A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Home Gardener’s School – Spring 2008

Today marks four years that I have been attending the Home Gardener’s School at Rutgers University. Thankfully they keep adding new classes because I have taken most of the core courses already. This session I signed up for three classes instead of the usual four. I just couldn’t find a fourth one that I either hadn’t already taken or was remotely interested in taking.

My first class of the day was “Amazing Annuals” with Ira Grassgreen. Yes, that is really his name! He works for a plant wholesaler and donates a lot of time and plant material to Rutgers Gardens. I love working with Ira at events at the Gardens because I always learn so much from him. Today was no exception. Along with site requirements and origins of the newest annuals being offered, I learned that plant breeders seem to be going in the direction of producing shade plants that can tolerate sun and sun plants that can tolerate shade. I must be getting curmudgeonly in my old age because I really prefer my shade-lovers to stay in the shade and my sun-lovers to bask in the sun. Sorry, Ira!

Next up was “Accessorizing Your Landscape” with Bruce Crawford the Director of Rutgers Gardens. No garden gnomes, just a lot of water features, containers, fences, gates and arbors. The most intriguing idea presented was a container with nothing in it. The container itself rather than plants is the decorative element.

We broke for lunch which I shared with “A”, my fellow Straw Hatter and cooking blog partner. She was taking a break from working at the Rutgers Gardens plant sale. We munched our sandwiches while listening to a Q&A with a panel of experts. I was really impressed that they were emphasizing environmentally friendly ways of dealing with pests and diseases.

My last class of the day was again with Bruce Crawford, this time on “Vines and Espaliers”. No, I haven’t suddenly gotten an urge to espalier anything although Bruce swears that it’s easy. I was interested in vines. I’m always looking for ways to hide the ugly chainlink fence that surrounds my backyard. The eye-opener for me in this class was that there are three different types of clematis, each with its own pruning requirements.

Instead of a fourth class, I helped out at the plant sale with “A” and other Rutgers Gardens volunteers. The $2 African violets were sorely tempting but I have too many already. After a discussion of their requirements, “A” snagged the last one. Maybe she’ll let me have a leaf from it . . .


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