Administration – March 2018

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President’s Letter: Impatient for Spring

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

Benzie Lighthouse

President’s Letter: Impatient for Spring

by Michele Worden, Advanced Extension Master Gardener

The days get longer, and the extra light is intoxicating.  Every time there is a thaw it feels like spring is right around the corner.  Then it gets cold and snows again; winter descends.  But spring will not be denied.   Are you ready for some plant talk?

Upcoming programs.  We have two programs coming in March that talk about types of plants for your garden.  These programs encompass two ends of a spectrum in garden design.  

On March 6th, our own Cheryl Gross will talk about how to design your garden with native plants.  Native plants have so many benefits.  They promote wildlife, support pollinators and, when established, need less water and human support to thrive.  They also provide a harmonious connection to the fields and forests that surround them.  They are the best choice for a sustainable garden that supports out ecosystem.

On March 14th, we will again host Heidi Grasman from Garden Crossings, a Proven Winners™ grower.  This is a joint event with the Botanic Garden at their Visitor Center.  Heidi will present the latest cultivars of our favorite garden plants that she has been helping to develop.  These will be plants with showy flowers, new leaf colors, better drought hardiness or new forms (e.g. compact or tall).  Getting the next best version of a plant is a time-tested garden obsession.  Proven Winners™ plants have been bred for Michigan climates.  They are bred to be more resilient, need less water and to be more disease resistant.  In short, to be both beautiful and novel and to take fewer inputs than other plants – less water, pesticides and fungicides.  If you just must have the latest and greatest, these are plants that have a smaller footprint on the environment.  

We will also have a fabulous program on April 3rd about herbs by member Julie Krist.  I don’t know anyone who knows more about growing herbs, or cooks with them so well, as Julie.  She is the founder of our local herb group as well as past officer of Michigan Herb Associates – which has a fabulous conference each year.  Enjoy!

Planning survey on the horizon.  Finally, MGANM has grown much in the past two years.  We want to make sure we continue to grow in the right ways in the future – and meet our members’ needs.  Please be on the lookout for a survey from the board in the coming months as part of our strategic planning process.  We appreciate your time in completing it – and helping us meet your needs in the future.   MMGA is undergoing a similar process so you may see a survey from them also.  Be thinking also about what programs you would like to see next year.  It is not too early to be thinking about 2019!  Send program ideas to

Wear your logowear!  Help spread the word about the impact Master Gardeners have in the community by wearing your logowear.  Logowear can be purchased at the Oakland county website

Thanks for all you do!


Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator for Leelanau, Benzie and GT County

Spring is a busy time for everyone, especially gardeners.  At the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, we want to make it easy for you to find volunteer opportunities.

  • The best way for a certified Extension Master Gardener to find information about local master gardener projects is through the MSU EMG Volunteer Management System (VMS).  The VMS homepage will often contain info about new projects or those that are currently seeking more volunteers.  You can even use the Event Calendar on the left side of the VMS homepage to find and sign up for upcoming MG events!  The full list of area projects can be found by clicking on the Projects link under General Information.  This will take you to a list of educational opportunities and projects.  Click on the project name for a description and contact info of the project’s leader(s).  The project information found on the VMS is maintained by your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador, and it will contain the most up to date project information for your area.
  • A list of area Master Gardener projects can also typically be found on your local Master Gardener Association web page.  In Northwest Michigan, for example, the MGANM maintains a list of MG projects by county with links to partner websites where available.

When in doubt, contact your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador for additional project information. 

Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping to make a difference in your community!

News & Event – March 2018

Below are some of the upcoming events offered in our area through our Association, the Boardman River Nature Center, Plant It Wild, and The Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park. Check each of their websites for even more summer fun. Most, if not all, of these events earn either education or volunteer hours.


Landscape Design with Native Plants

Presented by Cheryl Gross, president of Plant It Wild and Advanced Extension Master Gardener

Tuesday, March 6th at 6:30 pm  Potluck and socializing begins at 6 pm

Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road, Traverse City, MI 49685

All Master Gardeners and the public are invited.  A $5 donation from non- members is appreciated.

