Archive for the ‘MC Demonstration Garden’ Category

I am feeling generous –  it’s a Peony!

For those who haven’t read Linda’s recent article on the peonies in her garden – you should!  These queens of the garden truly deserve a place in everyone’s landscape with their fragrant flowers and beautiful centers.

In my comment/reply, I mentioned we had a few peonies in the demogarden. Well, surprise – we have quite a selection, and all are from Reath’s Nursery in the Upper Peninsula!  Your quiz will be to match the peony to the location in the garden.

Wind Chimes Peony

Age of Gold Peony

White Innocence Peony

Raspberry Sorbet Peony

Prairie Moon Peony

Krinkled White Peony

Early Windflower Peony

(1)   Entry Garden;   (2)   Perennial Garden;   (3)  Sign Garden;

(4)   Children’s Garden;  (5)   Memorial Garden;  (6)   Spruce Garden;

(7)   Native Shrub Garden.

I would suggest printing out the sheet and entering your location answers alongside the photos.  This is an excellent way of brushing up on the plants in our demogarden. Jennie has kindly agreed to mediate any disputes.

To make it a little easier, I have named each variety shown in the above photos. Please post your answers as a Comment, e.g. D2 or B6.  There are the usual trick entries – so don’t be fooled!   As an added bonus, identify the tree peony for Advanced MG status.

The winner(s) will have the usual bragging rights of showing their superior knowledge of the plants in our gardens.



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(second in the Cutting Back series)



Click Here to See the Current Area Map


Joan Otter and Karen Bender met me at the demo gardens today and we worked through very cool breezes with a spatter of snowflakes, on cleaning up the northeast side groundcover area that they have decided to adopt, and pulling a few dozen clumps of garlic mustard here and there.  We discussed a plan for changes but did not want to disturb the iris/violet combination blooming at its peak just now.  Some of the pink daisy mums were dug to move but more are available for adoption as are the remaining plants listed for removal.

The groundcover areas frame the entrance to the building, so they are very noticeable. They get only morning sun, and due to the overhang, very little rain in summer, so the plants growing there are very drought-tolerant. Still, few survive right next to the building. Another stressor is the salt from the sidewalk and parking lot applications.  Since about 1995, we have removed more than half the old overgrown and badly pruned junipers from the area and tried to keep the remaining ones pruned regularly and well. Since those hardy shrubs thrive, cover ground and provide winter interest, we should hesitate to remove the last few.  Some of the groundcover plants thrive as well, crowding weeds out of their areas and requiring little maintenance. Lately we have tried to let them fill their spots and decrease the higher-maintenance plants.  2011 was the first year we have mulched those beds because our goal was to cover the ground with living groundcovers.  Realistically, it is too dry and difficult an area to do that well, particularly along the building.  Mulched spaces between the remaining groups will conserve water and moisture and avoid the weedy look.

On the other hand, a coarse mulch of wood chips makes some of the groundcovers more difficult to maintain by shearing them back after flowering, which they need badly, so those should be eliminated.  Maintaining some of the perennial groundcovers where tulips and daffodils are planted will help camouflage the bulb foliage as it dies back.

Plants to be removed from this area in 2012: mother-of-thyme, lamb’s ears, blue fescue, silver mint.

Plants to divide and replant in a different spot; dwarf iris and violets, Herman’s Pride false lamium, coralbells, Korean mums.  The Andorra juniper was pruned rigorously and if it doesn’t improve in appearance, it may be removed.

Plants to be added; perhaps the dwarf reblooming yellow iris and ‘Happy Returns’ daylilies from the rain garden; try some “hens and chicks” along the building wall near the container.

Maintenance: Deadhead lungwort and bergenia by May 1. Moved plants are likely to need occasional watering in summer.  More mulch may be needed after plants are removed.


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We Monroe Master Gardeners are planning cutbacks to our demonstration gardens. Although there are some special plants and garden areas we have established over the years, there are just too many plants and areas for the current uses and the current level of workers. We are beginning to identifying what is most important to us and what we can better do without. Planning the changes can be a fun and educational project for us and to share with others.

Think how many people you have heard talk about cutting back on their gardens or landscape areas, or complain about not having the time or energy to maintain them as they wish them to look! Focusing on ways to reduce maintenance while preserving the best features of a developed landscape can provide some helpful lessons.

