Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Becoming a Master Gardener

Penn State Cooperative Extension is starting its recruitment drive for a new class of Master Gardeners early this year. This year’s set of classes will be taught via a remote video connection with Extension horticulture educators from throughout the state and the University. Franklin County Cooperative Extension is looking for 15 motivated people willing to become a part of our volunteer force to help in its land grant mission to bring research-based knowledge about consumer horticulture to the general public. In exchange for extensive training, Master Gardeners are asked to provide throughout the first program year, 50 hours of volunteer time, selected among the following activities: covering the phone hot-line during the growing season (April 15-October 15), teaching workshops, manning information booths, assisting in research, establishing and maintaining demonstration gardens, fulfilling speaker requests, and helping with funding-raising and publicity efforts, like our Plant Sale, Tomato Taste Day, and Fall Garden Tour that help keep the program sustainable. In subsequent years, 20 hours of volunteer time, and 8 hours of continuing education are required to maintain your Master Gardener status.

This year’s classes will be on Tuesdays here at the Extension Office from 1:00-4:00 p.m., starting on March 1, 2011 and continuing weekly for 13 weeks.   The fee is $100.00.

If you are interested in becoming a Penn State Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, we invite you to attend one of two information sessions that have been scheduled, either Tuesday, January 11th, or Tuesday, January 18th, both at 1:00 p.m.  Follow the links above for more information about us.   Penn State Cooperative Extension of Franklin County can be reached at 263-9226.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Strong Women Classes Forming

To register: Click on the picture, print out the form, fill it in, and send to Penn State Cooperative Extension, 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA  17202, or FAX to 263-9228

A new set of classes, just like the ones from the Fall are forming in Franklin County.  Originally developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University in Boston, the Strong Women Program provides twice a week sessions for a period of six weeks.  This research based program is designed to help increase strength, bone density, balance and energy.

Women from age thirty-five on can start to lose one-quarter to one-third pound of muscle each year—and gain that much or more in fat*.  At first,  the change isn’t especially noticeable, but over time the loss of 2 percent of strength per year results in muscle weakness and difficulty in moving.

Strong Women strength-training class at Belen Community Center in Valencia County, New Mexico

When this happens, women slow their activities, become weaker, gain more weight, and begin a devastating cycle of dieting and weight gain rebound, which leads to more muscle mass loss and a sedentary and dependent lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be your future.

The Tufts research indicated that after a year of strength training twice a week, women’s bodies were fifteen to twenty years more youthful.*  Women who participated in the program regained bone and muscle while losing fat. They became stronger, energized, and more active.

Who should attend?

Women 40 years of age and older who have been active or relatively sedentary for the past few years and are interested in improving their health, vitality, and well-being.

Classes—What to expect

  • A five minute warm-up
  • Eight to twelve strength-training exercises to promote proper body awareness, positioning, flexibility, and posture
  • Easy-to-Use Nutrition Information
  • A five-minute cool-down
For more information, contact:
Mary Ann Oyler
181 Franklin Farm Lane
Chambersburg, PA 17202
Classes take one hour, meet twice a week, and run for six weeks. The cost is $45.00 for the whole six week session (12 classes). Pre-registration is preferred but potential participants are welcome to attend the first session to determine if the class is a good fit for them.

Cooperative Extension is offering Strong Women classes at various locations throughout the county:

  1. New Guilford Brethren In Christ  1575 Mont Alto Road Fayetteville, PA 17222
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: January 10—February 16
Time: 9:00 AM—10:00 AM 
2. Church of the Brethren 260 South 4th Street Chambersburg, PA 17201
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 10:00 AM—11:00 AM
3. First United Methodist Church 11 North Fayette Street Mercersburg, PA 17236
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:30 AM—10:30 AM
4. Memorial Lutheran Church 34 East Orange Street Shippensburg, PA 17257
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:00AM—10:00 AM
5. The Brethren Fellowship  339 Lincoln Way East Chambersburg, PA 17201
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: January 10—February 16
Time: 5:45 PM—6:45 PM
6. First United Methodist Church 11 North Fayette Street Mercersburg, PA 17236
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 6:00 PM—7:00 PM
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church 130 North Washington Street Greencastle, PA 17225
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: February 22—March 31
Time: 9:30 AM—10:30 AM
8. Faith United Methodist Church 104 North Potomac Street Waynesboro, PA 17268
Days: Tuesday & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:00 AM– 10:00 AM
9. Upper Path Valley Presbyterian Church Intersection of Route 75 and 641 Spring Run, PA 17262
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: March 7—April 13
Time: 9:00 AM– 10:00 AM 
You can click on the brochure picture at the beginning of this post, print it, and register by filling in the information and sending it in to Penn State Cooperative Extension at 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

Make a commitment to grow stronger and trimmer, and feel better about yourself. StrongWomen is a safe, simple, and highly effective strength training program.

*Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Re-search Center on Aging (Nelson et al., 1994)

Monday, December 13, 2010

2011 Perennial Plant of the Year

Picture by H. Scoggins - from the Chanticleer Garden
Amsonia hubrichtii (am-SO-nee-ah hew-BRIK-tee-eye) has been named 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year. Common names for the plant include Arkansas Amsonia, Arkansas blue star, thread-leaf blue star, narrow leaf blue star, and Hubricht's blue star.

Amsonia is a North American native. The species was found in Arkansas in 1942 by Leslie Hubricht. The foliage is thin and strap—like, often reaching three inches in length. From late spring to early summer, two- to three-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star shaped flowers appear above the ferny foliage. This amsonia forms a three-foot-by-three-foot mound.
Holly Scoggins blogged about it recently at the Garden Professors, highlighting its fabulous fall foliage.
Exhibits the best boofy habit of all perennials (somewhat like "floofy", but rounder). Native to southern/central U.S. and totally drought tolerant. The pale blue star-shaped flowers in late Spring are fairly underwhelming, especially given all the other stuff going on at the time. The fine, needle-like foliage adds a wonderful soft texture throughout the summer. As the days shorten and the nights cool down, it begins to glow...first a soft gold, and then adds bronze and apricot to the mix - basically a color twin of Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed, previously described in a GP post).
According to the flyer, it:
Prefers average, moist well-drained soil but tolerates less moisture. Once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Light blue flowers in spring are followed by a marvelous display of foliage in summer. A golden-yellow fall color is second to none among herbaceous perennials. It is uniquely suited as a companion plant or as a feature. This perennial for the seasons is an asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. It is best when massed. Arkansas blue star is attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and plants that have attractive seed heads.

Tree Tomato

Picture from Logee's Tropical Plants
 Angela did the research to come up with the scientific name for that New Zealand tropical "Tree Tomato" that I've been growing for about 15 years now, and that folks asked about at the Christmas Party.  It's a Cyphomandra crassicaulis and it does belong to the same family of plants as the tomato, Solanacea.  It's also not native to New Zealand, as I thought, but Peru.  Another common name for the fruit is tamarillo.

More information here and here.  

The taste of the fruit is said to be tomato-like.  I don't agree - it's more tropical, and not to my liking, for some reason I find hard to pinpoint.  I do use it as a garnish, though, and I like the large leaves and conversational aspects of growing it.  It does take a lot of water during the summer.

If others are interested, I'll save some seeds and try to propagate it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Last of the Summer Wine

A carefully nurtured (Striped German?  Orange Russian 117?  Lucky Cross ? – I grew three bicolored varieties this year, so I’m not sure which this is, but if I had to guess, it would be the Striped German) picked green in early November and allowed to ripen indoors.  Shared a few others for the Thanksgiving repast.  Not the same as vine-ripened, but still beats the grocery store ones by a long shot.  I will now rely on my pantry for tomato goodness through these bleak times until next year.

Final Fresh 2010 Salad - Saturday, Dec 4, 2010

Not cheating - see!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Spirit of a Gardener

My gardens are finally put to rest for the winter...a little delayed this fall because I just "had" to have a picket fence for my front gardens.  This was the year I was finally able to convince my husband that it was much needed, so I had to act quickly while the opportunity arose.  Well back to putting my garden to rest...I always get melancholy this time of year.  I'm never ready to stop gardening, so to keep my gardening spirit in tact  I had to start making a list of what I "needed" for next year.  While researching my gardening needs, I came across a delightful highlight written by Larry Rettig on a little-known writer and gardener, Karel Čapek.    Karel deserves our utmost respect for truly understanding a gardener's life.  Why if Čapek hadn't written The Gardener's Year  in 1929, I would believe he was describing me and probably many of my gardening friends as well.
Karel Čapek (CHOPek; 1890-1938) is one of the greatest writers the Czech Republic has ever produced.  A novelist, playwright, journalist, translator, and artist, he gained worldwide renown as author of the drama "RUR Rossum's Universal Robots."  In this science fiction play, the word "robot" is introduced and subsequently becomes part of the vocabulary of almost all languages in the world.  It is said to have been coined by his brother, Josef.

Born in Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), Čapek is considered one of the founders of classical, European science fiction.  Although many of the themes in his diverse writings are quite serious--he explores ethical aspects and other issues related to mass production, atomic weapons, Nazism, and development of mechanical intelligent beings--Čapek had an oft-overlooked humorous side.  And he was a passionate gardener!

In a small, 120-page tome called The Gardener's Year (original Czech version: Prague, 1929; English version:  London, 1931, Modern Library paperback:  New York, 2002), Čapek partners his humorous side with his passion for gardening.  The result is a charming treatise, full of wit and hilarity, that plays on the the psychology of gardening and gardeners.  He pokes fun not only at other gardeners but, being one, at himself as well.  Here is a sampling of his tongue-in-cheek humor:

On How to Recognize a Real Gardener
" 'You must come to see me, he says, 'I will show you my garden.'  Then, when you go just to please him, you will find him with his rump sticking up somewhere among the perennials.  'I will come in a moment,' he shouts to you over his shoulder.  'Just wait till I have planted this rose.'  'Please don't worry,' you say kindly to him.  After a while he must have planted it, for he gets up, makes your hand dirty, and beaming with hospitality he says: 'Come and have a look; it's a small garden, but--Wait a moment,' and he bends over a bed to weed some tiny grass.  'Come along, I will show you Dianthus musalae, it will open your eyes.  Great Scott, I forgot to loosen it here!' he says, and begins to poke in the soil.  A quarter of an hour later he straightens up again.  'Ah,' he says, 'I wanted to show you that bell flower, Campanula wilsonae.  That is the best campanula which--Wait a moment, I must tie up this delphinium.'  After he has tied it up he remembers: 'Oh, I see, you have come to see that erodium.  A moment,' he murmurs, 'I must just transplant this aster, it hasn't enough room here.'  After that you go away on tiptoe, leaving his behind sticking up among the perennials..."

On Garden Hoses
"One would think that watering a little garden is quite a simple thing, especially if one has a hose.  It will soon be clear that until it has been tamed, a hose is an extraordinarily evasive and dangerous beast, for it contorts itself, it jumps, it wriggles, it makes puddles of water, and dives with delight into the mess it has made; then it goes for the man who is going to use it and coils itself round his legs, you must hold it down with your foot and then it rears and twists round your waist and neck, and while you are fighting with it as with a cobra, the monster turns up its brass mouth and projects a mighty stream of water through the windows on the curtains which have been recently hung...Three men are needed to tame it at first, and they all leave the place of battle splashed to the ears with mud and drenched with water."

On Unexpected Cold Spells
"If I knew that it would help, I would wrap my holly in my own coat, and draw my pants over the juniper; I would take off my own shirt for you, Azalea pontica; I would cover you with my hat, Alum Root, and for you Coreopsis, nothing is left but my socks:  be thankful for them."

On Starting Seedlings
"Well, have you sown your seeds yet?  Have you put your pots into lukewarm water and covered them with glass?  ...Very well then, now the great and feverish activity of every sower begins--that is, waiting...

The first day nothing comes up, and the watcher tosses in his bed at night, unable to await the morning.

The second day...a tuft of mold appears.  He rejoices that this is the first sign of life.

The third day something creeps up on a long white leg and grows like mad.  He exalts almost aloud that it is here already...

The fourth day, when the shoot has stretched to an impossible length, the watcher becomes anxious, for it might be a weed.  Soon it is evident that the fear was not unreasonable.  Always the first thing...which grows in a pot is a weed.

Obviously it must be some law of Nature."

On a Gardener's Eyes Being Bigger than his Garden Bed
"Besides germination, April is also the month for planting.  With enthusiasm, yes, with wild enthusiasm and impatience you order seedlings from the nurseries, for you cannot exist any longer without them; you promised all your friends who have gardens that you would come for cuttings; I tell you that you are never satisfied with what you already have.  And so, one day, some 170 seedlings meet in your house, and they must be planted immediately; and then you look round in your garden and find with overwhelming certainty that you have no space left for them!  ...'No, it's not possible here,' he murmurs in a low voice; 'here I have those damned chrysanthemums; phlox would smother it here...and near this achillea there is no room either--where shall I put it?  ...Ha, here is a bit of space; wait, my little seedling, in a moment I will make your bed.  So, there you are, and now grow in peace.'  Yes, but in two days the gardener will discover that he has planted it right on top of the scarlet shoots of an emerging evening primrose..."

On Accidental Mutilation
"...well, nobody knows how it happens, but it occurs strikingly often that when you step on a bed to pick up some dry twig, or to pull out a dandelion, you usually tread on a shoot of the lily or trollius; it crunches under your foot, and you sicken with horror and shame; and you take yourself for a monster...  Or with infinite care you loosen the soil in a bed, with the inevitable result that you chop with the hoe a germinating bulb, or neatly cut off with the spade the sprouts of the anemones; when, horrified, you start back, you crush...a primula in flower, or break the young plume of a delphinium.  The more anxiously you work, the more damage you make..."

On the Joy of Much-Anticipated Rain
"...Storms murmur on the horizon, wind saturated with moisture springs up, and here it is:  strings of rain hiss on the pavement, the earth almost breathes aloud, water gurgles, drums, pats, and rattles against the windows, tiptaps with a thousand fingers in the pots, runs in rivulets, and splashes in puddles, and one would like to scream with joy; one sticks one's head out of the window to cool it in the dew from heaven, one whistles, shouts, and would like to stand barefoot in the ...streams rushing down the streets.  Blessed rain, cooling delight of water.  Bathe my soul and wash my heart..."

On Storm Damage
"Next day the newspapers describe the catastrophic cloud-burst which has caused terrible damage to the new crops; but they do not say that is has caused heavy damage especially to the lilies, or that it has ruined the Papaver orientale.  We gardeners are always neglected."

On the Finality of Fall
"Nature is lying down to her winter sleep.  Leaf after leaf drops from my birches with a beautiful and sad motion; when they have flowered the plants withdraw again into the earth; after they have grown and blossomed they leave behind only a naked stalk or a moist stump, a crabbed brush or a withered stem; and the soil itself smells sadly of decay.  Why try to conceal the fact?  It is finished for this year.  Chrysanthemum, don't deceive yourself about the fullness of life; little white potentilla, don't confuse this last sunshine with the exuberant brilliance of March.  It is of no use to complain, children, the parade is over; lie down gently to your winter sleep."

On the Gardener in Winter
"So in December the garden is mostly found in a great number of garden catalogues.  The gardener himself hibernates under glass in a heated room, buried up to the neck, not in manure or brushwood, but in garden catalogues and circulars, books and pamphlets, in which he reads:

1.  That the most valuable, gratifying, and altogether indispensable plants are those which he has not got in his garden;

2.  That all that he has is 'rather delicate,' and is 'inclined to get frozen;' or that he planted side by side one plant 'which requires moisture,' and another 'which must be protected against damp;' that the one which he planted with special care in the open sunshine requires 'full shade,' and vice versa;

3.  That 370 or more kinds of plants exist which 'deserve better attention,' and 'ought not to be left out of any garden'... "Then the hibernating gardener ceases entirely to be interested in what he has got in his garden, being fully occupied with what he has not, which of course is far more; he throws himself eagerly upon catalogues, and ticks off what he must order, which, by Jove, must no longer be lacking in his garden.  In the first rush he marks off 490 perennials which he must order at all costs; after counting them he is a bit subdued, and with a bleeding heart he begins to cross off those which he will give up for this year.  The painful elimination must be gone through five times at least, until only about 120 'most beautiful, gratifying, indispensable' perennials remain, which--on the wings of an anticipated joy--he immediately orders.  'Send them at the beginning of March!'--Lord, if only it were March already!"

True to His Political Beliefs Until the End
Despite certain capture and detainment, Čapek refused to leave his beloved country when it became clear that Hitler would soon overtake it.  The Gestapo had already named him Czechoslovakia's "public enemy number 2."  On Christmas Day 1938, Karel Čapek died of double pneumonia, thus avoiding capture and confinement in a concentration camp, a fate that befell his brother Josef, a painter and writer.  Josef died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.
 I will leave you with Karel's gardening prayer:
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants--I can write their names on a bit of paper if you like--and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere...and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week, thin liquid manure and guano may fall from Heaven. Amen. -Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year, 1929.