Monday, September 28, 2015

NC Piedmont Pumpkin Patches, Pumpkin Recipes and More

 Need pumpkin info? All things pumpkin in NC can be found on - check out the site!
(Note: The Ganyard Hill Farm patch on Sherron Road has moved to Cary:

First Annual Sandy Creek Monarch Festival: October 10

A Monarch butterfly stopping in at Sandy Creek Park during its
long migration to Mexico for the winter.
Photo by John Goebel, Friend of Sandy Creek Park.
By Keep Durham Beautiful

Join us as we celebrate the amazing journey of the Monarch butterfly! Sandy Creek Park is a certified waystation for Monarch butterflies as they migrate throughout North America. This unique Durham park features milkweed, nectar sources and shelter that help sustain Monarchs throughout their migration.
In celebration of the Monarchs, the first annual Sandy Creek Monarch Festival will feature music, family friendly activities and food. Experts will give talks about Monarch biology, ecology, and conservation, and everyone will go home with FREE Monarch friendly plants and seeds. Admission to the festival is also free to the public.

Sandy Creek Park, 3510 Sandy Creek Drive, Durham, NC

Schedule of Events:

Noon - Butterfly, Plant, Photography, Bird & Park Walks

1 p.m. Introductions by Rhonda Parker, Parks & Recreation
  • Address by Mayor Bill Bell
  • Address by the Mexican Cónsul Javier Díaz de Leon
  • Address by Paul Meade, President, Canadian Business Association of North Caroline
  • Comments by Sen. Mike Woodward followed by Butterfly Release

2 p.m. - Butterfly Parade followed by another Butterfly Release
2:30 p.m. - Dance Performance by Danza Los viejitos de Michoacan
3 p.m. - Spectacular Raffle Drawing!

For more event details, including parking and other activities see:

Durham's Finest Trees: Vote through November 1

Durham's Finest Trees program recognizes significant trees in Durham County, promotes discovery and ability to identify trees, and helps preserve the best examples of specific tree species, particularly native and those trees well adapted to Durham County. The program also promotes awareness of trees in our community and hopes to catalog fine examples of magnificent specimens of trees due to their size, setting, historical importance, or significant feature.

Durham naturalists and tree lovers of all ages are invited to submit their
nominations for significant trees in Durham County September 1 through November 1, 2015. Trees on private or public property can be nominated in each of the three categories: largest, historical, or meritorious. Preference will be given to native North Carolina tree species. Non-native trees may be considered if they are of a species, subspecies, variety or cultivar proven to be relatively long-lived and well-adapted to North Carolina. Winning trees will be recognized on Arbor Day 2016. Please read the Official Rules before submitting a nomination.

Look-up at the majesty that surrounds you and take a picture of a tree that inspires you! Some resources for help identifying and measuring tree species are:
Trees of North Carolina identification

Leafsnap app (The basic version is available for for free; additional species are available for in-app purchase). Instructions on how to measure a tree

Trees that are nominated will be evaluated in person by a representative of the program. Please see the nomination form for more details on entries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Witherspoon Flower Arranging Workshop: Sept 26

Sign Up Today
We still have just a couple of spots left in Durham and Charlotte for this workshop. Join us as we use the beauty of fall roses to create arrangements for your home. $20 workshop fee includes container, supplies, fresh cut roses, & greenery.

How to Sign Up:
1. Online Anytime :
click here
2. Call Mon - Sat, 9 -5 : (800) 643-0315

Guest Workshop Leader in Durham: Trish Koontz

Trish Koontz wears many hats as a real estate broker, a retired schoolteacher, a certified dog trainer, mom, wife, and passionate gardener (check out her
extensive gardens). Trish grew up in a family florist and commercial orchid greenhouse business. She started designing at an early age under the tutelage of her gifted award-winning mother. Trish had her own florist shop for many years and has won a number of design competitions herself. She designs now for family, for fun, and occasionally for special celebrations such as weddings.