First we want to look at the overall landscape and establish priorities according to the educational purpose of our gardens.

Both due to its educational value and because some very talented and committed gardeners are willing to continue working in it, the children’s garden is at the top of our list to preserve.  The herb ovals that comprised our first garden beds provide an attractive entrance to the children’s garden, but present some maintenance problems due to the growing competition from a mature sweet gum tree, so we need to plan changes there.

On the other hand there is the rain garden.  Regardless of its history, we need to decide if it adds enough value to the gardens to justify the work it requires. It would be one of the easier areas to return to mowed grass. If we keep it, the highest maintenance plants are the two tallest ones, which we could remove.  Then we would have to look at the other perennials that require cutting back during the season. Instead of taking a majority vote at the meeting, once we set priorities, we will just see if there is a team willing to undertake to 1. maintain it more or less as usual, 2. maintain it in reduced form, or 3. dig and discard or distribute the plants and rake it off to be reseeded to grass. In other words, it gets down to the workers making the final decisions on each garden area.

In order to give everyone time to think about each garden, we’ll put more articles like this in the blog before the next meeting. Be sure to attend, or to let someone know your interest and preferences in regard to this major project of our association.

The rain garden in summer. Tall Veroncastrum and goldenrod are out of proportion to the width of the bed.


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Where has the year gone?  In less than  a week we will be having our annual recognition banquet, which unfortunately I am unable to attend.  Therefore, I would like to make a few recognitions  of my own, based on what I have observed this year.  Lot of people have worked hard, and these are my personal picks.  I hope I am not embarrassing  or offending anyone – but the following members I am sure you will agree are particularly deserving of our recognition and thanks for their efforts and valuable contribution to the club.

