with our first ever online MG training.  We feel it is imperative that these volunteers have trained mentors so we can incorporate them into the program. They will miss face-to-face time with other Master Gardeners, so the mentors will be their link to our volunteer program. We like training people, but we really like building strong volunteers for our program even more.  Every time I participate with a zoom class, I like it more and more.    For this webinar we had Mimi in Jonesboro teaching the class with me, and we had MG’s and agents all across the state watching and asking questions.  So much more efficient than all of us driving to do the session.   Love it!

Then I ran home to make some soup for tomorrows County 76 board meeting before heading to Benton tonight to do a program on perennials at the local library.  They had a packed house and so many good questions.     While I just said how much I like zoom classes, the interaction between the speaker and a live audience cannot be beat–but thankfully for me, I have the time to do both.

While I was home cooking, my red headed sapsucker was back feeding on the loropetalum out front of my kitchen window.  He or she sure loves this bush and is ringing it up pretty nicely.    Second year in a row!

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