In the upcoming workshop you will create a "Daring Duet" design with tips and tricks provided by Trish. Using the garden materials cut from the Witherspoon gardens, you'll learn how to choose a dramatic duet of colors and then combine them into a striking table piece suitable for many occasions. Hope you will join us!

Top 5 Tools to Make Arranging Fun!

Fall is one of the best times for cut roses! What better way to enjoy the beauty than arranging them for inside your home. Check out our Top 5 Tools for Arranging!

Rose Caddy - perfect for collecting roses and flowers from your garden and keeping them fresh!
Floralife - great preservative for helping your cut flowers last!
Vase Brace - perfect for not only providing a stable base for your vase when arranging, but a handy tool for transporting your creations in the car!
Easy Arrangers - this bendable grid provides you with a guide for arranging your flowers in a vase.
Thorn Strippers - your hands will thank you! Try removing thorns and leaves from stems with a thorn stripper.

Pest Spotlight: Wasp Safety for Autumn

Paper wasp females seek nesting locations indoors as autumn
cool weather approaches and prefer cathedral or very high ceilings.
By Aimee Marshall
NC Cooperative Extension

Wasps are social insects that are attracted to sweet drinks and meat and are at their peak in late summer, just as families are enjoying comfortable evening weather outdoors: grilling, camping, doing yardwork, and gardening in preparation for fall. Hornets and yellow jackets will lay about 1,500 eggs throughout the season, while paper wasp queens will lay several hundred.

Yellow jackets, paper wasps, and European hornets occasionally interfere with outdoor activities when they nest in lawns, trees, and under the eaves of houses. Wasp nests have also been encountered under grills, at the base of shrubs, and in other sheltered spaces (such as under equipment or garden supplies).

While paper wasps tend to be less aggressive than yellow jackets and hornets, any wasp is capable of targeting a passerby and stinging multiple times—causing localized allergic reactions for most but potentially life threatening reactions to sensitive individuals.

Colonies survive well into fall but die out by winter. If control measures are needed before winter for health and safety reasons, treatment should be done at night when all workers have returned to the nest and are calm and resting. Typically wasp and hornet sprays that shoot 10 to 12 feet into an aboveground or below-ground nest are most successful, killing the colony within 24 hours. Be sure to remove what remains of the nest, including the brood cells so that emerging pupae do not recolonize the nest.

Despite the potential hazards, wasps are actually beneficial insects. They prey on many types of pests, particularly caterpillars, so they can be tremendous assets to gardeners.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Town & County GC Celebrates Project with Museum of Life & Science

Town & Country Garden Club was recognized on the donor wall
for the Hideaway Woods project with the
Museum of Life and Sciences. Photo by Jack Marin.
By Robin Marin, President
Town & Country Garden Club

The Town & Country Garden Club of Durham kicked off its 2015-2016 business year with a double celebration for its charitable project with the Museum of Life and Science.

T&C Garden Club had allocated $5,000 for Hideaway Woods project last year. At our Sept 8 meeting we enjoyed a preview tour of the Hideaway Woods; and at the Museum's Sept. 10 reception we dodged rain drops and enjoyed a fabulous evening that included a walking tour of the new exhibit. I feel privileged to have walked the trails twice in one week!  It’s a treasure and our club is proud to have participated in making it happen. 

Our September 8 opening meeting which was held at the
Museum of Life & Science. 
Our members enjoyed a preview tour of Hideaway Woods,
which opens in late September and was
one of our major projects last year.

Town & Country Garden Club at the Museum of Life & Science
 in front of the Patrick Dougherty sculpture in Hideaway Woods.

Garden Spotlight: The Palette of Kingsbrae Garden

Gardens to the north of Vermont and Maine offer classic gardens to visit this fall with pumpkin festivals and more!
Canada’s beloved Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, resembles a vast art gallery, where visitors can wander through 27 acres of themed landscapes rendered in traditional and contemporary styles. Water features, historic structures, and works by renowned Canadian sculptors enhance fields and forests abloom with vibrant flowers numbering in the tens of thousands.
In contrast to the educational mission of most botanical gardens, this horticultural treasure was designed solely with the eye of the beholder in mind. Elegance reigns in the White, Rose, and Knot gardens, while more whimsical sights prevail in the Labyrinth & Maze and the Children’s Fantasy Garden.