  1. Naida Albin – The Work & Learn Crew:   Her tireless efforts along with my regulars, the Milan gang and Mark Havekost, are the reason we were able to restore the gardens to what they should be.  A consumate gardener and workaholic, she tends at least three other local gardens that I know of in addition to her own, and is very supportive of any MG activity.   A very modest person, I do not want to embarrass her further by listing her numerous other achievements.
  2. Sue Ryan – Blogmeister:   The reason that you are able to read this – is because of the efforts of this one person in setting up and maintaining our blog, from conception to where it is now! Sue’s talents as a photographer and an uplifting script writer have given our fledgling venture a polished, professional look – and a much needed voice for the association.  Did I mention this is all done after 10 hour work shifts and numerous stints weeding the office  garden?  She has put in hundreds of hours into making this happen because she is totally committed to making this blog a success, and something we can all be proud of.
  3. Linda Welch – Most Involved MG:  It is no exaggeration to say Linda is everywhere there is activity in the club.  From single-handedly renovating our previous projects in the Veterans Park, planting the new sundial beds, weeding the office garden and being a cheerful booster for the club.  Most of you know her from her garden design presentations and numerous photographs of her lovely garden and plant choices in the blog –  where she is a founding editor and frequent contributor.
  4. Sharon Diefenthaler – Best Community Outreach:   Being a MG is all about community outreach.  Sharon is fortunate in that she has been able to incorporate this mission statement into her ISD program at Matthes’ greenhouse.  All of her students graduate as Junior MGs and the work ethic and skills they learn as being part of her program, will prepare them for being productive citizens.  She is an active participant in the IHM community gardens,  Bedford Library gardens and with her students, in Mercy Memorial greenhouse and gardens.
  5. Carol Koesel – Best Project:   Thanks to Carol, we finally were able to have a raised bed veggie garden as a teaching tool in our demo garden.  This feature was long overdue!  Skillfully using a 3 x 4 seed bag,  Carol planted a mini- garden that yielded a surprising array and quantity of vegetables, all of which were grown in our own compost…Mel Bartholomew would definitely approve!  I certainly appreciate her garden knowledge and deft touch in maintaining the Memorial Garden, which she helped design and install.
  6. Lenore Wood – Most Under-appreciated Worker:   Lenore is the Rodney Dangerfield of the association.  She is the one who toils away maintaining the beds at Fairview Hospital, her church and when time permits, she comes and weeds our garden. Lenore works alone and is publicity shy, so many of you have little idea what this woman accomplishes.  Her dedication to community outreach is something the association should acknowledge and embrace.
  7. Karen Hehl – Best Photography Submission:  A lot of you know Karen’s handiwork from past garden tours.  Come fall, she is a regular feature around the office garden weeding and clipping. What I didn’t realize was just how accomplished a photographer she really is.  Her photos of the pepper arrangement are of professional quality and would not be out of place in the pages of Gourmet magazine.  Both Sue and I are unanimous in this choice of her outstanding FotoFriday submission.
  8. Sandy O’Connell – Most  Informative Newsletter Article:   Most of you know this garrulous upstate New Yorker as a hardworking, weed-pulling terror with her designer weeding hoe.  But she is also an accomplished writer as is shown in her past newsletter article on her visit to the home of pioneering naturalist, Gene Stratton-Porter.  Truly an  outstanding article with superb photographs that help make our newsletter one of the best in the region.
  9. Georgeann Brown – Best Food Presenter:   This is just another facet of the multi-talented persona of our longest serving MG.  In addition to being Jennie’s first graduate, GB has brought a wealth of experience and gardening knowledge to this club over the years, as well as holding every office and one of the originators of the W & L program!  Her interest in herbs was recently coupled with her passion for food in a most interesting and lively presentation on Sweet and Savory Herb cooking, that was extremely well received.
  10. Mary Ellen and Stella – Children’s Garden:   One of the true little gems in our exhibition garden, this area is lovingly planted and nurtured each year by Mary Ellen and Stella.  I just love the Japanese theme and the choice of plantings that always seem to be doing something different throughout the year.  I was lucky enough to snap a few photos of some children enjoying the gardens…which says it all!
  11. Sharon, Winnie & Karen – Best Team Presentation:    The award for the best tag-team presentation has to go to this trio! In spite of an advertising snafu, they managed to draw in 10 members of the public in addition to a full house of MGs for a lively and interesting Herbs, Senses class.  The room smelled terrific with all the herbs and freshly baked bread and they managed to compliment each other very well in getting their message out…by working as a team…a novel idea!
  12. Chris Edolls – Most Informative Presentation:   In addition to being our treasurer, Chris is an accomplished apiarist.  Anyone who comes to give a class in a white jump suit and bee-keeper’s garb…automatically gets my attention and respect!.  Her presentation on bee-keeping was extremely well done and very informative.  I think we all went away with a new appreciation of what these interesting little pollinators do in our gardens. Chris is also a regular presenter on garden topics at the Ida Public Library.
  13. Jeff Nicita – Best Garden Tour:   A most accomplished gardener, Jeff was kind enough to offer his gardens this summer for a private tour.  Jeff has an eye for garden layout as well as a large repository of plant knowledge. Linda did an excellent article on the tour, and her photos say it all about his talent’s as a landscaper.  We are lucky to have Jeff as a member even though he lives in Wayne County and could just as easily belong to their association.
      A special recognition should go to Pete Wallace, another out of the area MG who was in my class of 2009…for his hard work and financial contributions to make our latest public project a reality.  Next spring,  the sundial will be unveiled in the Veterans Park for all to see and enjoy.  Jennie Stanger also was a major contributor as well as coordinator for this project, and deserves our thanks.
     There are I am sure others I have omitted, but also deserving of your recognition…Gail Keane with her labors at the Conservation District plant sale; Chris Kosal with her involvement at the YMCA,  Dorsch Library gardens and website committee; Jessie Green and Debi Beier for their preparing plant labels for the gardens and activities in the Bedford garden tours, and the committee members who produce the newsletter and handle everything from promotions to booking speakers.
      Kudos also to Paul for maintaining the association on an even keel during these troublesome times with MSUE.  Keeping a MG association  going requires commitment from all – not just a few.  Everyone has to reach inside themselves and see how they can contribute more to support the obligation this entails.  To do otherwise may well jeopardise the survival of the club as a MG association.
      Let’s plan on making next year an even more productive one as we face the challenges of the extension office closing.

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We are pleased to announce a new feature  that will be appearing on a regular basis as a series of photo essays.  Our new correspondent is a long time MG as well as being an accomplished photographer.  These two traits have been combined to give an interesting new perspective on what we routinely take for granted around our exhibition gardens.

“When most gardeners have cut their plants and stored their tools for winter,

the master gardener sees things differently”

The knowledge of the MG plus the keen eye of a photographer have focused in on some of the overlooked aspects of the unique plants we have.  Even common weeds take on a new face and have a beauty all of their own when viewed through the eyes of a MG!

