Sunday, September 17, 2017

NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Handbook is Online!

If you would like to research all of the plant topics taught through the NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program, (minus the live lectures of foremost NC State horticultural professors), then visit the online EMG handbook.  
(This online handbook is an updated version of the class binders given in years past.) 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Durham's Finest Trees Deadline Oct. 1

Don't forget to nominate your favorite tree(s) in Durham with Trees Across Durham and the Durham County Master Gardeners:
Read about one of the 2017 winners, the osage orange tree at historic Stagville Plantation on the Master Gardener blog.
Photo: Yellowish-green fruit and shiny green leaves of Osage Orange tree. Photo taken by Wendy Diaz September 16, 2016.

Time for Fall Seeding of Tall Fescue & Kentucky Bluegrass

Aeration is an integral part of reseeding a healthy fescue turf in the fall.

By Grady Miller, Professor and Extension Specialist
NC State Extension, updated by Danesha Seth Carley (9/6/2017)

Fall is the best time for renovation and seeding of cool-season lawns. Temperatures are currently above normal for early September, but long range forecast predict they will begin to moderate. Hurricane season has also been active, so consider heavy rainfall in your planning as much as practical. Much of the state has been dry in July and August, so some rain would be appreciated to help make aerification a bit easier. Heavy rainfall can wash seed.

Remember that spring-established tall fescue is more susceptible to drought, heat, fungal diseases, and weed encroachment. With normal summer weather patterns, spring seeding is not likely to result in a year-long stand of healthy tall fescue. So do not delay, seed in the fall!

Young seedlings normally emerge and grow best when air temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. Soil temperatures need to be greater than 60 degrees for good germination. So, it is generally better to go a bit early than seeding late. If tall fescue is seeded in under less than ideal conditions (too cool or no soil moisture), you may experience a thin turf stand going into the winter. So try to get your seed out in September. If you must wait until October there is an increased likelihood of slow/low germination.

It is best to choose cultivars from the turffiles website. There is a list on TurfFiles of 2017 Top Performing tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass cultivars. For a larger list of good performing cultivars, the 2014 lists are still a good resource: 2014 Recommended Kentucky Bluegrass Cultivars for North Carolina and 2014 Recommended Tall Fescue Cultivars for North Carolina.

If you buy a tall fescue blend, try to find one with at least one of the cultivars from the list of recommended cultivars. These grasses were chosen because they produce a high quality turf in North Carolina and have been shown to be less susceptible to brown patch. Some like to mix in a little Kentucky bluegrass (darker color and finer texture) or fine fescue (for shady areas). I do not suggest adding ryegrass to the mix as it can dominate and reduce the stand of the more heat-tolerant tall fescue. A typical tall fescue seeding rate is 5 to 6 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Germination will normally be in 7 to 14 days with soil moisture and suitable soil temperatures.

Before seeding core aerification is recommended to reduce compacted areas. Getting good soil to seed contact is paramount to maximize available soil moisture. The core aerification holes will capture seed and hold moisture so the tall fescue seedlings often come up as a tuft of turf from the aerification holes.

Follow normal tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass fertilization practices as outlined in Carolina Lawns available on the website. The suggested yearly nitrogen application is about 1.0 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square at seeding. Include phosphorus and potassium fertilizers if soil tests indicate there is a need. In the absence of a soil test, a 16-4-8 or similar N-P-K ratio fertilizer may be used this spring. Before additional fertilizer or lime is added, conduct a soil test (

To apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet: Divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag to determine the amount of product to be used per 1,000 square feet. Example: Using a 16-4-8 fertilizer, 100 divided by 16 equals 6.25, therefore, 6.25 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet will deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

If irrigation is available, set your controller within current water restrictions for your area. Irrigate early in the morning to reduce water loss due to evaporation. In the fall, ¼ to ½ inch water per week of water (via rainfall or irrigation) is generally sufficient to meet the turf’s water needs. Irrigation can usually be discontinued in November without any reduction in turfgrass quality.

Since seeds and seedlings may be damaged by some herbicide applications, fall seeded cool-season grasses should not have any herbicides applied until it is extensively tillered.

It is very important that tall fescue be maintained at the proper mowing height to allow it to mature before winter and to minimize weed incidence. Studies have shown that a 3½ mowing height provides the best growth condition while minimizing disease incidence and weed encroachment. A 3 to 3.5 inch mowing height is also a good height for tall fescue + Kentucky bluegrass.

Note that warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustinegrass can be sodded in the fall, but it is generally not recommended due to the increased chance of winterkill. Warm-season grasses should not be seeded in the fall as there is inadequate time for maturity before the first expected frost.

Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 District 9 Annual Meeting "In My Grandmother's Garden": Oct. 18

Artist and Gay Blades Garden Club member Carolyn Bell's floral oil painting for the
District 9 Annual Meeting will be auctioned.
District 9 of The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. will hold its 2017 Annual Meeting "In My Grandma's Garden" on 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Mebane Arts Council Center (MACC).
The Mebane Council of Garden Clubs is hosting the event. The MACC is located: 633 Corregidor St, Mebane, NC 27302.
Registration is due Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.
Garden Club Presidents of District 9 were mailed letters and registration forms in August.
Make registration checks payable to the "Mebane Garden Council" and please mail registration checks and forms to:
Sandi Bagby, Mebane Council of Garden Clubs, 1268 Woodhaven Drive, Mebane 27302.
The Mebane Garden Council has many treats available for attendees of the District 9 Annual Meeting, "In My Grandmother's Garden" according to Council President Linda Nunemaker.
An art auction of the meeting's floral oil painting by Carolyn Bell will be held. Carolyn Bell is a member of the Gay Blades Garden Club.  Local art collectors can find information of more of her works at
Parked outside of the MACC will be a rare 1930s Willys-Overland Whippet owned by Mebane Council President Linda Nunemaker and her husband who will be greeting attendees. The Nunemaker's Whippet has won 1st prize in several car shows, she said adding the car only cost $599 brand new, and only about 3,000 Whippets were manufactured.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Member Profile: Ruth Yarbrough's 'Service of Joy'

Ruth Evelyn Shipp Yarbrough
By J.S. Corser, Publisher
Durham Co. Master Gardener
Indian poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore contemplated the idea of “service of joy” in his famous quote,
   “I slept and dreamed that life was joy, 
   I woke and saw that life was duty,
   I acted and behold: duty was joy.”