Hot Plants for 2018!

Presented by Heidi Grasman of Garden Crossings Nursery in Holland, MI and Proven Winners

Joint Program with the Botanic Gardens at Historic Barns Park.

Wednesday, March 14th 2018 at7 p.m. at the Visitor Center, 1490 RedDrive, Traverse City.  

*Reservations required*

Growing and Cooking with Herbs

Presented by Julie Krist, past president of Michigan Herb Associates, founder of Herbal Renewal and Advanced Master Gardener 

Tuesday, April 3rd 2018 at 6:30 pm  Potluck and socializing begins at 6 pm

Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Street, Traverse City


Boardman River Nature Center

Annual Native Seedling Sale Pre-Orders

March 1-30   

Visit or call 231-941-0960 to place an order.

Successfully Choosing & Planting Seedlings Workshop

March 13, 5:30-7:30 pm

Planting Native Gardens to Beautiful your Landscape & to Promote Backyard Habitat

April 10, 5:30-7:30 pm, Vern Stephens, Designs By Nature, Free


The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

Hip House Plants

Saturday, Mar 10th 1-3pm  by Julia Hoffley  Charge: $10       

Proven Winners for 2018

Wednesday Mar 14th BG is pleased to partner with Master Gardeners bringing Heidi Grasman to talk about Hot Plants for 2018.  Class is FREE and will be at the Botanic Garden .

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Wednesday Apr 4th 7-9pm   by Linda Schubert &  Janet Kivell  FREE.

Growing and Caring for Orchids

Wednesday, Apr 11th  7-9pm Growing and Caring for Orchids by Jim Scrivener  FREE      

Straw Bale Gardening

Wednesday, Apr 18th  7-9pm  by Carlleen Rose  FREE

*Note:  All classes will be held at the Botanic Garden Visitor Center.  Pre-registration and tickets are required for all events due to space and are available on the website.


Steward – January 2018

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My Friend, The Walking Stick

Seed Stratification

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

Walking stick, photo by MG Amy Tongue

My Friend, The Walking Stick

by Amy Tongue, Master Gardener

This friendly fellow was my pet for a few days thanks to the help of a fellow Master Gardener.  She knew I was taking an entomology class and I had to turn in a collection for points.  I was desperately asking friends for help, since frost was lurking just around the corner.

Did you know that walking sticks are herbivores?  Since I had it in captivity, I needed to know what to feed it.  They love oak leaves, and it vigorously ate a large chunk out of the leaf I gave it.  They can be destructive defoliators in parks and recreation sites when there are severe outbreaks.

They are also really good at playing hide and go seek because they resemble a stick and can remain very still. Some species cover themselves with material that resembles moss or lichens, and others change color to match their surroundings.  Since they are nocturnal, and feed and move at night, they also escape predators.

I was amazed at its acrobatics in my container.  It could hang upside down because it has sticky “toe pads” and non-stick “heel pads” which allowed it to grip when needed, yet be mobile without having to peel away at each step.

This insect, however, will not win the “Mother of the Year” award.  Some fling their eggs from the tree tops to the ground hoping for the best.  Some females are parthenogenic so do not need males to produce fertilized eggs.  These eggs resemble seeds which allows for a really interesting relationship with ants.  The ants collect the eggs and remove a cap to feed their larvae.  This doesn’t harm the walking stick egg, so they rest comfortably in the ant nest until they hatch and walk away as a nymph.  This nymph will enlarge in stages until it becomes an adult.  How cool is that!

I am learning that we are surrounded by insects more than I ever realized.  Some beneficial and some harmful.  It has been eye opening to study some in more depth, such as my friend the walking stick.

Handmade seed containers, done in Advanced Master Gardener Lillian Mahaney’s JRMG class (photo by Adv MG L. Mahaney)

Seed Stratification

by Michael O’Brien, Master Gardener

Winter is here, and that means it’s time to begin thinking about what to grow this coming summer!  

