My Master Gardener Journey

Today, I began my journey to be a Delaware Master Gardener. I first heard about the Master Gardener program in 1994, when I entered my city back yard in a garden tour contest (I didn’t win anything) but I got on a mailing list and received information about the program.

Delaware Master Gardener official logo

Fast forward to 2001 when I began a new career at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I learned about the Master Gardener volunteers who help extend university research to the public. My new career coincided with a new home, three-quarter acre plot without a shrub, flower or tree, so I was eager to absorb the many fact sheets made available to the public.

Over the past 20 years I’ve gotten to know and admire the people involved in this program. I’ve certainly enjoyed spending my lunch breaks in their demonstration garden, and as my position officially switched to communications, helping to promote their workshops and outreach events such as their open house. I’ve also been thrilled to be a part of their many celebrations and hallmark anniversaries.

I’ve long known that gardeners are incredibly generous people. They love creating, growing and sharing. Getting to know the Master Gardeners affiliated with our land grant university only strengthened my opinions.

I wanted to be a part of their ranks!

While I know a lot about Cooperative Extension, and have learned through the successes and mistakes of my own garden, I am eager to have the formal training that this program will provide.

Because of COVID and the danger looming over the Delta variant, we will be receiving our 12 weeks of training via Zoom.

I am looking forward to sharing my journey here each week, sharing the resources that will be taught to my class via Extension professionals.

Stay tuned!

2018: Summer of Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas were my mother’s favorite flower and landscape shrub and she was a strong influence for me to include hydrangeas in my garden. I now have 55 separate plants on a pie-shaped .73 acre lot. Most I have purchased outright to get different varieties, and about 12 or so are propagated, something I learned how to do from Master Gardener workshops.

A large factor on how hydrangeas will perform is Mother Nature. A dip in temperature in the spring — a late frost will devastate the summer performance of many hydrangeas. Knowing the type of hydrangeas you have, where it will thrive, its sun requirements, and ultimately how to prune correctly are essential for growing profuse blooms.

In Delaware, Zone 7b, we had a very wet, soggy spring and no late frosts! The result: a blooming bonanza for Hydrangeas! July will bring the paniculatas such as Limelight, Little Limelight and Little firelight.

We replaced most of our Knock-out roses in the southern front of our home with plants like this “Little Limelight” which won’t get as big as regular Limelight and loves the sun the front of our house receives.

Hydrangeas are beautiful inside too! Bring them indoors! Accented here with lavender spires and lemon balm

Hydrangea “Sikes Dwarf”

So many blooms in 2018, there is plenty to show and take inside. Sprigs of lemon balm add a soft green accent. The tiny white flower is “pearly everlasting.” By mid summer, dill and parsley are starting seed heads and these add interest to a bouquet!

I call the above mom’s hydrangea. This was one of the pink hot house flowers the florists delivered at my mother’s funeral. I planted it in 2001 where it grew for three years before blooming. This shrub is 19 years old and is the most vulnerable in the winter. It faces east. This year it has come back nicely.

Variegated “Mariesii”

I don’t know the name of this hydrangea as it was mislabeled by the home improvement garden center. I thought it would be a white schneeball, but its first blossoms were pink and white. All subsequent years produced this blue and cream white blossom. I don’t know the cultivar but I love the old-fashioned look. It is always a reliable bloomer. Faces south but it is shaded by large trees from direct sun.

Above is a mountain variety I purchased from the mail order catalog Wayside Gardens. I wasn’t good about writing down the cultivars. I’ve asked them to see if my purchase from 10 years ago is still on record. These blossoms start out white and transition to pink and rose. A beautiful water color effect.

Niko Blue Macrophylla

This lacecap beauty was one of two my husband and I purchased at a garden center in Pennsylvania in 2006. One was for my mother-in-law, and I loved it so much he got one for me! I was so bad then about saving the labels. It is planted where it gets afternoon sun (not the best place) so we have to baby it and water it generously. It is a delightful frame for our front porch and is a true blue performer!

Hydrangea quercifolia “Snow Queen” looking up through the blossoms!