Garden Club business leader Ruth Evelyn Shipp Yarbrough learned about Tagore in her college days at Ole Miss and formed her life’s mission around those words. Ruth is well-known for her 5 decades of exacting business leadership for The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. (GCNC) as President (1983-1985) and in numerous offices and committee chair roles for GCNC, its District 9, the South Atlantic Region (SAR) of National Garden Clubs and its Board, and also several roles for the Durham Council of Garden Clubs including Parliamentarian since 2000. What people may not know about Ruth is that she has been a formidable change agent for various improvements for Durham and North Carolina, including campaigning state and federal government for initiatives in clean air and women’s privacy laws in publishing, and is an award-winning author herself.

Ruth grew up in Red Banks, Mississippi, and earned a Baccalaureate in Science and Commerce, majoring in Auditing and Accounting, in 1946 from Ole Miss University where she met her husband Madison Yarbrough, Jr. They met in September 1945 and married November 24, 1946. The two began their careers in the 1950s in Memphis and Durham, the latter where they settled to help manage the Yarbrough family’s furniture business. Ruth had been employed as the first female, full-time accountant in Durham during that time before she began raising their young family. 

"Every organization I’ve ever been in I’ve been Treasurer. Church, everything else!” she said, adding today she does some accounting work for the Yarbrough’s furniture business.

Ruth enjoyed several media mentions in Durham
during her 50+ years tenure with garden clubs.
This image appeared in the Durham Herald in the 1960s.
In 1961, she joined the Woodlawn Garden Club of Durham that gave her a leadership outlet, with five years as President and decades of service through 2008. (Back in the 1960s she said she was stunned the group welcomed her children to accompany her to meetings and gave them their own play space!) 
Beautifying Durham became a mission for Ruth with so much available downtown and urban space for tree planting and other garden initiatives. Trees, Ruth said, are her favorite element of the garden as they have the largest presence and ability to filter air pollution and provide bird sanctuary.

“I use to lie in the swing on my Grandfather’s front porch and I was mesmerized by the beauty of trees. They had a calming effect on me and I have had a love-affair with trees to this day,” she said.

Through membership in the Durham Council of Garden Clubs, Ruth was able to be a frequent gardening advice guest on “The Peggy Mann Show” which aired midday on Durham’s ABC affiliate WTVD from 1954-1980. Individual Durham garden clubs took turns as guests on the show. Ruth said she enjoyed giving presentations for attracting birds to the garden and even once spoke on tax preparation using her accounting background. 
Receiving the 1969 "Keep America Beautiful" award for Durham.
Pictured L-R: Helen Floyd, Emma Randolph, President William May of
Keep America Beautiful, Durham Mayor Wense Garbarek and Ruth.
Her most high profile project on the Council happened in 1969, when Ruth co-chaired with Helen Floyd the application for the national “Keep America Beautiful” award for Durham. She drove the project to incorporate cleaning up urban spaces in all of Durham. Ruth noted that she enjoyed tremendous Durham media and city support for the project, even getting its own phone line for residents to call in what area they were going to clean. In addition, Ruth and Helen coordinated with Durham’s black women’s garden clubs which had not been a common practice in the 1960s. Durham subsequently won the 1969 national award. Fourteen people from Durham attended the ceremony in New York, including: Helen Floyd, Emma Randolph, President William May of Keep America Beautiful, Durham Mayor Wense Garbarek and Ruth.
Ruth recalls giving more than two decades of joyful service to The Garden Club of NC, Inc. during the 1970s-1980s. 

As Treasurer she established a permanent set of books/finance records from the yellow legal pads she inherited from previous treasurers, a monumental task in of itself. As a member of the GCNC Scholarship Committee, Ruth worked to help raise and award dozens of scholarships to Durham students. She once spoke on behalf of the GCNC at the commencement celebration of the School of Design, Landscape Architecture Department of North Carolina State University.

Ruth served as the 30th President of GCNC from 1983-85. Building upon her work for the Keep America Beautiful award, Ruth and the garden clubs traveled to Washington, D.C. during her presidency and lobbied Congress for national clean air programs and provided tree workshops in 1983 and 1985. 

Ruth (L) greeting HRH Princess Anne (R) at the "400th Anniversary of America" reception held
at the Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, NC, in 1984.
One of the many highlights she enjoyed during her tenure as President of GCNC, was in 1984 hosting the “400th Anniversary of America” celebration for the first landing by Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to Roanoke. The event was held at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC and attended by North Carolina dignitaries like Governor Jim Hunt and British dignitaries including Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. Before Ruth could receive HRH, she said the secret service had to run their customary sweep of the property. (Frogmen were in the Roanoke Sound protecting as she passed over the bridge, Ruth recalled.) Given Ruth’s family background with the furniture industry, she said she was able to help open secret compartments on a desk that they were having much trouble inspecting. One of the foreign guests, Lord Mayor of Plymouth remarked the North Carolina Elizabethan Gardens property “had better gardens than Buckingham Palace.” Another lively attendee, Sir Jeffery Gilbert who was a 9th generation from a brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, casually invited her to visit his home some time—his dwelling, unbeknown to her, was Compton Castle, the “dramatic fortified manor” in Marldon, Devon. 