The first step is to find the seeds that were put aside from the past growing season.  Well,  maybe not all of them.  I’m referring to the ones that need to go through a process called, “Seed Stratification.”  This is a process that nature has created to insure plants don’t germinate at the wrong time of the year.  Many seed species have an embryonic dormancy phase and generally will not sprout until this dormancy is broken.  That means they will not germinate unless they go through a period of cold temperatures.  This includes many perennials and native plants, as well as certain evergreens and maples.

Personally, I am looking to attract more bees and monarch butterflies so I’m going to plant milkweed, Asclepias.   The process I am going to use will be cold and moist.  To begin, I will start by separating the silky hairs from the seed.  Once I have collected all of my seeds, I will then place them on a damp paper towel.  Another damp paper towel gets placed on top seeds.  The paper towels are put in a sealed plastic bag to keep the moisture from evaporating.  Label the bag and place it in a container.  The container can be stored in the refrigerator or a shed where it will be safe and undisturbed.  Four to six weeks before the last frost, the seeds come out of the bag and they get planted in potting soil.  These seeds will begin to sprout in about two weeks.  Sprouting time will vary depending on the plant.

There is also another way to stratify you’re seeds.  It’s a cold, dry method.  Rather than placing the seeds on a damp paper towel, they are instead planted directly in potting soil.  The seeds and soil are left dry and again in a cold area.  Come spring, germinate as you normally would.  

Good articles on seed stratification can be found on the internet at the Gardening Know How site ( and the Permaculture Research Institute (

Brian Zimmerman of Four Season Nursery (photo by MG W. Miller)

October MG Meeting — “Plants Deer Don’t Eat”

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

The October 3rd MGANM meeting featured Brian Zimmerman and Tom Ford from Four Season Nursery in Traverse City on favorite annual topic: deer resistant plants.  They shared  several deer feeding tidbits, some of which were a surprise to me.  

For example, deer like plants with protein — high in nitrogen, especially bucks.  They also like fresh growth leaves with high water content.  You could see this in the Glen Arbor area this past spring and summer, where deer were feeding on the expansive understory growth which was created by the huge storm in August 2015.

Other interesting deer facts – they do not like fuzzy leaves, gray leaves and scented foliage (lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage).  Deer also follow a route, prefer the edges of a forest and have two to three fawns a year.  

Suggested practices to limit deer browsing included: dogs, fencing, large crush stone mulch, motion detectors, sprinklers and fishing line double stretched between posts.  Cutting back on watering and fertilizing was also discussed.  In addition, you can use “Deer Stopper” and other such sprays every two weeks, but alternate between the brands so deer don’t get used to the same scent.

Several plant/shrub/tree lists were available for reference and reading pleasure, as the battle between deer and humans takes a bit of a rest over the winter months. Thanks so much to Brian and Tom for their expertise and time with us!

*To review the recommended plants lists from Brian and Tom, look at the Michigan Resources tab on our page HERE.

Nourish – January 2018

TC Community Garden:  New Year, New Leadership, New Benefits

by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener

If you have any interest in growing your own food, you should look into renting a plot from TC Community Garden (TCCG).  Located in the Historic Barns Park at the southwest corner of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, TCCG is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide a place for people in the area to gather and share a common interest in organic gardening in an urban setting.  

It also offers educational opportunities to the community and provides fresh produce for numerous charities.  In fact, the TCCG Teaching and Donation Garden collected over 1300 pounds of food this past growing season, which is donated on the day it is picked to Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan and distributed to area food pantries.

These three pillars of its mission – gathering, education and growing – have been the focus of the organization since it first went into operation in 2012.  Explosive growth in the organization over the past few years, though, has TCCG looking at new ways of implementing this mission.

“We really took a look at the mission statement and operational model and made some adjustments to make sure we are giving members a high-quality experience at TC Community Garden,” said TCCG Board of Directors President Zach Millican.


