Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rosemary- Spending the Winter Inside

by Master Gardener, Carol Kagan

Flowering Rosemary Indoors at Barb P's house
Master Gardener Barb P. shared photos she took of the flowering rosemary plant in her sunroom. This reminds us about overwintering rosemary outdoors in our area, more information at a 2012 entry. But what about bringing it indoors?

Another photo from Barb
Bringing rosemary (and other herbs and plants, typically tender perennials) indoors for the winter requires some different attention than when they were outdoors during the milder seasons.

Rosemary in a container outdoors in summer. (C. Kagan)


Because rosemary does not overwinter well in our area, it is advisable to treat it as a container plant which makes it infinitely easier to bring indoors. However, if you have rosemary planted out, you may pot it up using appropriate potting soil (not garden soil) and pot size with a drainage hole and tray. Follow recommendations about preparing your plants to bring them inside.

If possible, acclimate the plant to the indoors by bringing it inside a few weeks before the first expected frost date, October 15 here in S. Central PA. If you can open the windows and keep the indoor temperatures lows, it will make the transition easier than suddenly bringing it into a warm house.


All I want is for my rosemary to make it through the winter in living condition, so I can drag it back outside when the weather gets warm next year.

Fertilizer and Pruning: I don't encourage my rosemary to grow during the winter so I don't fertilizer or prune, except for a snip here and there. Rosemary will go dormant during the winter.

Light: Rosemary needs 6-8 hours of light as it did outside. A good south facing window may well do but you may have to supplement it with artificial light. A fluorescent light or grow light can help.  Rotate the plant every week or so to keep the plant growing evenly on all sides.

Temperature: As a native Mediterranean, mild-region plant, rosemary will expect cool winters (not freezing) temperatures. An area that is consistently 55 to 60°F is good.

Watering: As with most plants brought in to overwinter, consistent watering is one of the important keys to keeping it alive. Water when the surface is dry, usually once every 2 weeks until the soil is wet and water comes through the drainage hole.

After about an hour, empty the water from the saucer so the roots are not sitting in water. Rosemary will benefit from misting. A tip for watering all indoor plants is to allow tap water to sit in an open container overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Air Circulation: Good air circulation can alleviate some problems with mildew and mold. If you have several plants overwintering indoors, make sure there is good spacing between them.


Rosemary is the herb of remembrance. Although today we typically think of it as remembering loved ones that have passed, the Greeks thought it increased memory. Greek scholars were said to wear wreaths of rosemary around their heads when taking exams to help them remember their lessons.

The name rosemary derives from the Latin for dew-"ros"- and sea -"marinus;" thus, dew of the sea. A legend says that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak over a white-blossomed rosemary bush when she was resting causing the flowers to turn blue. The shrub then became know as the "Rose of Mary."

Other Links of Interest:

University of Illinois Extension: Rosemary
Overwintering Rosemary

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pumpkins Turned Into Centerpieces

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

The 4-H Garden Club, having put this year's vegetable garden to bed for the winter, have turned to some fall and holiday crafts using garden and natural materials. Earlier this November they used cornhusks from their popcorn plants to make cornhusk dolls and dream catchers.

This week we used small pumpkins, hollowed and cleaned, as vases for Thanksgiving centerpieces.
Let's start by looking at all the great creations and smiling faces.

Master Gardener Denise Lucas described the main parts of creating a floral arrangement.
Denise Lucas demonstrates the steps to making a floral arrangement.
Master Gardeners and 4-H families contributed evergreen cuttings and dried materials such as milkweed pods, teasel, ornamental grasses and flowers as well as pine cones and dried berries.
Here's a few shots of the creative process.
Next meeting we will pop the popcorn we grew and enjoy snacks, including some popcorn, while we string popcorn and cranberries for holiday decorations.

Special thanks to the 4-H parents who always stay and help as well as Master Gardener Barb Petrucci our regular volunteer.

Happy Thanksgiving from the 4-H Garden Club.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gass House Garden Celebrates Completion of Phase I

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Sign Recounts Patrick Gass' Life
A long view of the garden area
Today 39 people gathered for the formal opening of the Patrick Gass Garden. Borough Commissioners, Master Gardeners, local Historical Society members, and others heard a brief presentation about the concept and development of the Garden highlighted today by the recently installed sign.
Key coordinators of the Gass Garden
Arrowheads, a small knife and a number of coins were found at the site.

Bill Stead revealed to all, including Cindy Stead, archeological finds unearthed during work in the garden. Coins dating back to the 1600's plus arrowheads and a small knife.
Information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition on reverse of sign
After the presentation, attendees were treated to refreshments and had an opportunity to look at display materials about the Garden and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Patrick Gass Historic Marker at the Site
Photos by Master Gardener Trey Gelbach

More information on Gass Garden
Gass Garden Background
Gass Garden - Timberrr
Gass Garden-Sod Busting and Soil Prep
Gass Garden Spring 2012 Planting
The Patrick Gass Garden
Gass Garden Spreads Its Wings

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Decorating with Holiday Greens

Shared by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County
Last year Master Gardener Annette Macoy posted this helpful article about Decorating with Fresh Greens for the Holidays. It has lots of good information.
One of our nicest winter holiday traditions is decorating with fresh greenery. Evergreens such as cedar, ivy, pine and holly add a natural look and fresh fragrance to our homes; for many, they represent life everlasting and the coming renewal of spring. Your own landscape is a great place to look for holiday greenery. You may have a variety of materials unavailable at a store, and what you gather will be much fresher. Just remember that you are actually pruning the plants as you gather greenery, so consider carefully which branches you can trim to preserve the natural form of the tree or shrub.
Proper Conditioning of Greenery 
Conditioned greens will last for quite a while in arrangements.
  • Immerse entire evergreen branch in warm water for 12 hours or overnight. This will prolong the life of the branch and also clean the foliage.
  • Remove all lower leaves to ensure that there is no soft material below the water level where it can rot and form bacteria.
  • Re-cut the stem ends at an angle to provide a large surface area for the maximum absorption of water.
  • Stand all branches in water in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
  • Change the water every 2-3 days. A few drops of bleach may be added to the water to prevent bacteria formation.
Check your decorations often, and replace any greenery that becomes dry. Keep greenery away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight. Some popular decorating materials have toxic berries or leaves, so keep holiday decorations out of the reach of children and pets.