Preparation for a reception of British Royalty, however, was less work than the convention planning she did as a Co-Chair for the National Garden Club’s 1993 Annual Meeting, held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. Ruth sat on the NGC Board and worked a total of five years organizing this particular national meeting. The keynote speaker was CBS broadcast journalist Charles Kuralt who at the time was producing his travelogue show “On the Road with Charles Kuralt.” 

Other Passions 

Ever civic-minded and an advocate for women, Ruth also stepped outside of her regular gardening organization role to lead North Carolina legislation protecting women’s privacy in publishing. The 1978 Durham Herald news story that brought her to action was a crime article involving a serial rapist attacking women and girls in the Trinity Park neighborhood. The accused attacker and the names of his victims were both published for public consumption by the newspaper. Outraged, Ruth worked with the Durham Women’s Club (of which she was a member) to lobby the NC legislature in prohibiting this practice by North Carolina media. While she has not been aware of any state statute actually passed, the names of sexual assault victims have since been absent in Durham reporting. 

Ruth’s service of joy outside gardening organizations also extends to her family legacy in the form of genealogy. She won the 2007 North Carolina Genealogical Award for her book “Remember Who You Are” which chronicled 21 families of the Yarbrough and Shipp ancestry. Ruth wrote the book from 1999-2006, long before genealogy search websites, and researched using public records from County Courthouses, libraries, graveyards, and historical archives. The index cites 3,000 references. Genealogy is a passion inherited from her mother who liked to keep as much memorabilia of family history as possible. “Remember Who You Are” is in the historical archives of in many national university libraries. Librarians and others have purchased the book from Alaska down the West Coast, through the southern Midwest, the South, up the East Coast, and at least one copy for English libraries, she said. 

Ruth also taught Sunday School in Durham consecutively for 41 years. 

Flipping through the pages of a scrapbook
made by her granddaughter.

Garden Club Organization Professional Service Highlights*

Garden Clubs
  • Ruth was a member of the Durham Woodland Garden Club beginning in 1961, serving as President five years)
  • 1960s - Concurrently member of Margaret Brawley Garden Club after the Woodlawn Garden Club dropped state affiliation to GCNC
  • Present member of the Daylily Garden Club since 2008.
Durham Council of Garden Clubs
  • Ruth served as President (1990-1992), also served terms as Treasurer, Chair of Publicity; Chair of Hands Committee; Chair of Beautification Committee, and Parliamentarian from 2000-2017. 
  • Projects: Durham Rescue Mission Garden (1987-88).
District 9 of GCNC
  • Ruth Served as District Director; Chairman of Nominating Committee; and Civic Development Committee.
The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc.
  • 30th President (1983-85); Executive Committee Chair; Treasurer; Finance Chair, Board of Governors; Chairman of Trustees eight years; Chairman of Advisory Committee; Chair of Investment Committee; Scholarship Committee member, Chair of Legislation, and Parliamentarian for six years. She is also a Life Member of the organization.
  • Winner of the Maslin Award for service in 1987.
South Atlantic Region (SAR) of National Garden Club
  • Ruth served as Treasurer, Secretary, and is a Life Member.
National Garden Club
  • Ruth was Executive Board Member, 1993 Annual Meeting Co-Chair and is a Life Member.
* The specific dates of some offices held are not available and many were concurrent.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Native Perennials with Pharmaceutical Pasts

Image result for cone flowers and bee balm
Many common perennials grown today for their ornamental value, such as
magenta-flowered  beebalm and purple coneflower (foreground), have rich medicinal histories.
By Rita Pelczar
The American Gardener, AHS
July/August 2017

For centuries, Native Americans used a wide variety of indigenous plants to treat whatever ailed them. Early European settlers followed suit, learning medicinal uses for the unfamiliar flora they encountered either by trial and error—a risky business—or from the locals. This herbal lore passed from generation to generation until the advent of modern medicine about a century ago. 

Before then, many native plants were grown in home gardens more for their medicinal usefulness than their ornamental qualities. Several of these species still grace gardens across the country today, though many people don’t realize the significant role they played in health and healing before alternative pharmaceutical options existed.

Certain ornamental North American trees and shrubs have medicinal uses, but this article will focus on herbaceous perennials. The following are some of the most garden-worthy, widely available, and historically interesting among them (see the chart on page 31 for additional selections). Please note that how to use them as herbal remedies and their medicinal efficacy are not the focus of this article; it is intended to be informational rather than instructional. 

Commercially Marketed Herbal Natives
Among the most well known and well researched medicinal native perennials are coneflowers (Echinacea spp.). Ethnobotanical studies have revealed that numerous Native American tribes used coneflowers in a variety of herbal remedies for hundreds of years. Today, millions of people around the world use echinacea-based products to bolster their immune system or to diminish the duration and severity of a cold.
The species most commonly used for these purposes are purple coneflower (E. purpurea, USDA Hardiness Zones 3–9, AHS Heat Zones 9–1), pale purple coneflower (E. pallida, Zones 3–10, 10–1), and narrow-leaf coneflower (E. angustifolia, Zones 4–9, 9–1). Health products labeled with “echinacea” often contain extracts from at least two of these species. Studies have found that each of these plants produces various chemicals with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and immune-boosting properties.
Native across eastern and central North America, these coneflowers are easy to grow, drought-tolerant, and make lovely additions to sunny spaces. Their showy flower heads, composed of pink-purple rays surrounding distinctly raised cones, attract butterflies, bees, and seed-eating birds.
They reach between two and four feet tall, and bloom all summer long.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Zones 4–9, 8–4) is another widely used and well known medicinal native perennial. Historically it has been used for ailments involving mucus membranes. For example, Iroquois healers used a decoction of the root to treat whooping cough, diarrhea, stomach ailments, earache, and eye irritation. Its thick yellow rhizomes also have been used to make a dye. After early explorers exported the plant to Europe, it became popular there for medicinal purposes, too.
Because of overharvesting and habitat loss, the plant is now an endangered species across its native range from New Hampshire and Minnesota, south to Alabama and Georgia. Fortunately, many reputable nurseries now propagate and sell goldenseal for both home gardens and commercial production. It’s one of my favorite plants for a woodland garden, forming a groundcover of large, palmately lobed leaves on short stems that reach six to 12 inches tall. Small, white, tufted flowers appear in spring, followed by a showy raspberrylike fruit that appears to sit atop the leaf. Best growth occurs in a moist, moderately shady spot with slightly acidic soil.