When we photograph plants and flowers, the natural tendency is to want to capture as much of the scene as possible – often with a loss of detail.  The trained photographer has learned to block out the extraneous and concentate on capturing the unusual or striking feature of a subject that will tell a story.  Jennie,  Sue and I have all shot the gardens at various stages, but our focus was mainly on just recording a specimen as a whole  or a landscape vista.

To make my point, just consider how much more detail becomes apparent when a photo is cropped and all other extraneous detail is removed.  You have to look no further than the header photos Sue features in the blog.

You can do this in the field by careful composition,  planning and sharp focusing on the subject to minimize distracting backgrounds.

We hope you will enjoy this new take on the plants we have and that you might want to copy some of the same techniques in your own garden photography.

Unlike our Mystery Plant and What’s that Plant series – the correspondent will remain the mystery.  See if you can name the plants!

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Hello everyone,

I had hoped we could get some more of the basic fall cleanup chores out of the way with tomorrow’s session.  It looks like the weather is not going to cooperate, and I am not going to ask you to work in the rain or a soggy garden. For those who want to brave the elements, Jennie will be at the office at 5.00pm and she can show you what needs doing.  If it is pouring rain, obviously the session will be cancelled.  Please dress appropriately!

  • Ideally, I had planned on weeding all the beds…a task apparently nobody wants to do.  In the Spruce garden, the barberry and the ground cover still need trimming and there are some thistles in the Flowering Quince that need pulling. The area around the compost bins needs tidying up, as does the ground cover in the tree well near the Memorial Garden.  Some of you could  deadhead the roses and the native shrubs and cut back the bulb foliage.  Jennie has suggested cleaning up the tool storage area – maybe trimming back some of the ivy.

The peony division video shoot, Jennie will do on Friday with Karen Naimola.  So please do not cut back the peony in the entry garden!

Jennie will be asking for volunteers to prepare some beds at the sundial site in the Veterans Park.  Be sure to read the blog for the dates and times.

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Strangely enough, fall seems to be taking its sweet time in coming to our exhibition garden.  While most of the areas maples, sumacs and oaks are in full fall color, there are still a few of our deciduous plants that have yet to turn.  Jennie snapped a few photos  of some of these specimens and challenges you all to identify the plants and their location within the garden.

Fall Plant Quiz.

“these three native shrubs in the demo garden October 8, all have black fruits (reportedly edible but not tasty) and bright fall leaf colors.  They are not all located in the native shrub row.  Can you name them?”

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Hello everyone,

Just a short reminder that the two scheduled W & L sessions for October will be held on this Saturday October 8, 9-11 am and Thursday October 20, 6-8 pm. Jennie will be overseeing the work on these two days while I am taking a leave of absence to finish up some projects before winter.

  • For tomorrow, I think we should concentrate on giving the beds a thorough weeding…particularly the ground cover beds.  There is the usual deadheading of the roses and some of the flowering shrubs in the north side native bed.  The barberry by the spruce needs trimming, as does the ground cover around it. The compost area needs some tidying up, particularly behind the bins.  The asparagus and some of that dead milkweed can also be cut back.  Pay particular attention to the clumps of bulbs, as most of these should be ready for cutting back.  The ground cover in the tree well near the knot gardens, looks poorly and should be cleaned up.  In the east side native shrub area, the rudbeckias need deadheading and the bed should be weeded before it is mulched.  Let Paul make the call which trees he wants to trim and the timeline.

The Deutzia in the hummingbird garden is now starting to throw out branches. If they are  long enough, maybe we can pin some of them in the ground and do some layering propagation.  Jennie can make a short presentation on how to do this easy to learn technique.

The Thursday night session will be a first for us and the blog, in that Sue will actually video Paul demonstrating lifting and dividing some peonies.  It is our plan to upload this short instructional video and add it to our growing archive of garden topics.  So…please do NOT cut back the peonies in the entry garden!


  •  Sunday October 9,  noon -5 pm.   Naida’s Milan Garden Club gardens will be on display at the upcoming Milan Fall Festival at the historic Hack House museum, 775 County Rd Milan.  Please show your appreciation for all the hard work Naida and her Milan crew have done around our exhibition gardens, by attending this event.
  • Wednesday October 12, 6-8 pm.  By popular request Linda Welch will be repeating her Vertical Gardening and Living Art presentation at the Riverside Learning Center, 77 N Roessler St Monroe.  $5 at the door…see blog for details.
  • Saturday October 15, noon-1 pm.  Following the general meeting, Georgeann will offer a class on Savory and Sweet Herbal Cooking…we should have a full house, so plan on coming early to reserve a seat.

