At the University of Delaware, we are fortunate to call Doug Tallamy one of our own. I first heard him talk at a horticulture event I was covering. Doug is an entomologist and professor at the University of Delaware’s Department of Wildlife Ecology. His influence and expertise is respected worldwide. Thanks to his books, his articles and his generous appearances on Zoom, Doug Tallamy’s message is starting to get out. This is a recording of a recent appearance he gave to Ohio State University. I attended this for advanced training as a Master Gardener. His lecture beings at 3:50.
I have joined the Home Grown National Park effort that Tallamy has started. I planted my first oak tree, and hope to get many more. Increasingly I am adding native plants to encourage more caterpillar and insect activity.
Does this mean I will remove the many crape myrtles on my property? No. But, as beautiful as they are in late summer, I won’t plant any more. Will I still decorate my front porch steps with my favorite magenta geraniums? Yes I will. It is okay to grow and enjoy non-natives. But I am finding spots in my yard for native milkweed, echinacea, mountain mint, redbud and serviceberry trees. I challenge anyone who reads Doug Tallamay’s books or watches him lecture in person or on YouTube will be compelled (and urgently so) the way they landscape their homes.
I have lots of new changes and additions to our backyard habitat woodland garden this year! I love to tour the garden after a good rain. It’s April 15 with my iPhone in hand! Take a look!
Beyond the raised bed section is an old dog run that I converted over to a perennial, pollinator garden. This area is the only part of our backyard that received more than 4 hours of sun. Although I started out with different plants, most of what I admired from the Master Gardener demonstration garden, I am adding blue and yellow flowers to dominate (my UD Alma Mater colors). New this year are delphiniums seen lower left. Everything is coming up wonderfully. The two sections of split rail fence are vestiges of a dog run I had for my Great Dane who has since passed. Last year I added some climbers, and we added an arbor to distinguish this area from the main back yard.
In the middle of the yard, we removed a very mature River Birch. We had four, now we have three. The tree was too close to the house. I could have opened a River Birch nursery, with all the seedlings that erupted inside our gutters alone! It also dumped a lot of debris into our medium-sized pond. I left the stump kind of high, as I thought I might carve out a bowl/splinter. Right now the stump is weeping profusely. The sugars from the sap are spilling over and turning colors. The removal has opened up quite a bit of sunlight now!
Two years ago, we reduced our pond by half. We had koi, and herons, and then ugly nets to try to protect the koi, and ugly leaves collecting in the nets. The ugly wasn’t worth it. We found homes for the koi, removed the net, placed a bench under a Japanese re maple and now we are serenaded by bullfrogs. We added a second trellis/arbor to mark an entrance to our deep-shade section.
With the increased sunlight from the missing River Birch, we can now plant some flowering plants by the waterfall. I could never grow anything there due to the deep shade. It will be so rewarding to add color to this area now!
One thing about a shade garden, and a pond, are mosquitos. They love me and I am highly allergic to them. It is hard to enjoy the backyard we’ve created. Although we are vigilant in preventing any standing water, and use mosquito dunks in the pond, they do well here. Unfortunate! So I’ve been nagging my husband for a screened gazebo. They are quite the investment. We are looking at $7 to 8K to get a 12 x 12 structure. With Covid last year and this year, we weren’t sure what would happen with our incomes, so we wanted to test out the concept before we commit.
This is a 12 x 12 Alvantor tent. It is not perfect, but under $400 – a big difference that $8,000! We bought it in September and kept it up until early November and then tucked it away. The top is not waterproof, so we have to tend to it immediately after a rain storm. It is not what I want, but right now, we can sit out and see and listen to the waterfalls, the wind chimes and enjoy a glass of wine, mosquito free. We are going to try a different flooring this year. I am still not giving up on a cedar-type gazebo!!
I’m not going too far out on a limb to say that 2020 has been a horrible year so far. Sickly, stressful, polarizing and divisive. Since March 13, 2020 I have worked from home and also had an opportunity to take temporary custody of my only grandchild, Hugo, who lives in NYC with his parents. There, at the epicenter of the pandemic, his parents felt their six and a half year old son might enjoy an extended visit in the southern Delaware countryside with “MiMa.” Both of us did our daily work virtually, and the extra time together concentrated on an outdoor classroom that included birdwatching and feeding, planting vegetables, planting and dividing flowers and learning about insects and pollinators. It was 11-weeks of that silver lining you hear so much about!