Mint-Family Medicinals
Many native plants with herbal properties belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae). They share traits such as square stems, opposite leaves that may be aromatic, and small two-lipped flowers arranged in whorls or clusters. Those that spread with rhizomes may need a firm hand to keep them within bounds. The genus Salvia boasts quite a few North American species that are both medicinally significant and highly ornamental. From the West Coast, hummingbird or pitcher sage (S. spathacea, Zones 8–11, 10-7) inhabits the coastal hills of central and southern California.

Indigenous peoples in that region used it to treat colds and sore throats, and scientific analysis has revealed that it contains antimicrobial compounds. This plant grows about two feet tall and spreads to about three feet across. Its spikes of fruity-scented, magenta blooms begin appearing in winter in warmer regions, and continue through summer. As the common name implies, they attract hummingbirds. It prefers dappled shade, but also will adapt to full sun. Though quite drought-tolerant, a bit of irrigation helps extend the flowering season and keep the plant evergreen where winters are mild.
For more medicinal species, see full article from The American Gardener:

Reminder: Fall Board Meeting of The Garden Club of NC, Sept. 10-11

See late registration and more information:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Are Climbing Plants Really Bad for Your House?

At a Santa Barbara, California, residence by architect Marc Appleton,
family dog Sunny sits outside the ivy-covered den. Photo by Mary E. Nichols.

We've all heard the ugly rumors: Ivy and other climbing plants will ruin the façade of your home. But according to landscape architect Kim Hoyt and a 2010 report by English Heritage and the University of Oxford, that's not always the case. In reality, it depends on where your house is and what the exterior is made of. Hoyt often tells her clients that if the plant is growing on masonry where there's good sun exposure, there shouldn't be a problem. Climbing vines are more likely to cause issues on wood siding and in damp climates; plants like Boston ivy suction onto surfaces with adhesive pads, allowing them to go up and under the wood, trapping in moisture and eventually rotting the façade.

In short, it's absolutely okay to leave the magical greenery crawling up your walls alone as long as the conditions are right. And it won't just look beautiful—the English Heritage report states, "We now have strong evidence that ivy reduces the threats of freeze-thaw, heating and cooling and wetting and drying (and associated salt weathering) through its regulation of the wall surface microclimate."

Just came to the realization that your residence isn't the best spot for a climbing vine? Hoyt assures us there are other ways to achieve a similarly verdant, old-world look. Your best bet: Grow vines up a screen or metal armature placed in front of an exterior wall to fool the eye from afar.

With the case of the climbing plants closed, here are a few of our favorite exteriors brought alive with lush foliage.
View examples of climbing plants used for architectural enhancement at:

Friday, August 4, 2017

Free Late Season Classes by Durham Co. Extension Master Gardeners

Outsmarting Critters will be offered Aug. 27 at the Durham South Regional Library.

Here is a listing of late 2017  Extension Gardener Seminars. Presentations by Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers ALL CLASSES FREE!  

Planting Now For a Fall Harvest 
Saturday, August 12, 10 a.m. to noon. 
Durham Garden Center
Presented by Faye McNaull and Lynne Nelson, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteers.  Now is the right time to plan your cool weather garden.  A remarkable variety of tasty vegetables (including root crops and greens) can be happy and healthy when the temperature drops and your tomatoes and squash are all but memories.
Durham Garden Center  4536 Hillsborough Rd, Durham, NC 27705.  Requires registration. RSVP by either signing up at the store, calling the store at 919-384-7526, or emailing an RSVP to:

Planning Now for a Fall Harvest
Saturday, August 26, 10 to 11:30 a.m. 
For Garden Sake Nursery
Presented by Doug Roach, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer. Now is the right time to plan your cool weather garden.  A remarkable variety of tasty vegetables (including root crops and greens) can be happy and healthy when the temperature drops and your tomatoes and squash are only memories.  It's also the time to prepare for crops that will rejuvenate your soil overwinter and those that can be harvested early next summer. We will be offering tips on simple ways to extend your growing season in the Fall.
For Garden’s Sake Nursery  9197 NC Hwy 751, Durham NC, 27713. Requires registration. To register, email or call 919-484-9759. 

Outsmarting the Critters: Dealing with Deer, Rabbits, Squirrels, Moles & Voles
Sunday, August 27, 3-4 p.m.
South Regional Durham County Library
Presented by Georganne Sebastian and Darcey Martin, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Come learn about the latest techniques and tips for out-smarting the critters who dine on our Durham gardens.  
Programs at the Durham County Public Library - South Regional Branch, 4505 S Alston Ave. - registration is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website Click on "Events" to find the full calendar of events.  Go to the date of the class and sign up. You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register:  919-560-7410. 