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I had a few photos left over from our last W & L session, so I thought it would be fun to make a compilation and see if you can identify them.  They are all from plants growing within the exhibition garden and this should be a snap for you older hands…or maybe not.

Jennie will be the authoritative source for the correct answers, which will be in MG form of botanical and common name…and species or variety if known.  You can make this as hard or as easy as you like. Print out the sheet and write in your answers for a self quiz.  If you like, keep the completed form as a reference.  To make it a little more interesting, there is a “trick” entry.  See if you can spot it.








Sue is posting another direct link to the University of Minnesota Yard & Garden newsletter in the Gardening Resources section.  This extension site has a couple of interesting features we hope you will enjoy and use on a regular basis to identify some of the things around your garden.  I would like to thank fellow MG Sharon Diefenthaler for telling me about this site.  The “What’s this plant”, “What’s this bug” features are very popular with her students when they are quizzed on what they found in the greenhouse that day.

Please post your answers as a comment…if you want to play and impress everyone with your plant knowledge.

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I can’t believe it was a week ago last Thursday night we said goodbye to summer with a flurry of activity around the office gardens.  The turn out was again unexpectedly good…maybe it was Marlene’s oatmeal cookies or the excitement that builds after a long hot summer and the promise of cool crisp weather.  Thanks to all who turned up and our two presenters!


Marlene’s presentation on seed saving and plant overwintering storage was very informative and well received judging by the numerous questions.  Paul came armed with a brand new set of pruners in a holster and led us on a hunt for peonies that needed the “treatment”.  He recommended cutting back the white one by the sign as the leaves were beginning to get moldy, but decided to let the others go a little longer as they were quite green and still capable of storing sugars.  Naida and Jeff recommended that some copper Bordeaux mix be sprinkled on the cut stems to stop any fungus being drawn down into the bulbs.  These little tips are what make community gardening events like this so very interesting and informative.  Paul said he would revisit the peonies in a couple of weeks and show those who want some “offspring”, how to lift and divide the mother plants.

Veggie garden headstone

Alas, the bag garden came to a premature end with some tomatoes and a few jalapenos still hanging in.  We all had a good look at the remains of a parasitized hornworm…I wish we had a specimen jar available to preserve the remains.  Unfortunately the office camera had a weak battery so I missed getting a shot of this rather gruesome end of this voracious predator.

Black gold

The compost has all been sifted and rebagged…Jeff, Carol, Naida and Sandy made short work of this big chore with three wheelbarrows and extra screens. The rest of us clipped, weeded and cutback what was needed.  Unfortunately Mark had another engagement, so the weed whipping and grass seeding will have to wait until another session.

The garden is starting to get some late season color… the catnip is back in bloom and the yew hedge in front is sporting some nice red color, the roses are still going strong, even the rosa rugosa, and the white and purple dahlias are at their best.  Soon the mums will open up and the garden will have a fall feel.

Dahlia and tuteur

This was my last W & L as I am taking a leave of absence for the remainder of the season.  I wish to thank my dedicated crew of regulars, Naida and the Milan gang, Mark and Carol, Sue, Linda and Sandy in particular…without whose help during the hot summer months, this garden wouldn’t be in the good shape it is right now.  I am also very pleased to see so many new faces turn up at the last couple of meetings.  Jennie also deserves a particular mention for all of her behind the scenes help and guidance on what to do with this garden…a task that has strained our friendship on more than a few occasions!

Yew fall berries

Pebble garden


I know I am somewhat in the minority by thinking that maintaining  an exhibition/demo garden is essential to a viable MG program.  It is not a requirement, as Jennie often reminds me… but a  teaching tool that the coordinator may decide to use as part of the extension program.  Whatever your particular position is on this, the fact remains that a high visibility gardening club must garden in public if it is to be taken seriously, let alone fulfill its MG community outreach mission.



Ornamental Pepper

Hens and chicks

Let’s plan on business as usual until we hear otherwise.  In the meanwhile, keep gardening!


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