Gathering and Growing

One such adjustment has to do with the organization’s garden plots.   In years past, a member  had to also manage a plot.  This year, managing a plot is an add-on to membership.  Any persons who support the mission may now join the garden.  “We wanted membership to be more inclusive,” Millican said.  

Membership fees for 2018 are $35 for an individual, $60 for a duo, $100 for a family and $175 for a business/sponsor.  Membership includes free admission to most of its 2018 programming, currently about 30 events focused on promoting the TCCG’s strong fellowship.  Plot rental will be extra — $65 for a 12’ by 30’ plot or $130 for a 24’ by 30’ plot — plus an active gardener fee.   Plot renters will enjoy on-demand water, on-site composting, free soil amendments and cover crops, discounted starter plants and seeds, access to community tools and new this year, personal gardening assistance.

Plot renters must agree to organic growing practices, actively manage the plot through weeding, watering and pest control, and be an ambassador for the garden and park.  In the past, gardeners were required to commit 12 hours to help manage the garden.  However, the organization believes this detracted from members having a good gardeing experience, so it has been eliminated for 2018.



Changes have come to other areas of the organization as well.  In December, TCCG members voted to hire an executive director to help run what had been a solely volunteer-run group.   Kimberly Conaghan, who had been president and treasurer for two years, is stepping into the new position.  Acting as the liaison between the Board of Directors and the membership, she said she is extremely honored to be TCCG’s first Executive Director.  She will also be at the TCCG managing some of the new day-to-day operations.

“A big focus in 2018 is on educational programming, and more specifically, our children’s education and programming,” Conaghan said.  “There will be a weekly story time in the garden followed by a garden-themed arts and craft activity, and a monthly kids’ workshop, each with a different theme, and many family-friendly events at the September 30 Harvest Festival.”

In addition, each Friday beginning in June, TCCG will also have a Garden Market Stand offering organically grown produce to the public.  Members of TCCG will receive coupons and steep discounts.  All excess produce will continue to be donated to local charitable causes.

Also new for 2018 will be a Farm-to-Table Dinner series.  “We are still ironing out some dates and details, but they will incredible,” Conaghan said.  “We are hoping to also make them zero waste and locally sourced.”

The organization’s complete programming lineup will be released in February.

With all of the growth and changes coming to TCCG in 2018, you might be asking yourself, “where do I sign up?”  Membership for 2018 is happening now, and new plot renters may request a plot beginning January 1 by emailing  

Remember, you must be a member to rent a plot.  You can also reach the TCCG anytime by calling 231-715-1544.  

Beautify – January 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Winter Interest in the Garden

Amaryllis – The Gift that Keeps Giving

Book Review — The Reason for Flowers

Winter interest, photo by AMG Cheryl Gross

Winter Interest in the Garden

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener

As a whole, gardeners LOVE their flowers.  From late spring to early fall in northern Michigan we eagerly anticipate, enjoy and finally ‘tidy-up’ after our perennial gardens.  Generously, that provides 4 months of interest.  There are 12 months in a year and for eight long months a flower garden is generally blah.  Blah, blah, blah.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Now is the time to gaze at your garden under the snow and plan for a livelier, interesting winter garden showplace.

An effective garden design begins with structure. One focal point shrub or small tree may be all that is needed in a small garden to give it eye-popping interest.  In a larger space, consider a small tree and shrubs.  Draw the garden space on graph paper and place a woody plant where it provides interest from all viewing sites.  Often, it is near the center of the bed or off to a background edge.  Keeping things in odd numbers is an easy rule of thumb; one specimen tree with three shrubs.  Consider scale, such as expected height and width of the woody plant and response to pruning.  Then consider shape.  Will a single trunk small tree suit the garden style or a multi trunk?  Single trunk appears more formal, while multi trunk appears less formal…even with the same species.  Would vase-shape or globe shape fit your idea of beauty.  Finally, consider the branch.  A red twig dogwood is just that… RED!  Having red stems contrast with white snow for four months of the year is as good as a blossom.  The peeling bark of the vase-shaped nine bark gives a different, interesting ‘look’.  While at study for woody shrubs and small trees, make note of bloom time and color.  Many of these plants also add a nectar source for pollinators and butterflies, a larval host for caterpillars and a berry for birds.