Thoughtfully planned, inclusive spaces, such as the Scents & Sensitivity Garden and the nearby Therapy Garden, make Kingsbrae accessible and enjoyable for those with special needs. Enveloped by the splendor of nature, guests discover organic beauty that prompts creative expression but is, in its own right, a work of art beyond compare.

To learn more about Kingsbrae Garden, see or read “Inspiration in Bloom,” on page 33 of the May/June 2014 issue of Victoria magazine.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Holt School Road Park Wins $20K Grant, Helped by Homestead Heights GC

By Laurie Renard
Homestead Heights GC Vice-President
Holt School Road Park, located in northern Durham across from Holt Elementary Magnet School/Language Academy, has been part of the Argonne Hills/Holt School Road/Valley Drive neighborhoods for over 50 years.  It has been enjoyed, unfortunately fallen into neglect, but since 2006, has been revitalized by: neighbors and friends, Homestead Heights Garden Club members, Boy Scouts, Duke University students, Durham Parks and Recreation, “Keep Durham Beautiful,” and other Durham City departments.   
Durham’s Parks and Recreation Department submitted our park to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) as one of three parks in Durham to be considered for a $20,000 Parks Build Community grant for park upgrades.  NRPA partnered with The Walt Disney Company and its ABC and ESPN divisions to offer grants to fifteen cities in the US.  Each city selected three parks for upgrades.  Each city’s winner received the most votes cast on the NPRA website.  Holt School Road Park in Durham won with the votes by Durhamites, friends, family, and others across the US.  Several new, fun, climbable structures have been added.  Durham Parks and Recreation, its Adopt-A-Park division, volunteers from City government, Holt School Park area residents, and volunteers from other parts of the City worked together to put borders on half of the woods trail and paint picnic tables and part of the shelter.  Vegetation was trimmed, and new plants were planted. Many pinecones were removed from the picnic area and trail by “park angels."
On August 27th, Holt School Road Park celebrated its renovation with neighbors, friends, Durham Parks and Recreation, “Keep Durham Beautiful,” a City Council member, Holt School personnel, and a Channel 11 reporter.   His news clip can be seen at:    
Holt School Park and friends enthusiastically thank Rhonda Parker, DPR staff, and the entire DPR team for making our upgrade happen!! 
Come visit Holt School Park.  Enjoy its quiet setting.  Bring your family.  Have a picnic.  See its new look.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bulbs That Bloom in the Fall

A gardener’s secret weapon, bulbs that bloom in the fall are an overlooked way to welcome post-summer color, as the rest of your yard is fading. Now’s the time to plant them. Crocus sativus, an autumn-blooming crocus, not only produces the expensive and much-coveted spice saffron but also adds a colorful note during months when most flowers are dormant.
Photo by White Flower Farm

By Bart Ziegler
WSJ, Aug. 26, 2015

Every year, they catch me off guard. After the nights have turned cooler and the trees are dappled with yellow leaves, my flower beds begin sprouting clusters of bright pink and fuchsia flowers, like visitors meant to arrive in springtime who got lost for six months.

My fall-blooming bulbs are called colchicum, and when they open, they resemble crocuses on steroids. They’re just one example of a little-known class of flower that seems confused about what time of year it is, since most bulbs, as well as perennials and shrubs, issue their flowers in spring to take advantage of the bounty of bees buzzing around then.

 These unusual plants—which include the diminutive Crocus sativus, a violet flower that produces the fragrant orange spice saffron, as well as the more statuesque Sternbergia lutea, with bright yellow blooms—are “overlooked and underused,” said Sam Hoadley, a horticulturist at Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia, though he added that he is seeing them more frequently in public and private gardens these days. “They add a whole other layer and dimension to the garden when things are starting to go dormant,” he said.

At the San Francisco Botanical Garden, curator Don Mahoney plans to introduce colchicum into an area of the garden designed to mimic the growing conditions of the Mediterranean, which has the dry-in-summer quality that these bulbs prefer. “They are very rarely seen here in California, and they should be,” he said. “I think they are wonderful.”

