A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Home Gardeners' School - Fall Edition

I enjoyed the Spring Edition of the Home Gardeners' School at Cook College at Rutgers University so much that when the brochure for the Fall Edition showed up in my mailbox, I registered immediately. I believe it was July at the time! The gardens I've been reading about and enjoying pictures of all summer have inspired me to change my gardening style from growing anything and everything that interests me just for fun to a more designed approach. I was glad to see that I could take some landscaping courses.

Landscape Design Basics was a great way to start out the day. It was just that, the basics of designing a garden. The instructor, who is a Certified Landscape Architect, pointed out things I had never considered before like taking into account the view out of windows and designing for those views as well. He covered scale, balance, sequence (rhythm) and focalization. He even showed us how to draw a site plan taking into consideration the mature size of trees and plants and where the sun is during various times of the year.

This class was followed by a new one called Arranging Plants in the Landscape taught by the same instructor and was the logical next step in designing a garden. He gave us a great list of plant books and books about arranging, combining and using plants. There was an excellent slideshow on trees, bushes and groundcovers and what they look like in the landscape in different combinations and at different times of the year.

Then we broke for lunch. I had the same complaint as in the spring. There were more men this time than last time but women still made up the majority of participants and the luncheon speaker was again male. This time I not only complained on the evaluation form we were asked to fill out for the program but I also spoke to the director. He directs the programs at Rutgers Gardens as well as the Home Gardeners' School and taught the digital part of the photography course I took last week so I have gotten to know him. He agreed with me and pointed out that there were more female instructors this time than last. In fact, they had replaced one male instructor with a female one.

After lunch, I took my dream trip in the Gardens of England & Ireland class. After explaining to us that our gardens would NEVER look like the ones we were about to see due to dramatic climatic differences between New Jersey and England and Ireland, we went on a virtual tour of some of the most famous gardens in the world such as Sissinghurst and some private gardens. One interesting thing that I learned was that the glaciers scoured the UK so there are very few native plants. Consequently, most of their garden plants are imports. She showed us gorgeous beds of American natives like Joe Pye Weed, asters and Monarda. What we consider "weeds" here are considered "exotics" there and carefully arranged and tended!

My last class of the day was Proper Planting Techniques For Container, Bare-root and Balled & Burlapped Plants. It's probably the scariest gardening class I have ever taken. I now wonder how anything I have planted has survived because I have done everything wrong. There is a right way and a wrong way to dig a hole to plant in (guess which way I dig them!), there is a right way to backfill, a right way to mulch, a right way to stake and a right way to water. I learned that nurseries put too much soil in their containers so you have to dig out the bottom part of the stem of the plant before you plant it and then plant it to that new depth, rather than the depth of the container it came in. I am still apologizing to my plants for planting them all wrong all these years!

At the end of the day, I grabbed some brochures on upcoming gardening classes at Cook College during January and February. I want to take all of them! But I should pace myself, bearing in mind that I will be in the Master Gardener Certification program at the same time so I should probably just take one or two.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger kerry said...

Sounds like an awesome learning experience. I would be interested to hear about how you put all of the new info to practice.

At 3:46 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Kerry - I do make note when something I learned comes up. Like the goldenrod attracting beneficial insects. I learned about that at a class I took in the spring.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Nancy & Jeff said...

OldRoses, we are new to blogging. Jeff has been full time garden writer for 26 years and Nancy for 13; so we figured it is time to do some blogging. I must figure out how to put garden links on to our blog.

We look forward to reading your blog.

Jeff Ball and Nancy Szerlag

At 3:33 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Jeff Nancy - thanks for dropping by. Your blog is wonderful. I've added it to my links and emailed you instructions on how to add links to your blog.


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