Thursday, December 29, 2011

Perry's Perennial Pages

Dr. Leonard Perry

Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont started a blog back in May, 2011.  I've added a link at the sidebar under "Other Blogs".  This is in addition to his website, Perry's Perennial Pages that has been in the "Links to Other Sites" section since 2009.

Like the Garden Professors and Dr. Lee Reich's blogs, Dr. Perry provides great objective gardening information based on sound research, specializing in (although not limited to) herbaceous perennials.  From his biography:

Dr. Leonard Perry is the Greenhouse and Nursery Extension  Specialist for the University of Vermont.  In this role Dr. Perry provides information and programming to the industry of Vermont, region, and North America.  Home gardeners in Vermont and surrounding areas know him from his frequent television appearances on Across the Fence and radio.  As a Professor, Dr. Perry along with graduate students has an active research program on all aspects of perennial production and overwintering.  Students know him from his courses at UVM on Garden Plants and Indoor Flowers, with the Herbaceous Garden Plants course now available to anyone totally online.   Communities across the U.S. have met him through his past role as a judge for the America in Bloom program.  Dr. Perry is becoming known across North America for his internet web site-- Perry's Perennial Pages -- at which he features information, links, news articles, research and more on herbaceous perennials.  Look him up through this site name on Google or other search engines, or at
Check it out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mistletoe - Facts and Myths

Picture courtesy of Duke University
The holiday plant we call Mistletoe belongs to the family group called the Santalaceae. Although there are over 250 species and 7 genera in the family group, the one we associate with the season is either the native European species Viscum album or its similar American cousin, Phoradendron leucarpum. Both are hemi, or half parasitic. They produce leaves and make their own food via photosynthesis, but rely on their host tree for their water needs and to supply nutrients, like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Rather than roots, they produce structures that tap into a tree and steal the nutrients and water from the host. In fact, the name Phoradendron is translated from Greek to "thief of the tree." The slow-growing plant forms a greenish-yellow evergreen shrub that grows two to three feet long, hanging from tree branches.

There are separate male and female plants, with only the female, naturally, producing the familiar white berries, from small, inconspicuous yellow flowers that bloom in the fall. Franklin County, PA is at the edge of the northern limit where mistletoe will naturally grow, since it is only hardy to zone 6a.

It is the larval host plant for the Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly (Atlides halesus), meaning the caterpillars eat the leaves of mistletoe, before pupating, undergoing metamorphosis, and emerging as an adult butterfly.

Most American mistletoe grown commercially for the decorating trade is harvested in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In the forestry and lumber industries, mistletoe can be considered a pest, or weed to be managed because of its detrimental effect on the host.

So how did mistletoe become a benign symbol of love and greeting, associated with the holiday season? Dr. Leonard P. Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont provides some possible answers.

Picture courtesy of Duke University
Historically, in pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was considered a religious symbol to pagan Druids. It grew, seemingly spontaneously, in the sacred oak tree, home to Druid gods. The superstition to “knock on wood” to bring good luck, or ward off evil spirits, has its origins in this ancient belief. These ancient people believed mistletoe could cure diseases, make animals and humans more fertile, provide protection from witches, and bring good luck. In fact, mistletoe was so sacred to the Druids that if two enemies met beneath a tree where it was growing, they would lay down their weapons, exchange greetings, and observe a truce until the following day.

In Scandinavian mythology, a dart made from the wood of mistletoe killed the god of peace, Balder. Balder was so beloved, that the goddess Frigg, wife of the chief god Odin, exacted an oath from the elements, earth, fire and water, and all manner of plants and animals that they would not harm him. At assemblies, lesser gods, giants and other inhabitants of the home of the gods would test the oath, and watch as weapons made from these elements were thrown at Balder, who would always escape unharmed. This did not set well with Loki, the god of mischief. Loki learned that alone among plants, the mistletoe had not been asked to swear to the oath. He fashioned a dart from the wood, and tricked a blind giant to throw it at Balder. It pierced his heart and killed him. His life was restored at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and the mistletoe was given to the goddess of love to prevent such a thing from happening again. She declared anyone passing under it should receive a kiss to show this plant was a symbol of love, and not of hate.

The early pagan converts to Christianity retained the mistletoe’s honored reputation, creating a legend that the cross was made from the wood of the mistletoe.

Today, researchers in Europe are investigating its medicinal properties as a possible treatment for cancer, although the jury is still out, and authorities disagree on the benefits. The berries are considered toxic to pets and livestock, but birds are immune, and are the chief means of seed dispersal. The toxicity to humans is in dispute, but prudence dictates that cautions should be taken around young children if using the plant in holiday decorations.

Thanks to Tina Clinefelter, a Master Gardener in Clinton County and contributor to the Gardening in the Keystone State blog for piquing my interest to research mistletoe as a subject for next week's news column, and this blog post.

Update:  February 8, 2013.  Roman, in the comments section, makes an excellent point.  The European species, Viscum album, is much more toxic than its American cousin.  I should have made that clear.  Also, the use of Mistletoe extracts in European countries, is not an approved therapy by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for cancer or any other medical condition.  Details here and here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Extension Annual Board Meeting - January 27th 2012

The Franklin County Cooperative Extension Association and Franklin County Conservation District will hold their second annual joint meeting on Friday, January 27, 2012, at 7:00 PM at Solomon’s Lutheran Church, 4856 Wayne Road (Rt. 316), Chambersburg, PA 17201.

This year’s speaker will be Trevor Hoff. Trevor lives in Carroll County, Maryland. He is 19 years old and is currently a sophomore at Carroll Community College studying Agriculture Business and Political Science. Trevor lives on a farm where they raise crops, Black Angus beef cattle, and pigs. The farm has been in his family for over 200 years. To start paying for college, he started Local Homestead Products LLC which sells five different types of beef jerky.

Trevor was run over by a tractor while feeding cattle on his family’s farm in July of 2006. With over 7 plates and 37 screws in his face, Trevor is a walking miracle. He is the National Youth Spokesperson for Farm Safety 4 Kids and speaks about the importance of farm safety and also about his tractor accident.

Tickets for the annual meeting are $12.50 for adults and $6.00 for children ages 5-11. Doors at the church will open at 6:15 PM for snacks and fellowship. At 7:00 PM, a chicken and ham loaf dinner will be served buffet style. For tickets or additional information, contact the Cooperative Extension Office, at (717) 263-9226 or the Conservation District office at (717) 264-5499.

The deadline for purchasing tickets is January 20.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Franklin County MG Videos - Part 3 - Making a Candle Wreath Centerpiece

In Part 3 of the collaboration between Franklin County Master Gardeners and The Public Opinion Newspaper, MG's Karen Strimple and Priscilla Harsh demonstrate how to create a Candle Wreath Centerpiece for Holiday decorating.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey Fresh from the Oven
Brined Turkey done this way.

Braised Turnips
Turnips from Bill Dorman after final harvesting from the Harvest 4-Health garden.

Green Beans
Green Beans blanched, seasoned and then warmed in olive oil and garlic.
Mashed Potatoes
Standard mashed potatoes - I leave the skins on.

Cooked in the bird.  Sorry, food safety folks.

Cranberry Sauce
Whole berry, of course.  Thanks, Ocean Spray.

Garden Salad
Garden salad - lettuce from Martin's, Yummy peppers, onions (from the garden), and radishes (again, from Martins)

Ready to Dig in
Hyacinth would be so proud!

I Musta been Hungry
But there's still room for dessert!

Butternut Squash Pie

Butternut Squash Pie - Two Ways
Two butternut squash pie recipes.  OneTwo.  Squash from the Victory Garden.  Thanks, Donna and Darl! Whipped cream and May strawberries from the freezer.
Stock for Future Yumminess
Life is good.  Nap time.

UPDATE: Friday, 11/25/11

Chef Salad 
Lettuce, green beans, onions, yummy peppers, turkey, swiss and cheddar cheese, really local eggs, and repurposed stuffing as croutons.

Friday, November 11, 2011

MG's in the News

Peace Garden in Shippensburg
Picture by Jill Hudock

Franklin County Master Gardener Jill Hudock sent me a link to a news story noting that Shippensburg's Peace Garden won a 2011 Community Greening Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.  This is the same organization that sponsors the spectacular Philadelphia Flower Show every spring.

From their web site:
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society recognizes greening and beautification efforts throughout the region that have benefitted communities.

The Community Greening Award acknowledges the efforts of those who improve their main streets, public parks, train stations, churches, schoolyards, libraries, traffic islands, etc.
The linked news article by George Weigel describes the Peace Garden this way:
The Peace Garden began taking on its current form in 1999 when Master Gardeners Jill Hudock and Sally Boice volunteered to design and plant it.

The garden now features a wooden bridge, vine-covered arbors, benches, a wide variety of flowering trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers and a “Gandhi Stone” that reads: “We must be the change that we wish to see in the world."
It’s especially nice – and peaceful – in the spring when the many trees and bulbs are in bloom.
Jill sent me some pictures of the garden in spring.

Peace Garden - Spring 2011
Picture by Jill Hudock

Peace Garden - Spring 2011
Picture by Jill Hudock
Peace Garden - Spring 2011 Picture by Jill Hudock

Peace Garden - Spring 2011 Picture by Jill Hudock

Retired MG Sally Boice (Phillips), MG Roy Burkepile, MG Jill Hudock, and Jill's neighbor Tim Hess Picture by Jim Boice
From Jill's email, "We are very happy we received this award and it's due to Master Gardening that this garden has flourished. Today the garden will host the 4th wedding, that I know about! The public has embraced this garden in many ways, with many personal stories. One never knows what a seed will accomplish."
Indeed.  Congratulations to all involved.
Back in 2007, The Falling Spring Nursing Home Garden also won a Community Greening Award.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Franklin County MG Videos - Part 1 - Fall Gardening with Kathy Engle

Franklin County Master Gardeners have teamed with The Chambersburg Public Opinion to provide periodic content about consumer horticulture via video.  Back in October, Amber South from the Public Opinion taped this segment at MG Kathy Engle's award winning garden.  Here's Kathy's Colorful Fall Gardening Series from 2010.  And her Mum's The Word post.

Last Friday, November 4th, Denise Lucas and Laurie Collins were filmed here at our Demonstration Gardens - Denise at the Perennial Demonstration Garden, and Laurie at the Pollinator Friendly Demonstration Garden. - providing tips for putting those gardens to bed for the winter.  I'll embed that video when it becomes available.

You can view all the videos, including Kathy's, that the Public Opinion has created here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

After Snow Harvesting

Cabbage, Paprika, Cayenne, and Yummy Peppers
I didn’t get home in time on Friday, 10/28/11 to do much last minute harvesting before the snow came, so I was surprised to find viable peppers and cabbage in reasonably good condition after the snow melted  and I got to check out the veggie garden.

Hinkelhatz and More Paprika Peppers

Parsnips - Freshly Dug and Rinsed

I also dug some parsnip roots. Doris Goldman gave me some parsnip seeds that we planted for the John Brown House effort in 2009. I had a few left over and planted them in the Spring of 2009, but only had a few sprout. I ignored them until those same few plants flowered the following year (Parsnips are biennial) and produced prodigious amounts of seed, which I used to plant a full row this year. I dug my first roots this weekend, and wasn't sure how to prepare them.  I chose this recipe from Martha Stewart, because it seemed the simplest.

Parsnip Fries

1.Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel 2 1/2 pounds medium parsnips; cut as directed above.

2.On two large rimmed baking sheets, toss parsnips with oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Spread in a single layer.

3.Roast until tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets and tossing parsnips halfway through baking time.

Trimmed, Cut, and Awaiting Cooking
Dried, Coated in Olive Oil, and Seasoned with Salt, Pepper, and Some Cayenne Pepper from the 2010 Harvest
Roasted, or Oven Fried
I really liked them - sorta like a sweeter french fry.

Cabbage, Peppers, and Onions for a Salad
I also finally got around to trimming the onions and moving them from the garage in preparation for transfer to the root cellar.  I finished the last of the sweet ones, which don't store very well a couple of weeks ago.

Onions - Red Zeppelin, Big Daddy, and Multipliers
The ones starting to sprout are the multiplier perennial onions.  Will use them up first.  Yum.

Pumpkin and Snake Gourd
I expected the pumpkins and gourds to have survived, of course.  Weird snake gourd has no culinary interest.  Just weird.  Missed Halloween, because of the snow, but they'll remain on display through Thanksgiving.

Storing Tender Bulbs

MG Mary Crooks Dahlias
The newscolumn this week has an item about storing tender bulbs.  Here's an excerpt:

The term "tender bulb" refers to plants which have fleshy storage structures (bulbs, corms, tubers, and roots) which are killed by our cold winters if not brought indoors. Special protection, such as digging and bringing the fleshy storage structure into a warmer area for storage through the winter months is required.
MG Mary Crooks Dahlias
I dug my tender bulbs this weekend: cannas, glads, and dahlias. So did Mary Crooks. Her dahlias look much better’n mine, so I used her pictures. Here are some fact sheets describing how to store them for the winter. For Dahlias, from Colorado State University:
Place the tubers upside down in a dry airy space for about two weeks. This allows moisture to drain out of stems. The tubers need to be completely dry before they are stored for the winter. Next store the tubers in trays of dry sand or peat moss in a cool, dry cellar or storage area at about 40 to 45 degrees F. Never store at a much higher temperature, as dahlia tubers will dry out and shrivel rapidly.

Another method of storing includes placing tubers in a heavy-grade, black plastic bag without additional packing material. Then seal the bag. This will prevent the tubers from dehydrating. Keep the tubers in a frost-free area. The danger exists, however, that they will sweat and rot.

Inspect the tubers every few weeks during the winter to check for disease or shriveling. Cut off any diseased parts and, if the tubers have shriveled, place them in a bucket of water overnight to plump them up. Allow them to dry thoroughly before returning them to storage.

Glads and Canna's from Eckhart Garden
For Gladioli, from the University of Missouri:

After digging, wash off soil that adheres to the corm and roots. Cut the tops to within one-half inch of the corm. Corms can be left outdoors in the sun for a day or two if the temperatures are mild, and then spread out in a light, airy place to cure. They are cured to get the surplus moisture out of the husks and corms as quickly as possible to prevent storage rots. After two to three weeks of drying, remove the old corm from the base. Sort the corms and cormels according to size. The small cormels can be saved and planted the following year, but remember it will take two to three years to produce a blooming-size corm from them.


Corms should be stored during the winter at a temperature of 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit in a well-ventilated area. Airy containers such as loose-weave baskets, mesh bags or old nylon stockings make good containers that may be hung out of the way.
For Cannas, from the University of New Hampshire:

For winter storage they are treated much the same as dahlias. The rhizomes are dug after the frost kills the tops, they are dried in the sun for a day, clinging dirt is gently removed, and they are stored in a cool, moderately dry place (between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Cannas should be packed in dry vermiculite, peat moss or rice/peanut/buckwheat/cocoa hulls.

One of the things I learned recently reading the University of Maryland's Growit Eatit blog, is that dahlia tubers are edible.  There's even a grower, food historian, and Mother Earth News Contributing Editor breeding cultivars that produce tubers that taste good.

If you have any procedures of your own to add, use the comments section.

UPDATE: 11/7/11 5:10 p.m. - Erica Smith of the Growit Eatit Blog shares her experience eating dahlia tubers.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sweet Potato - Ipomoea batatas

Ornamental Sweetpotato, Ipomoea batatas 'Marguerite'
The news column this week has a segment about harvesting, curing, and storing sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas - part of the morning glory family), whether they’re the ones we grow for food, or the ones we grow for show. Believe it or not, given my preferences for growing edibles, I’m more familiar with growing the ornamental ones than the edible ones. I added ‘Tricolor’ this year to the chartreuse ‘Marguerite’ and dark ‘Blackie’ cultivars I've grown in the past as spillers in my container arrangements. I’ve also seen them grown as sprawling ground covers, spreading over a bank in home landscapes. Each year, new cultivars of the ornamental ones arrive with different colored leaves or shapes.

Ornamental Sweetpotato Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie'
You probably noticed a few of them in the containers around the Extension Office this year. New varieties trialed this year at Landisville (scroll down to the Ipomoea pictures at the link) include two from the ‘Sweet Caroline’ series developed by North Carolina State University: ‘Bewitched Improved’ and ‘Raven’. Check out the ‘Sweetheart Red’ and ‘Sweet Caroline Red’, ‘…Bronze’, and ‘…Light Green’ trialed by Cornell in Ithaca, NY. There are 14 varieties from the ‘Sweet Caroline’ series alone.
It's not only the color but the leaf shape and plant habit that makes the Sweet Caroline series so popular. And we've gotten more creative with the names -- "Bewitched" and the Sweet Caroline Sweetheart color series have followed the 2002 releases. The border series is next, and there are flowering and several variegated varieties in the pipeline.

The twist to this particular story is that the breeding program went against the conventional wisdom that you don't bring in "wild" varieties.

"They're part of the morning glory family," Yencho said. "And the morning glory is a prolific bloomer. What we've done is selectively breed a wide range of sweet potato varieties and then we selected them in such a way as to produce a great variation in color and shape of the leaf. So, in this project we were more interested in developing pretty foliage, not pretty storage roots, which is what people typically think of when they think of sweet potatoes.