Lawn Care
Tuesday, September 12, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Presented by Charles Murphy, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.  Maintaining a beautiful lawn in our area is a challenge for many of us.  Extension Master Gardener Charles Murphy will discuss the pros and cons of cool season and warm season grasses, optimal lawn care for our Piedmont climate and soil.  He will introduce you to the best maintenance methods and untangle the confusing range of lawn care products.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St. - Requires Registration. Call 919-668-1707 or email        
Buy Healthy Plants and Plant Them Well
Tuesday, September 26, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens.
Presented by Chris Apple, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer. 
Healthy plants stand a better chance of thriving in your garden. This presentation will review what you should look for when purchasing and planting plants. Chris will discuss plant sources, how to evaluate a plant, how to correctly plant a tree, shrub, groundcover or perennial and then what is necessary to establish a plant.
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St. - Requires Registration. Call 919-668-1707 or email

Raised Beds – If You Build Them, the Veggies Will Come
Saturday, September 30, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
For Garden Sake Nursery
Presented by Doug Roach, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer. This class will cover the advantages of raised bed gardening, including recommendations on locating, preparing, sizing and constructing the bed.  Doug will also offer helpful tips on using journals to record plant successes and failures, crop rotation, companion planting, improving your soil, protection from critters, and plant support. He will discuss such potential problems and pitfalls as contaminated beds or pest infestations.     
For Garden’s Sake Nursery  9197 NC Hwy 751, Durham NC, 27713. Requires registration. To register, email or call 919-484-9759. 

Straw Bale Gardening 
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 6:30 to 8 p.m. 
Sarah P. Gardens
Presented by Georganne Sebastian and Darcey Martin, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Growing a successful vegetable garden is challenging enough if you have terrific soil in which to plant, but with poor soils it can be virtually impossible.  Straw Bale Gardening allows anyone, even those with the worst soil conditions, to grow a terrific garden that is productive and much less labor intensive.  Let us teach you how! 
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson St. - Requires Registration. Call 919-668-1707  or email

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

See a comprehensive listing of educational horticultural programs around the Triangle during the month of August on Triangle Gardener:

Friday, July 28, 2017

Plant Spotlight: Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Asclepias incarnate. Swamp milkweed can be used in rain gardens and stormwater gardens to filter pollutants and support monarch butterfly habitats. Photo by myiarchus22, CC BY-NC-2.0

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is a native, perennial and toxic pink wildflower plant found in swamps, shores, thickets; marshes, moist meadows. Asclepias is the milkweed family of wildflowers essential as a monarch butterfly food source. The swamp (incarnata) variety of milkweed can be grown in urban rain gardens and other residential areas prone to poor drainage.
Erect, perennial herbs with milky juice; leaves simple, alternate, opposite, or whorled, narrow; flowers 5-parted, in rounded clusters, white, greenish, yellow, orange, or red; fruit dry and inflated, erect, and with many hair-tufted seeds
Growing Season:
Early to late summer
2-4 ft.
Up to 4-inch, opposite, narrow, lance-shaped, smooth leaves; milky sap is less juice than most species; short-stalked to stalkless
1-to 2-in., dull pink flowers, clustered at the top of a tall, branching stem; five recurved petals; elevated central crown, divided
Weedy in disturbed areas, native or naturalized in waste places, roadsides, fields; landscape in flower gardens as herbaceous perennials
All parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms. The toxic principle is cardiac glycosides and resinoids. TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

BOOKS: JC Raulston Arboretum Director's "Gardening in the South"

Gardening in the South: The Complete Homeowners Guide
Author: Dr. Mark Weathington
Publisher: Timber Press (2017)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320 pp.
Images: 397 color photos
ISBN-10: 1604695919
ISBN-13: 9781604695915

Extension Specialist, Urban Horticulture
NC Cooperative Extension
Learn from a pro, MARK WEATHINGTON is director of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University. His more than twenty years of experience gardening in the South include serving as a horticulturist for the Atlanta Botanical Garden and director of horticulture for the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

He packs decades of wisdom into this definitive handbook sharing exactly what it takes to grow your dream garden in the South including everything from a comprehensive A–Z guide of the best plants for the region to how to work with southern climates, seasons, and soils.

Pore over design ideas for all types of outdoor spaces, and follow a quick-glance, year-round maintenance chart tailored to southern specifics.

 Filled with insider tips, this go-to manual should be on the shelf of anyone who gardens in the unique conditions of the South.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Flower Show School: Course I in Advance, NC

AUG 21-23, 2017

The Flower Show School is open to all who desire to enrich their knowledge of horticulture, design and flower show procedure. This national certification program is managed by the National Garden Clubs, Inc.

Course I is sponsored by Winston-Salem Judges Council and will be held at the Hampton Inn Advance, in Advance, NC.
Register by July 24, 2017 by using the this brochure: 

Full Certification Schedule:
  • Course I:   August 21-23, 2017
  • Course II:   March 12-14, 2018
  • Course III: September 17-19,2018
  • Course IV: April 15-17, 2019

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer Shade with Live Oaks in the South

Take cover in the shade under a Quercus virginiana this summer!
Tours in Louisiana are available:
Photo: Plantation Balcony view from Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA. Photo by J.S. Corser, Durham Co. Master Gardener.

Clemson University Extension Consumer Horticulture
HGIC 1014
The Live Oak

The live oak (Quercus virginiana) is the principal evergreen oak in South Carolina. Although it is adapted to all of South Carolina, it favors conditions along the coast, where it grows wild. The full development of the live oak in South Carolina can be expected only within the warm, humid environment of its natural range. It tolerates cold extremes up through the Piedmont (not the mountains), but will grow more slowly and may suffer from ice storm damage.

Mature Height/Spread
Live oak is rounded and wide spreading, growing 40 to 80 feet tall and 60 to 100 feet wide. In the forest it stands erect, growing 100 feet tall, but in open landscapes the sprawling horizontal branches arch to the ground and form a broad, rounded canopy.
Growth Rate

This tree grows moderately fast in youth, producing 2 to 2½ feet of growth per year if properly located and maintained. Trees grown outside the coastal region will grow more slowly. The growth rate also slows with age. One of the longest-lived oaks, it may live 200 to 300 years.

Ornamental Features
The live oak is probably best known for its massive horizontal limbs that give old trees their majestic character. The trunk can grow to more than six feet in diameter. The leaves remain intact through the winter, then yellow and drop in spring as new leaves expand. Trees growing further inland, however, become semi-evergreen, losing some leaves in fall and winter. The waxy leaves are resistant to salt spray.