From left: The white goblet shape of Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’ looks more like something you’d pick up during Easter; You’ll need to disguise the dying leaves of this ‘Waterlily’ Colchicum in summer—but the bloom is worth it; Sternbergia lutea provides a jolt of yellow to rival the leaves of fall trees. Photo by Michael Hoeweler.

Colchicum bulbs will last for years in your yard, but they are a little perverse. If you plant them now, the flower blooms will pop up in four to six weeks. But colchicum bulbs won’t produce any of their leaves until next spring, when most plants do; even more odd, the thick, wide foliage turns yellow and disappears over the summer. That creates two design challenges: how to disguise the dying leaves, and how to fill the holes in your flower beds until colchicum’s autumn blooms arrive.

“The foliage is kind of a hassle,” admitted Jacob Burns, curator of perennial plants at Chicago Botanic Garden. Cutting off the leaves isn’t an option because they deliver needed nutrition to the bulbs. “You have to suffer through that yellow phase,” he said. But he finds that the flower’s charms outweigh its downsides.

‘They’re part of a little-known class of flower that seems confused about what time of year it is.’

One trick is to plant the bulbs beneath a low ground cover. Ivy, vinca, ajuga, liriope or another thick-growing plant will disguise the dying leaves in summer and provide support for the delicate blooms when they arrive again next fall.

Other fall-blooming bulbs—including the aforementioned Crocus sativus and Sternbergia lutea—generally produce their leaves along with their flowers, and are easier to integrate into perennial beds.

Either way, now is the time to act: Depending on where you live, the blooms will begin to show between late September and December. Just try not to plant on top of them next spring.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pollinator Garden Workshop and Chatham Mills Garden Tour: Sept. 23, 26

The workshop will include a guided tour of the Pollinator Paradise Garden at Chatham Mills. Photo by Debbie Roos.

The Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension is offering a pollinator conservation workshop and garden tour as part of its Enhancing Sustainability Series. During the workshop, Chatham County Agricultural Extension Agent Debbie Roos will give an overview of North Carolina pollinators and discuss the role of native bees and managed bees in crop pollination. Participants will learn about the principles of planting a pollinator garden and how to select trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, herbs, vines, and grasses to attract a diversity of pollinators.

Debbie will emphasize native plants but will also include a few other plants that provide good resources. The workshop will conclude with a
tour of Cooperative Extension’s pollinator garden at Chatham Mills, about half a mile from the Agriculture Building. The garden is comprised of 160 different species, 85% of which are native to the piedmont of North Carolina.

Participants will receive several native perennial milkweed plants (Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata) grown by local nursery Mellow Marsh Farm to take home to plant for pollinators! These species are great for both bees and monarch butterflies.

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2:00 – 5:00 pm

Advance registration is required for these workshops
Space is limited so please register early to reserve your spot. The cost of the workshop is $25 and includes a CD of resources plus perennial milkweed plants. Call 919-542-8202, or email Debbie Roos for more information
To register, download the registration form and mail with your check.

Download the registration form for the September 23 workshop. Please fill out the form on-line, then print it and mail with your check. Registration deadline is September 16!
Download the registration form for the September 26 workshop. Please fill out the form on-line, then print it and mail with your check. Registration deadline is September 21!

Persons with disabilities and persons with limited English proficiency may request accommodations to participate by contacting Sam Groce, County Extension Director, at 919-542-8202 or email, or in person at the Chatham County Extension Center at least 14 days prior to the event.

Visit the Growing Small Farms website at to learn more.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Forest Fungi Project Examines Trees East of the Mississippi

Slide of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi.
Looking for a tree-related citizen-science project to do with the family?

The "Forest Fungi Project" launched by the Lankau lab in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a citizen science initiative aimed at getting the public involved in the sciences. We hope to learn more about the environmental and climatic factors controlling the distribution of fungi. We are asking for samples from every state east of the Mississippi River.

Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi.