Working from home afforded me some extra time to water in the mornings, spend lunch time weeding, and when we were allowed to, visit some garden centers wearing masks.
My hydrangeas (currently 63 and counting) did not get the news 2020 was off to a poor start. I started seeing early indications that this would be a bumper year for hydrangeas. The best ever in my memory.
In my ever-shadier woodland backyard setting, I have lost the opportunity to flower garden. But this year, my husband and I took out three of our five concrete block raised beds (they worked but were unsightly) and used the area to create a pollinator garden. It is still a work in progress.
In the pollinator garden is an assortment of natives and non-natives. Echinacea, nepta (catmint) garden phlox “jeana”, various beebalm, senna, coreopsis, gaillardia, pink and purple Veronica speedwell, salvias, Shasta daisies, fennel, milkweed, butterfly weed (Asclepias), yarrow, false sea thrift (armería), stokesia, lavender, rosemary, cornflower, pokeweed, h.paniculata “Bobo”, solidago “Wichita Mountains”, drumstick alliums, and others.
Being a social media enthusiast (I graduated from the University of Delaware Social Media Strategic Social Media Marketing course in 2014) I kicked around some ideas to share Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program on various platforms.
Working with county agents, we developed the idea of a Master Gardener Minute, using the hashtag #MGMinute. One minute or under, the short informative video series will cover popular garden topics at a length suitable for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well as YouTube.
Yesterday, I shot a few segments with Delaware Master Gardener Wendy Ferranti and here is the first roll out. What do you think? What future topics would you like to see?
It allows me to intermingle with experts and follow along as the lessons of nature, flora and fauna in Delaware exist, thrive (and sometimes threatened) are shared with the public. I can’t say enough about the men and women who work and volunteer with Cooperative Extension outreach and teach curious minds, young and old alike! I always learn something new following them around!
Each May, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension agents and their wonderful volunteer Master Gardener experts, invite local second graders to visit their Demonstration Garden in Georgetown, Delaware. After exploring and discovering herbs, seeds, plants, flowers, trees and compost in the morning, the students enjoy a lunch break in our picnic grove area, and then trek off under the canopy of many leaves to explore the University of Delaware’s woodland classroom.
We never know what experience might spark a young mind and continue with a fascination of our natural world into formal education and a career. A day like this could be the start of something spectacular!
I listen to the “oohs” and “ahs” and when I am not doing that myself, I try and snap a few pictures of wide-eyed children in the throes of imagination and discovery! There were many more pictures that I did not have photo releases for. But here are a few — okay few hundred — photos of three marvelous days in May, 2015. Thanks to my assistant Jackie Arpie for joining me in taking pictures!
The embedded Flickr slide show won’t play on some iOS devices. Here’s the link to the photos!
It is a great honor to be asked to take photos of one of my favorite annual events, the Sussex County (Delaware) Master Gardener Open House. Their beautiful demonstration garden just happens to be located directly in back of my office and I even have a window so I can look out!
The garden has many interesting niches and surprising little things peeking out of corners and unusual places. The demonstration garden is actually open all year long, and the public is welcome to stroll through the clearly marked plantings any time of the day, but a few times a year, the Master Gardeners have planned events, which allow the public to not only tour the garden, but have informal, friendly chats with Master Gardeners.
Like most gardeners I know, the Master Gardeners are a generous and humble lot. This is their passion and they love to share it. Not everyone is an expert in everything. Each Master Gardener brings his or her own talent to the table…or raised bed. Some are into veggies, others native Delware plants, children’s gardens, hostas, hydrangeas, garden photography. You name it! We have someone who knows their garden subject matter. Together, it all homogenizes into a poetry of color, nutrition, affection for all things fora and fauna. In Delaware, Master Gardeners are selected, trained and supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. Delaware has a lot to be proud of with these tireless and talented volunteers. What a treasure we have!
Here’s a photo set of pictures taken today at their premiere annual event.