Live oak (Quercus virginiana) leaves and acorns.
Lindsay Caesar, Horticulture Department, Clemson University.
The small (1 inch) acorns are dark brown to black when ripe, and are primary food for many wildlife species along the coast. They are produced in clusters of one to five.

Live oak is susceptible to leaf blister, a fungal gall that disfigures leaves but does no appreciable harm. Several insect galls are also found on live oak. No control is available. Oak wilt is a serious fungal disease that can kill infected trees within a year or two of infection. This disease occurs in only six counties in South Carolina: Chesterfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Darlington and Barnwell. For more information on problems of oak, refer to the fact sheet HGIC 2006, Oak Diseases & Insect Pests.

When grown in the South Carolina Piedmont, outside of their natural range, live oaks may be injured or killed by cold temperatures or ice storms. For this region, select cold-tolerant cultivars or seed-propagated live oaks with proven cold hardiness.

Landscape Use
Live oaks are reminiscent of the Old South, especially when planted along avenues or drives leading to old plantations. Although used extensively for street tree plantings, in time the roots will lift sidewalks or streets if planted too close. It will do well as a lawn specimen provided it is given plenty of space.

Although it responds best to plentiful moisture in well-drained, sandy soils, it tolerates drier, more compacted sites. Once established, it is drought-resistant. It prefers sun but tolerates more shade than other oaks because its leaves function throughout winter.

Pruning is only necessary to develop a strong branch structure early in the life of the tree. It should be trained with a central leader. Eliminate young multiple trunks and branches. Prune in mid-to late summer to avoid oak wilt disease.

Cultivars & Varieties
  • Highrise® - This was the first patented cultivar of live oak. It was discovered as a seedling growing in Orangeburg, SC. It has a uniform, upright pyramidal growth habit with a mature height and spread of 30 to 40 feet and 12 to 18 feet, respectively.
  • Cathedral Oak™ - This cultivar has a pyramidal canopy when young that becomes broad to ovoid as it matures. It is expected to have a mature height and spread of 40 to 80 feet and 60 to 120 feet, respectively.
  • Millennium Oak® - This cultivar has the traditional, picturesque growth of live oak and has a predictable growth rate and habit. Expect a mature height of 50 to 75 feet and a spread of 60 to 100 feet.
Revised by Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University, 02/14. Originally prepared by Debbie Shaughnessy, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. New 05/99; Images added 11/06 & 12/15.

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2017 Gardeners' Advice Fair: July 25

Bring all of your gardening questions to the Gardeners Advice Fair!
Experts will be on hand at Duke Gardens from 6:30-8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.

GCNC Fall Board Meeting in Cary: Sept. 10-11

Saturday, July 1, 2017

July Calendar of Triangle Gardening Programs

July is busy with many educational and fun gardening programs across the Triangle!
See a a comprehensive listing from Triangle Gardener magazine:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Pest Spotlight: Powdery Mildew

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia x 'Zuni') with powdery  mildew. Neem oil extract horticultural oil can
help smother powdery mildew infections. Photo by J.S.Corser, Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener.

Clemson Cooperative Extension
Publication HGIC 2049

Powdery mildew is the name given to a group of diseases caused by several closely related fungi. Their common symptom is a grayish-white, powdery mat visible on the surface of leaves, stems, and flower petals. There are many hosts; and although this disease is not considered fatal, plant damage can occur when the infestation is severe.

Disease Cycle
In spring, as daytime temperatures rise above 60 °F, the fungi responsible for powdery mildew begin to produce spores (conidia) which are dispersed into the air. Infections occur when they contact a suitable host and environmental conditions are favorable. Initial symptoms are small, circular, powdery, white spots which expand and eventually join as infections progress. Infections spread as spores produced in these white patches move by wind and splashing rain to other locations on the plant or nearby plants.

The fungus survives the winter attached to plant parts and plant debris such as fallen leaves. As weather warms in spring, the process begins again.

Favorable Conditions
Humidity is an important factor related to the onset and spread of powdery mildew. Unlike most fungi, these do not require free water to germinate; only high levels of relative humidity. High relative humidity favors spore formation, and low relative humidity favors spore dispersal, which explains why powdery mildew tends to be a problem when the days are cool and the nights are humid. Temperature is also a factor. Although powdery mildew can occur all season long, it is less common during the heat of the summer.

Powdery mildew is caused by several different species of fungi, and they each have a limited host range. In other words, observing powdery mildew on oak leaves should not be cause for concern for nearby zinnias. Plants that commonly become infected with various powdery mildews include; azalea, crabapple, dogwood, phlox, euonymus, lilac, snapdragon, dahlia, zinnia, crape myrtle, rose, pyracantha, rhododendron, spirea, wisteria, delphinium, oak, English ivy, photinia, blueberry, pecan, cucumber, and squash.

As powdery mildew fungi grow over the plant surface, they develop structures that are inserted into plant cells enabling them to extract nutrients necessary for growth and spore production. This results in a general decline in growth and vigor of the host, as well as the common visible symptoms.

Abnormal growth, such as leaf curling, twisting, and discoloration may be noticed before the white signs of the fungus are visible. On dogwood, for example, leaves may take on a yellowish or reddish cast in summer or may develop reddish blotches or dead, scorched patches. The white powdery growth is not always apparent.

When visible, the powdery fungal growth can usually be found on the upper surface of the leaves, and tends to begin on lower leaves. As the disease progresses, leaves become dwarfed, curled and generally distorted. In severe cases, leaves will turn yellow or even dried and brown.

Powdery mildew fungi will also infect flowers, causing them to develop abnormally or fail to open. On azaleas and rhododendrons, small areas of dead tissue are often seen.

