A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Master Gardener State Conference

After my great experience last year at my first Master Gardener State Conference, I have been eagerly anticipating this year’s conference. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Keynote Speaker was Michael Ruggiero from the New York Botanical Gardens. He gave a talk on “Early Spring Blooms”. And he wasn’t kidding! Trees, shrubs, bulbs, annuals, perennials. He showed us how to have flowers literally from January to tulips in April. He loves pansies as much as I do. By the way, anyone reading this who has paid a premium for “Icicle Pansies”, I have some very bad news for you. According to him, ALL pansies are “Icicle Pansies”, i.e. are cold-hardy.

Next up was the Gardening Guru, David Daehnke. He spoke on “Landscaping the Natural Way: How to Incorporate Native species into Your Design”. “Incorporate” being the operative term. He is not one of those purists who insist that only natives should be grown and all “foreign” plants discarded. In some cases, the “foreign” varieties are better choices than the natives (think dogwoods). He also pointed out for those of us who have problems with deer, that native species evolved alongside deer and can therefore withstand a certain amount of nibbling from deer that foreign species can’t take.

We broke for lunch and the Awards of Excellence were handed out by each county for Master Gardeners who had contributed significantly to their programs. It’s always fun to hear what’s going on in other programs in other counties.

After lunch there was the usual four choices of speakers. I didn’t need to attend “Advantages of Horticultural Therapy for the Disabled: How to Start a Program in Your County” by The Head Hatter. She runs the Hort Therapy program in our county. I figured I could skip ”How to Animal Proof Your Garden” because it would probably be mainly about deer-proofing. I’m very fortunate not to have a deer problem.

That left “To Till or Not to Till: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Rototilling and Its Options” and “Honeybees: The Value of Honey Bees in the Environment”. I’m very interested in the “No-Till” movement but I figured the lecture would be skewed more towards veggie gardeners and I grow only flowers.

The Bee lecture was excellent. The beekeeper, Grant Stiles, was an entertaining and informative speaker. He even had a Rudy Guiliani moment when he stopped in the middle of his talk to take a phone call (from an employee, not his wife). I was saddened to learn that all of the native honeybees are extinct. And those wonderful oases that we are all trying to create in our backyards are not sufficient for bees. They need acres and acres of fieldcrops and orchards. Probably the saddest fact we learned was that all those McMansions with their acres of pristine lawns and shrubbery are a wasteland for bees. There is no nectar there for them at all.

We were all so enthralled that we ran late, reluctantly leaving at 3:00 PM instead of the usual 2:30PM dismissal.

I have to plug my own county. The state conferences are set up and run by Master Gardeners with each county responsible for each aspect (registration, catering, programs, etc) of the conference. My own county of Middlesex has been responsible for recruiting all of the wonderful speakers at the conferences both last year and this year. Kudos to you, ladies. You’ve done a fantastic job!


At 4:04 AM, Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

Good grief, I knew that things were bad for the bees but I hadn't realised that all your native honeybees are now extinct. How very, very sad.

You've attended quite a few very interesting lectures and had a wonderful day or so it seems. Gardening can be enjoyed in so many ways.

At 1:50 AM, Blogger OldRoses said...

Yolanda Elizabet, I absolutely agree! I love learning about gardening almost as much as I love to garden.


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