 "Typically, what happens is that when you breed plants you don't bring in less adapted varieties, unless you really need them because they tend to cause the whole thing to collapse. Just the opposite has happened with ornamental sweet potato vines. The wild varieties have given us the range and the beauty of the plant that we see in the Sweet Caroline series. And, we've been able to take some of the lessons learned on the ornamental side over to the food-crop varieties."
Compared with the food-crop varieties, the ornamental ones are pretty expensive. Donna paid about $9 or $10 for 25 slips for the Victory Garden this year, while I paid about $2.50 for each one for my containers, about 6 times as much per plant. Still not very much, since I only planted four, but since becoming a Master Gardener, I’ve become more and more curious about the science of Horticulture and propagation methods. Plus I'm cheap (tho' I prefer the word "thrifty").

Ornamental Sweetpotato 'Tricolor'
I even tried, unsuccessfully, last year to produce a tomato/potato graft, just to see if I could do it. Took pictures and everything, anticipating a blog post on the subject.  It didn’t work out too well, probably because of the heat and drought of last year (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) but I’m sure I'll try again in the future. Just 'cuz. At any rate, I’ve also been unsuccessful saving the roots of the ornamental sweet potatoes for propagating the following spring. Probably because I didn’t cure them properly, and I stored them with the dahlias, glads, and cannas, which have different humidity requirements while in storage.

Rescued Roots, Curing
So, I’m going to try again this year. Here are the ones I rescued from the compost bins at the Extension Office, my containers, and one food variety saved from the Victory Garden class. They’ve been cured, individually wrapped in newspaper, and are now stored in my basement. Come March, I’ll try to revive them and create my own slips. Any extras will be offered for the plant sale (assuming I’m successful). It’s not too late for you to give it a try, even after all that early snow we got this weekend, but you better do it now, since storage ability can be affected if exposed too long at temperatures below 50 degrees. Dig in the earth or container, looking for the large, fleshy roots. Cure them at 85 – 90 degrees for 10 days, or 70 – 75 degrees for 2 or 3 weeks. Wrap in newspaper and store in a cool (55-60 degrees), dark place, like an unheated basement, or closet.

By the way, I used to think they were tubers, like white potatoes, but they’re not. Tubers are fleshy storage underground stems. Sweet potatoes are fleshy storage underground roots. Here’s a good fact sheet explaining the differences among the various underground plant storage mechanisms – bulb, corm, tuber, rhizome, fleshy root, etc.

A final note. Sweet potatoes are not yams. Yams (Dioscorea spp.) are a different genus and species altogether (see fact sheets here and here), and are rarely, if ever, sold for food in the U.S., and we probably wouldn’t like them, if they were. They are a major nutrient source for people in Africa, however. The orange sweet potato that is a staple for Thanksgiving is commonly, but mistakenly called a yam (although if you look closely, you’ll notice that the word ‘sweet potato’ is somewhere on the labeling package, per USDA regulation).

The term  "Yam" was introduced to differentiate a new variety of sweet potato that was orange-fleshed, and moister when cooked than the then standard white and comparatively drier variety. It’s purely a very successful marketing ploy to rebrand a product. So when you watch a cooking show, or follow a recipe that calls for yams but goes on to say that sweet potatoes can be substituted if you can’t find yams, you can now smile knowingly.

UPDATE: 11/2/11 - The University of Georgia trialed several ornamental varieties in 2011.  Start here and see the results for 16 different cultivars.

UPDATE 2:  11/3/11 - Some nutritional information and sweet potato recipes from the Washington Post.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tamarillo Jam

Awaiting Harvest
When I researched Tamarillo, or Tree Tomato (Cyphomandra betacea) for this post, and later, to put a fact sheet together for the plant sale, when I started about 16 plants from seed, I came across this simple recipe for Tamarillo jam, and made a mental note to try it the next time I had enough fruit to harvest.

Ready to Pick

Washed and Ready to be Peeled
The recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, for every cup of peeled and chopped fruit. Peeling was easy enough, using the same process as is used to peel the skins of tomatoes or peaches - drop them in boiling water for a minute or so, move to an ice bath, then peel off the skin.

Pulp Strained with Sugar Added
I then cooked them down with an apple to add some natural pectins, strained it through a foley mill, added the sugar and cooked for 50 minutes or so, until it gelled.

Six 1/2 Pints for the Pantry^
Pretty good results.  I plan to offer it, along with the black raspberry and strawberry jams I made when I serve breakfast for guests at the B&B. I expect it to be a conversation starter, as well.

We Need Homes
I have 5 left from the ones that didn't sell at the plant sale and garden tour.

Enjoying the Leftovers
The birds enjoyed the seeds and stuff that I emptied from the foley mill.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monkshood - Aconitum napellus

I noticed this blooming in the shade garden this weekend. I purchased it at the plant sale back in May, but didn’t know a whole lot about it – just that it was in the shade section. Monkshood, or Aconitum napellus is also known as Helmet Flower, Friar’s Helmet, Venus’ Chariot, or Wolfsbane. It prefers semi-shade but will tolerate full sun. My shade garden is mostly full shade, so I’m not sure how well it will do there, long-term, but it seems to be fine for now, and, obviously, did bloom this year.

One of the more interesting things about it, is its toxicity. All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the roots, seeds, and new leaves. Legend has it that Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus, used it, along with other deadly compounds, to eliminate political enemies (mostly relatives) that stood in the way of her son, Tiberius, to become Emperor after the death of Augustus. [Update 10/19: Jump to the 4:30 mark of this YouTube from the excellent BBC series I' Claudius for a delightfully evil discussion of plant poisons.]  It also rates a chapter in Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants.
In Greek mythology, deadly aconite sprang from the spit of the three-headed hound Cerberus as Hercules dragged it out of Hades. Legend has it that it got another of its common names, wolfsbane, because ancient Greek hunters used it as a bait and arrow poison to hunt wolves. Its reputation as a witch’s potion from the Middle Ages earned it a starring role in the Harry Potter series, where Professor Snape brews it to assist Remus Lupin in his transformation to a werewolf.
According to Wikipedia, there are 9 subspecies of A. napellus, all originating in Europe, and that plants native to Asia and North America formerly listed as A. napellus are now regarded as separate species. Regardless of origin, it has naturalized in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of North America.

It appears on many Extension lists of deer-resistant plants (deer are not dumb), as well as plant lists poisonous to livestock.

I think it’s kinda purty, and will look for more at next year's sale.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

They Flew the Coop - Guineas Part 11

And then there were five.  I've been holding off posting about this, in the hope that there would be good news, but it's been a week with no change, so it's time to report it.

Last Tuesday, September 25th, when I returned home from the monthly Master Gardener meeting, I was informed that the keets had not returned to roost.  It was around 9:15 p.m.  I left the light on and the door to the coop open until midnight, checking hourly to see if they'd come home.  Closed the door at midnight for predator protection for the chickens.

The next day, we spotted a group of five in the neighbor's yard.  We rounded them up and got them back to the coop, and spent the next hour or so looking for the rest.  Nothing.

So, the rasp is down to five.

Feeling a little sad ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crapemyrtle - Lagerstroemia indica

Lagerstroemia indica - courtesy of Vanderbilt University
 Adams County Master Gardener Carolyn Black wrote a very good article recently about Crepe or Crape Myrtles.  Here's an excerpt:
Crepe myrtles are native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and parts of Oceania. The common crepe myrtle from China and Korea was introduced circa 1790 to Charleston, South Carolina by the French botanist Andre Michaux. Two hundred years of cultivation has resulted in a huge number of cultivars of widely varying characteristics.

The lovely crepe myrtle even has Biblical notoriety in Isaiah 55: 13 - "Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree; and instead of briers the myrtle will grow."

After blooming, crepe myrtles develop distinctive seed heads, then the leaves fall toward the end of autumn, leaving the colorful, exfoliating bark to showcase during the winter.
Click on the link to read the whole thing.  The website is a joint effort with Adams County, PA Master Gardeners, and Frederick County, MD Master Gardeners. You can click on the link to the right to check in with them regularly.  It's the last link in the sidebar under "Other Blogs".

Here's Virginia Tech's Fact Sheet that has the basics on Lagerstroemia, and a more detailed one on proper pruning techniques, with one section on preventing "Crape Murder."

Crepe Myrtle taken 9/18/11
I have a very old one at home that was on the property when we moved here in 1997 and there are two specimens in the wildlife area.  Jane and crew potted up some seedlings between raindrops yesterday, so there will be some for the plant sale next year.

UPDATE: 10/14/11 - Here's a picture taken on the Fall Garden Tour last month.  I think it's the one at my place but not completely sure.  I copied this from the Franklin County Master Gardener Facebook page where there is a new album up with 55 pictures from the Fall Garden Tour.  From any facebook page, search "Franklin County Master Gardeners PA" and you'll find us.  I believe these pictures were taken by MG Jerry Lewis.