Powdery mildew creates other effects that are not readily visible. For example, a severely infected plant may have a reduced level of winter hardiness. Trees have also been observed to leaf out later in the spring after being infected the previous season.

Cultural Controls
As with all diseases, optimum plant health is the first line of defense. This begins with selection of healthy plants that are planted properly and in the proper location, giving attention to requirements for light, soil, and moisture. Space them so they are allowed to grow without being crowded and water thoroughly during establishment, and later during dry periods. Avoid overhead irrigation which raises the level of relative humidity within the plant canopy.

If powdery mildew is noticed on a few leaves, simply removing them will help with control. At the end of the growing season, prune out infected stems and remove fallen leaves which can serve as a source of further infection. Suckers are common on crape myrtle, dogwood and other plants. These should be pruned as they develop because they are especially susceptible and the disease will spread from them upwards to other plant parts.

Fertilize to optimize plant health, but avoid overfertilization with nitrogen as it stimulates young, succulent growth which is more susceptible to infection.
Plants with a severe infection should be monitored closely the following spring so that if infections reoccur, they can be treated early.

When possible, select plants that show resistance to the disease (see Table 1).

Chemical Control

Ornamental Plants: For fungicides to be effective, they must be applied as soon as symptoms are noticed. Product labels will provide information on how often to spray. When ranges are given, use the shorter interval during cool, damp weather. Be sure to cover both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves.
Table 2 lists fungicides labeled for ornamental plants. Myclobutanil, propiconazole, thiophanate-methyl,  have systemic properties and can be sprayed less often than sulfur or copper-based fungicides. When powdery mildew persists and sprays are repeated, it is recommended to rotate (alternate) fungicides to decrease the chance of fungi developing resistance.
When deciduous plants are infected, consider the season. Generally, foliar diseases occurring in late summer do little damage. The leaves have already produced food for the plant and are going to fall off soon anyway. Just be sure to rake and dispose of them as they fall.
As with any pesticide, read the label and heed all precautions. Sulfur, for example, can damage plants if applied when temperature and humidity are high.
Vegetable Plants: For information on vegetable crop disease controls and tolerant varieties, consult the Clemson Extension publication EC 570, Home Vegetable Gardening, and other Home & Garden Information Center fact sheets.

Table 1. Plants with Resistance to Powdery Mildew.
Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa‘Milky Way’, ‘Milky Way Select’, ‘National’
Cornus florida x kousa hybrids‘Aurora’, ‘Constellation’, ‘Celestial’, ‘Stellar Pink’
Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida‘Cherokee Brave’, ‘Springtime’, ‘Pygmy’, ‘Jean’s Appalachian Snow’, ‘Karen’s Appalachian Blush’, ‘Kay’s Appalachian Mist’
Crepe Myrtle: The Lagerstroemia indica x faurieri hybrids‘Apalachee’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘Hopi’, ‘Miami’, ‘Osage’, ‘Tonto’, ‘Tuscarora’, ‘Tuskegee’, ‘Wichita’, ‘Acoma’, ‘Sioux’, ‘Natchez’
Phlox‘David’, ‘Delta Snow’, ‘Natascha’, ‘Robert Poore’
ZinniaPulcino and African varieties, Zinnia angustifolia, Profusion Cherry, Profusion Orange
Hybrid Tea Rose‘Duet’, ‘Eiffel Tower’, ‘Grand Slam’, ‘Mister Lincoln’, ‘Tiffany’, ‘Jamaica’, ‘Matterhorn’
Floribunda Rose‘Golden Slipper’
Grandiflora Rose‘Camelot’, ‘Queen Elizabeth’, ‘John S. Armstrong’, ‘Pink Parfait’
Rugosa Rose‘Rugosa Alba’, ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’, ‘Fru Dagmar Hastrup’, ‘Topez Jewel’, ‘Alba’, ‘Alba Semi-Plena’
Monarda‘Marshall’s Delight’, ‘Cambridge Scarlet’

Table 2. Fungicides for Powdery Mildew Control on Ornamental Plants.
Active IngredientExamples of Brand Names & Products
Note: These active ingredients are listed in approximate order from most efficacious (best control) to least, but this also depends upon the plant and species of powdery mildew fungus.  Be sure to check the product label for which plants can be sprayed with that product.  For many vegetable crops, sulfur, copper-based products, chlorothalonil, horticultural oil, potassium bicarbonate and Bacillus subtilis can be used for powdery mildew control.
1 Do not apply sulfur if temperature is greater than 90 ºF or to drought stressed plants.  Do not use sulfur in combination with, or within 2 weeks before or after the use of horticultural oil treatments.  Sulfur will also control mites.
2 Do not apply horticultural oil if temperature is greater than 90 ºF.  Horticultural oil may injure Japanese, armur and red maples, cryptomeria, junipers, cedars, redbud, smoke tree and hickories. Add 3 tablespoons of horticultural oil to a gallon of water with 3 tablespoons of baking soda for better powdery mildew control.
RTS = Ready-To-Spray (hose-end sprayer).     RTU = Small, pre-mixed bottle.
MyclobutanilSpectracide Immunox Multi-Purpose Fungicide Concentrate
Sulfur1Safer Brand Garden Fungicide Concentrate; & RTU
Hi-Yield Wettable Dusting Sulfur
Southern Ag Wettable or Dusting Sulfur
Bonide Sulfur Plant Fungicide
PropiconazoleFerti-lome Liquid Systemic Fungicide II Concentrate; & RTS
Bonide Infuse Concentrate; & RTS
Banner Maxx Fungicide
Martin's Systemic Fungicide
Thiophanate-methylCleary’s 3336-WP Turf & Ornamental Fungicide
Southern Ag Thiomyl Systemic Fungicide
ChlorothalonilOrtho Max Garden Disease Control
Garden Tech Daconil Fungicide Concentrate
Hi-Yield Vegetable, Flower, Fruit & Ornamental Fungicide
Southern Ag Liquid Ornamental & Vegetable Fungicide
Tiger Brand Daconil
Ferti-lome Broad Spectrum Landscape & Garden Fungicide Conc.
Monterey Fruit Tree, Vegetable & Ornamental Fungicide Conc.
Bonide Fung-onil Concentrate
Horticultural Oil2Ferti-lome Horticultural Oil Spray Concentrate
Monterey Horticultural Oil Concentrate
Southern Ag ParaFine Horticultural Oil
Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil Concentrate
Neem Oil ExtractSouthern Ag Triple Action Neem Oil Concentrate
Ferti-lome Rose Flower & Vegetable Spray Concentrate
Garden Safe Fungicide 3 Concentrate
Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract Concentrate
Monterey 70% Neem oil Fungicide/Insecticide/Miticide Conc.; & RTS
Copper-based FungicidesBonide Liquid Copper Concentrate
Camelot O Fungicide/ Bactericide Concentrate
Monterey Liqui-Cop Fungicide Concentrate
Natural Guard Copper Soap Fungicide Concentrate; & RTU
Southern Ag Liquid Copper Fungicide
TebuconazoleBayer Advanced Disease Control for Roses, Flowers & Shrubs Conc.
Potassium BicarbonateBonide Remedy
Bacillus subtilisAgraQuest Serenade Garden Disease Control Concentrate