Another structural feature to have in a garden is hardscape.  A low stone wall, cluster of large boulders, an arbor or plant support of some kind left out all season adds interest to a flat landscape.  Some of these items may actually be lost in a summer garden, such as a large chunk of driftwood, only to reappear after plant dieback.

Once the garden structure is in place, move on to perennials.  Which perennials in the garden have stiff stems to withstand winter weather?  Purple coneflower, Iron Weed, Butterfly Weed and Penstemon come to mind.  While still ‘dead’, the stems provide a place for your eye to scan or land when gazing at the garden.  The sturdy stems provide a reminder that under the frost and deep snow a beautiful flowering plant sleeps. Additionally, some of these spent flower heads offer nutritious seeds for birds, especially the purple coneflower or sunflower family.

Finally, many of the clump forming grasses produce gorgeous seed heads.  The tall Indian Grass blooms yellow in August and stands tall through the winter, waving with the strong winds.  Shorter grasses such as Little Blue Stem and Prairie Dropseed keep their seed heads through the early winter season and end as mounds under the snow.  On a slope, these mounds evoke a miniature mogul ski run.

A final word on winter interest in the garden addresses fall clean-up.  In other words, don’t bother.  Leaving stems and fallen plants in the garden provides insect and critter habitat crucial to their survival.  These mounds and stems also provide us a vision of a garden hibernating awaiting the first thin rays of spring sun to melt the snow and send up bright spring shoots ahead of the summer flowers.


List of Plants for Winter Interest:

Serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis.  Offers an arching, vase shape.

Red osier dogwood, Cornus stolonifera Red-barked stems/branches.

Winterberry, Ilex verticillata. Red-orange berries.

Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius. Arching branch form with shaggy bark on older stems.

Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum trilobum.  Tall, rounded shape with big, red berries that persist through winter to be an early spring food for birds.

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Stiff stems with seed pods.

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.  Stiff stems and bird-preferred seed heads.

Foxglove beardtongue, Penstemon digitalis. Stiff stems.

Iron weed, Vernonia fasciculata.  Tall, stiff stem with a flat, umbrel seed head.

Culver’s Root, Veronicastrum virginicum.  Stiff stems, seed heads resemble trident-like forks.

Little Blue Stem, Schizachyrium scoparium.  Feathery seed heads in early winter, mound in deep winter.

Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans.  Tall, fluffy seed heads.

Amaryllis, photo by AMG Michele Worden

Amaryllis – The Gift that Keeps Giving

by Michele Worden, Advanced Master Gardener

As I enter the growing area in my garage, I see that one of my eleven potted amaryllis bulbs is about to flower.  I like to maintain these plants under the grow lights in my garage to keep them short until close to blooming.  Now is time, though, to take this one precocious bulb inside so it can shine!

A good time to buy amaryllis bulbs is after Christmas.  You will see them on sale everywhere.  I usually can’t resist.  Amaryllis is a tender perennial bulb.  You can keep it forever and with benign neglect (or minimal care) it will rebloom for years.

When you first get a bulb or a bulb in a kit, you want to plant the bulb in pre-moistened soil in a pot that fits tightly – no more than a one-inch space between the bulb and the pot.  The roots like to be crowded.  The bulb should sit up in the pot, only half covered with soil.

Put your newly planted bulb in a warm dark place until the lone flower stalk starts to emerge.  I usually put it in a dark corner of my house on top of a floor heating vent.  Do not water again until the flower stalk starts to emerge.

When it blooms you many need to tie it to a stake if it gets too leggy.  I try to put it in a sunny area of my living room under the sky lights.  Sometimes the plant will send up another flower stalk and extend the indoor blooming.  Blooms last a couple weeks, though some types develop more than one flower on a stalk like a lily and can last a month or more.