Suggested Varieties for Decorating

Needled and broadleaf evergreens include white pine, juniper, Douglas fir, cedar, fir, spruce, ivy, holly, mountain laurel, boxwood, evergreen magnolia, arborvitae, evergreen viburnum, Leyland cypress, nandina, Cryptomeria, hemlock, and Chamaecyparis.

Other plant parts such as berries, dried flowers, cones, seed pods, and twigs can add color and texture to holiday arrangements. Some possibilities include: acorns, bittersweet, holly berries, hydrangea blossoms, magnolia pods, nandina berries, pine cones, pyracantha berries, rose hips, sweet gum balls, bayberry, redtwig dogwood, and fruits such as lemons, limes, crabapples, seckel pears, kumquats, and pineapple.

Annette Macoy, Penn State Extension of Cumberland County

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gathering and Storing Flower Seeds

I'm so far behind this year...but I'm finally busy gathering in my seed for next year.


I grow marigolds and zinnia from seed every year; I use seed I collected from the year before.  I'm on my 26th generation of seeds, I think.  But I've been so busy this year, I haven't gotten any so far.  Well, it's time to get busy and check this off the list.

If you have any marigolds and/or zinnias, they are some of the easiest seeds to save and start in the spring.

First to the zinnias:  They look great, bright, and stand out in your garden.  But as they grow older, the petals lose their color, and you're left with a brown mound.

Those are your seeds, and you don't want to get rid or the plants before you get to this part!  The more dried-out they are, the better off you are.  So here is a good picture to show you the stages you will see.

Zinnia: colorful, very dry, and drying
The pink zinnia in back is still looking good; the one on the bottom is in the process of drying out; the center one is just about ready for you to pick.

Zinnia seed head

Zinnia seed heads
These last two pictures are what you want in a good zinnia seed head.  It will snap off nicely for you.  I lay it out on newspaper for a day or two to get the moisture out, then put them in paper bags and hang them in the garage.

In the spring, they will be nice and dry - you will be able to take that seed head and twist it, and all the seeds will detach.  (But be careful: in the center of that pile of seeds is a very pointed and sharp receptacle that the seeds are attached to.  Wear gloves.)

The marigolds are even simpler.  They usually last longer into the fall, and the bright yellow and orange color is a favorite of mine.  In this first picture, you see lots of yellow and orange petals, but to the right, you can see one dried brown seed head.  As the flower fades, it wrinkles and browns, and it will actually do all the work for you.

Marigolds in various stages

This next picture shows you what you are looking for: good, dry seed heads.  The one on the right is still yellow, and has a a lot of moisture in it.  The one in the center is ready for you to pick.

Almost ready!

The seed pods will snap off easily when they are dry.  As they get dryer, some will shatter when you touch them, and the seeds will be propelled away (its own way of seeding itself).  The seed pods in the center of this picture are very near that point.

Dried and waiting for you

Lastly, marigold seed heads will also help you out if you let them.  When they have dried out and are ready to seed themselves, they will often bend over, so the seeds can just drop and be spread.

Bent seed head trying to seed itself

I collect the seed pods, lay them out on newspaper for a couple days, and then store in paper bags until spring, hung up in the garage.  You can literally crumble a handful of these in your palm and then spread the seed in the spring.

So store a few for next spring and try it out.  It doesn't take much time, or space, and you'll be happy when those little seeds start sprouting in the spring.

PS  Wet seeds will mold and rot, so the dryer the better.  You can actually take a fully-in-bloom zinnia or marigold and dry it well and get the seeds out, but letting them mature to the dry and brittle stage will help with germination.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Make Your Own Fresh Holiday Creations

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
It is always disheartening to tell a caller that a workshop is full. Don't be that caller!! Don’t let your friends miss out!

Register now for these popular Franklin County Master Gardener workshops. Class size is limited so call Penn State Extension at 717-263-9226 now. Held at the Ag Heritage Building – 185 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg.

And ask to be added to the e-mailing or mailing list to get announcements of all our workshops and events for 2015.
You will learn HOW to make these holiday decorations and can create them year after year for yourself or as gifts.
Fresh holiday greens make beautiful wreaths
Fresh Holiday Wreath Workshop
Thursday, December 4, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Learn how to make your own evergreen wreath, and take home your finished product. Materials provided. Cost is $15 per wreath. Class size is limited. 

An example- workshop centerpiece may vary
Fresh Holiday Centerpiece Workshop
A second session has been added to this popular workshop. Call now.
Saturday, December 6, 2014 – 9:00 – 11:00 AM  or  12:30-2:30 PM

Learn how to make a fresh centerpiece for your holiday table. Centerpiece materials provided. Bring small pruners, scissors, gloves, any small items you want to include and a box to take your creation home. Cost is $25. Class size is limited.