Caution: Pollinating insects, such as honey bees and bumblebees, can be adversely affected by the use of pesticides. Avoid the use of spray pesticides (both insecticides and fungicides), as well as soil-applied, systemic insecticides unless absolutely necessary. If spraying is required, always spray late in the evening to reduce the direct impact on pollinating insects. Always try less toxic alternative sprays first for the control of insect pests and diseases. For example, sprays with insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, neem oil extract, spinosad, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), or botanical oils can help control many small insect pests and mites that affect garden and landscape plants. Neem oil extract or botanical oil sprays may also reduce plant damage by repelling many insect pests. Practice cultural techniques to prevent or reduce the incidence of plant diseases, including pre-plant soil improvement, proper plant spacing, crop rotation, applying mulch, applying lime and fertilizer based on soil test results, and avoiding over-head irrigation and frequent watering of established plants. Additionally, there are less toxic spray fungicides that contain sulfur or copper soap, and biological control sprays for plant diseases that contain Bacillus subtilis. However, it is very important to always read and follow the label directions on each product. For more information, contact the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information Center.

Pesticides updated by Joey Williamson, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University, 10/16. Revised by Joey Williamson, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University, 11/09. Originally prepared by Chuck Burgess, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University. New 09/05.

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Free Summer Harvest Classes for Briggs Ave. Community Garden

Briggs Avenue Community Garden.

Three exciting opportunities are coming up for learning about harvest at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden. The classes are free for Briggs Plot Owners and Master Gardeners. They will be conducted by Durham Co. Extension Agent Cheralyn Berry and Brandon Walton at the Durham County Cooperative Extension Office at 721 Foster St. in downtown Durham. Please email Pana Jones at or call 919-560-0525 to register for one or all of the classes.

Tomato Tasting with Craig LeHoullier, NC Tomato Man 
Saturday, July 15, 9 - 11 a.m.
Mr. LeHoullier has collaborated with Briggs Garden to grow out some of his newest genetic lines of tomatoes. Come hear him speak about his research and taste some of the newest tomatoes on earth. He will have his book, "Epic Tomatoes" available for sale.

Preserve the Harvest: Water Bath Canning
Saturday, July 29, 9 a.m. - Noon
Save the taste of summer the easy way by water bath canning. Delicious tomato sauce and pickles can be enjoyed all year round when you have the skills to make your own. Simple food science concepts will be explained for safe technique.

Preserve the Harvest: Pressure Canning
Saturday, Aug. 26, 9 a.m. - Noon
Many foods can be safely pressure canned for convenience and health. Enjoy delicious dishes your family will love by learning how to make them ahead in large batches to serve during busy weeks. Save freezer space and be prepared for winter power outages with a full pantry of tasty meals. Simple food science concepts will be explained for safe technique.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Burt's Bees Turkey Coop Permanently Installed in Durham

Burt's Bees HQ in American Tobacco District with Burt's Turkey Coop.
All of Burt Shavitz's antique and curious possessions were painstakingly moved from Maine and
arranged authentically as he lived.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week and visit the Burt's Bees turkey coop permanently located at the American Tobacco Warehouse District in Durham.

The relocation took approximately five months with the addition of air conditioning and a bathroom.

 Photos by J.S. Corser,
Durham Co. Master Gardener.

Pollinator topiaries installed outside
of the Burt's Bees turkey coop.

District 9 Presidents Meet in Durham for Annual Meeting

The Presidents Meeting of the District 9 of The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. met Thursday with over 30 District members representing 16 garden clubs in attendance.
The meeting was hosted by the Durham Council of Garden Clubs and was held at the historic John Sprunt Hill House. Meeting tables and the dining area were brightened by several floral arrangements created by State Secretary Pat Cashwell and Vice District 9 Director Catherine Phelps, both ladies hold national credentials as flower show judges. Gourmet tea refreshments were provided by Robin Marin of Town & Country Garden Club.
District 9 Director Marcia Loudon led the agenda and distributed an administrative binder to each club president or club representative. She presented critical dates, details, forms, etc. within the binders she created, emphasizing that all of the information can also be sourced on the GCNC website ( of which she is editor.
Past District 9 Director Andrea Lewis took a minute to promote the 2018 GCNC Annual Meeting, to be held April 15-17, 2018, in Chapel Hill, NC. “Orange You Glad It’s Spring?” is the theme created by the Orange County Council of Garden Clubs hosting the event. Andrea invited District 9 garden clubs to help volunteer for the meeting. Please contact her at: