A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home Gardener's School - Spring Edition

I was back at Home Gardener's School at Cook College for the third time. It's offered twice a year, in March and in September. This is their 30th year. I only discovered it last year. I'm totally hooked! Rutgers Gardens needed volunteers for their plant sale table. I told them sorry, but I'll be attending classes all day.

Amazing Annuals was my first class of the day. It was taught by the director of Rutgers Gardens. He is extremely knowledgable and an excellent speaker. I honestly wasn't expecting to get more out of the course than ideas on placement and combinations. Usually these classes stress modern hybrids. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him make a case for older varieties. I made notes on plants I would like to try in my own gardens such as Persian Shield Shrub, Lantana, Lion's Ear and Brazilian Verbena.

Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden was my next and best class. The instructor was incredibly entertaining. He even dressed as a butterfly to explain anatomy! He had the best handout I've ever seen. The first page was perennials, annuals, biennials and vines to attract butterflies. The second page was container plants for full sun and herbs for butterflies. The third page was deer resistant butterfly plants, the fourth page was shade plants for butterflies. The fifth page was indigenous NewJersey plants for butterflies. The sixth and final page was insect deterring butterfly plants.

At lunch I ran into two members of the Master Gardener Steering Committee. They invited me to join them. I had been looking for a member of my Master Gardener class but couldn't find her even though we were taking a few of the same classes. Instead of the usual (male) speakers talking down to the (largely female) audience, they were giving out door prizes. They ranged from bags of grass seed to a snowblower. No, I didn't win anything.

Folklore of Plants, which should have been called Folklore of Trees, was where I finally found my classmate. We sat with two other Master Gardeners and were bored to death. Very little folklore. Too many "fun" facts like the wood used to make golf clubs. Eventually I just tuned him out in anticipation of my final class.

Attracting Birds to Your Garden was a class I was really looking forward to after the excellent class on butterflies. Boy, was I disappointed. The speaker (not the same speaker as the butterfly class) was AWFUL. His presentation was disorganized and incoherent. He didn't seem to know what he was talking about. He even admitted that he couldn't find a picture of a particular bird and substituted one that doesn't live in our area but kind of looks like the one that does! People were walking out in disgust. The Master Gardener I was sitting with and I managed to make it all the way through the slide presentation. When he finished, we realized there was still 45 minutes to go. We joined the exodus and went to the bookstore instead.

I browsed the bookstore then went over to the plant sale table and chatted with the Rutgers Gardens people. I'll be seeing them again Wednesday evening at the next meeting of the Adopt-A-Plot volunteers.


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