After it blooms, it will produce several long thin green leaves.  Just keep it watered and lightly fertilized like any house plant.  In the summer I put them on my deck in bright but not really direct sunlight.  Towards fall I try to remember to stop watering it and let it dry out so that it can go dormant.  In a good year I remember to take It inside my garage early enough (August or September) to rebloom for Christmas time.  Otherwise, I just take it indoors with the other plants in mid-October and plan to enjoy it over the winter.

Amaryllis needs about three months of a dark, dry dormancy to rebloom.  I put the pots in my garage (kept at 50-60 degrees F) in a dark corner in a brown paper grocery bag.  I tuck the bags in out of the way corners, and try to remember to check on them occasionally.   I have heard people also put them inside in closets.

This year my resolution is to not forget about them.  Last May I noticed a long pale ghostly white flower stalk peeking out of the top of a bag in the corner of the garage.  It was a full-size amaryllis that had grown in darkness in the bag!  I quickly checked all my bulbs.  Some had bloomed in the bags…LOL.  Luckily, the green returned to the white stalks when I moved then into the light, and we enjoyed the leggy flowers in late May.  Still beautiful, if a tab unseasonal.  Happily, this year I actually have some ready to go for Christmas!  

But I will still probably buy more after Christmas.

“The Reason for Flowers”, photo by MG Nancy Denison

Book Review — The Reason for Flowers

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

Have you read the book, The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann?  I found it at a local bookstore, on sale, and thought it might be a good addition to my small collection of gardening /plant books. It was published by Scribner, in 2015, and authored by a pollination ecologist, entomologist and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona.  He previously published, The Forgotten Pollinator and Honey Bees: Letters From the Hive.

The Reason for Flowers  is organized into five sections, each with two or three chapters  combining historical facts and everyday examples in an easy to read and interesting style.

Part One, entitled “Sexuality and Origins,” explains how flowers evolved from small leaves bunched together at the stem tip to losing their green color and developing petal and bract structures over time. Buchmann likens flowers to “cafes and rest stops,” offering pollinators a wealth of four types of food:  nectar, pollen, floral oils and the edible body tissues of some.

Part Two—”Growing, Breeding and Selling” tells of the history of ornamental gardens including flowers, topiaries, obelisks, figurines and more. Flowers were used for burials and funerals dating back to Neanderthals, as well as for research and breeding from Asia to Europe and the Americas.  Today we can get our cut flowers from a small florist to a big box warehouse. Not too long ago, California was the mainstay for the cut flower industry.  However, Columbia, Ecuador and Costa Rica with their rich soil, constant climate and 12 hours of daylight all year, are now the largest producers of flowers for our markets.

“Foods, Flavors and Scents” takes on how we eat the flowers of plants such as broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes and the importance of knowing what plants are non- edible. The information on saffron, cloves and honey adds to the awareness of how all things in nature are so interconnected.  The chapter describing the ancient use of flower or plant oil for fragrance begins with the Arabs prior to the 10th century when they learned how to distill fragrance from fresh flowers creating the first rose water. The use of flower oils and essences for our wellbeing is as strong as ever today.

Part Four’s chapters offers some history of the secret language of meaning in giving and receiving flowers and how all cultures have used flowers as the subject of poems, stories, myths and art, from the early Sumerians to the Grimm Brothers versions of the French and German fairy tales to the landscape paintings by early Asian cultures.

Lastly, “Flowers in the Service of Science and Medicine” explains how the scientific study of flowers has changed how we see our world. Linnaeus, Mendel and Darwin among many others, brought to light how plants regenerate, travel from one part of the world to another, can be modified, provide food, shelter and cures for simple and serious ailments. Simply put, we need nature and nature needs us!

The book closes with appendices on flower statistics, recipes, how to care for cut flowers and online resources for conservation organizations.

Sometimes a book just pops out at you and you discover it is just what you need!


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