Participation is easy. Simply go to a forested area, identify a trees species, collect leaves, dig a hole, and collect roots and soil. Place your samples in a labeled sandwich bag and mail to the Lankau lab.

During your sampling, you will be able to explore a forested area, take pictures and share in our photo log.

We will display data as soon as samples are processed. So, you can see how you contributed to the Forest Fungi Project.

What fungi are involved?
Mycorrhizae means fungus root. It is a symbiotic relationship (both fungi and plant benefit) in which fungi live in or around roots. Fungi acquire nutrients for the plants through the soil and plants provide sugars to the fungi through photosynthesis.

Trees associate with one of two main types of fungi:

1. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi- a group of fungi that colonize within plant root cells; are typically generalists
2. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi- a group of fungi that form a sheath around the plant roots; are more specialized

Why is this important?
Soil microbial communities are some of the most diverse, but also least understood, ecological systems on the planet, despite their clear importance for the functioning of terrestrial (land-based) ecosystems. Soil fungi in particular play a central role in structuring plant communities through their roles as pathogens (infectious agents causing disease) and mutualists (both living partners receiving benefit). Currently little is known about the biogeography (distribution) of soil fungi, and what environmental or climatic factors control their range limits. Such knowledge will be necessary to predict if and how fungal species ranges will shift in response to rapid climate change. Tree species ranges are predicted to shift northward by up to hundreds of kilometers in the next century, but these predictions do not consider how biotic interactions may promote or interfere with climate migration. If tree and fungal species shift to different extents, or at different rates, then the ecological function of the new plant-fungal associations that form may be an important determinant of community responses to climate change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 NC Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association Conference, Sept. 21-22

The 2015 NCEMGVA Conference "Stewards of the Environment" will be held Sept. 21-22, in Cary, NC. The conference is open to all who garden, not just those of the NC Extension Master Gardeners organization. The conference will be at the Embassy Suites, 201 Harrison Oaks Blvd., Cary, NC 27513, phone: (919) 677-1840.

The NCEMGVA (North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association) was formed in 1991 to aid in improving the effectiveness of its members as volunteers in the Extension Master Gardener Program of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Since 1979, North Carolina Extension Master Gardeners have been guiding homeowners in making environmentally sound decisions in their gardens. To learn more about becoming an Extension Master Gardener, go to:
2015 Conference Speakers include:
  • Paul James: Monday Night Banquet Keynote Speaker. Paul is a master gardener from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Known at “The Gardener Guy,” he has been host of the HGTV show, "Gardening By The Yard" since 1996. He is the creator, writer and senior producer and shot almost the entire show in his own backyard.
  • Dr. Damon Waitt: Opening Speaker. Dr. Waitt is the New Director of the NC Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, and was formerly from the Lady Bird Johnston Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. 
  • Adrienne Roethling: Closing Speaker. Roethling is the popular Garden Curator at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, NC.
Breakout Sessions by NC Gardening Experts:
  • Ecology and Natural Remedies  
  • Using the 3 Rs for Sustainable Gardening 
  • Out of the Sandbox, Into the Garden 
  • Weathering Our Changeable Weather 
  • A Gardener Saved Tolkien’s World 
  • Return of the Natives 
  • Create a Pollinator Paradise 
  • Composting with (Squirmy) Friends 
  • The Ecology of Better Backyards for Birds 
  • Write Your Way to a Thriving Garden Basket
For more information and to register, go to:

Durham Big Sweep Scheduled for Oct. 3

Durham Big Sweep will be on Saturday, October 3, 2015. However, volunteers interested in participating in Durham County can pick their own clean-up  date anytime throughout the months of September and October and still be part of Big Sweep.
Durham County has been participating in Big Sweep for over 15 now. In just the last four years, over 1,500 volunteers have helped to clean an estimated 45,000+ lbs of trash out of our community.
But the work is not complete! More and more trash is being carelessly discarded in our community everyday. Volunteers dedicated to helping Durham's environment are needed each year.  
Volunteer registration for the 2015 Big Sweep event is easy. Just click here for the Registration form and you will be contacted by the County Coordinator to arrange details.