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by Nancy Dension, Master Gardener
Butterflies and bugs were the topic of our May 3, 2016 meeting at the Boardman River Nature Center (BRNC). Cyndie and Rob Roach, curators of the Grand Traverse Butterfly House and Bug Zoo, brought along some of their bug friends as they shared their history and knowledge of these important and interesting creatures. Located at 8840 E M-72 in Williamsburg, Cyndie and Rob have created an environment that hosts hundreds of live butterflies, exotic insects and provides much needed information about plants and pollinators. Cyndie talked about the bee population, the need for varying heights and flowering seasons of plants for optimum pollinator populations, as well as the types of chemicals used by many to control unwanted weeds and insects. We were able to take a close look at the samples of items they brought; beautiful and eerie at the same time! The Butterfly House is open daily, 10-5:00, May-October…I hope to visit soon!
Additionally, at the meeting several MG projects and volunteer opportunities were highlighted;
- Tom Patton/Leelanau Co. Gov. Gardens are looking for volunteers for a fun time weeding, deadheading and general maintenance of these established Michigan native gardens.
- Marina, Liz and Mike/Botanical Garden at Historic Barns Park offered volunteers spots for gardening, special events, docent tours, and some heavy stuff with the Possum Lodge Crew.
- Becky Johnson/Peace Ranch can use volunteers Tuesdays and Fridays to help supervise gardening volunteers and for the Ezekiel Memory Garden.
- Martha Dively and Judy Reich/BRNC are trying to expand and maintain the gardens this year and offer various times to help weed and deadhead.
- Cheryl Gross/MGANM requests volunteers for the association’s board; Communication, Membership and Program chairs are still needed. (Note: Ad of this edition, the Membership Chair has been filled by Nancy Larson. Communication and Program Seats are still open!)
- Bruce Barnes, Kathy Marciniak, new graduates of the MG class are interested in help with a demonstration food garden associated with the Father Fred Foundation.
by Nancy Dension, Master Gardener
It was a smallish gathering for our June 7th meeting where Sarah U’Ren from the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay presented big information about our waterways and quality of life. Located near the GT Children’s Museum, the Center’s three full time and two part time staff are advocates for our beautiful bays; speaking up about permits, requests and pipelines. They monitor beaches for water quality as well as streams and offer an ”Adopt a Stream” program to allow residents to help keep an eye on them. We were able to see photos from the Sutton’s Bay Watershed/Rain Garden project which showed the transition to a series of underground trenches and gardens to filter rain water as it flows to the Bay. They are also involved in the restoration rain garden project at Kids Creek near Munson. Thanks so much, Sarah, for your important work to protect our precious water.
Additionally, Jennifer Berkey from our MSU Extension office shared the many duties of her position linking the county extension with MSU Administration. The investment in our communities ranges from providing food preservation classes to maintaining statistics on MG volunteers to educating the public on many aspects of plant growth and continues to be a strong voice in our area. Thank you, Jennifer for your energy in all aspect of your position and for coming to see us again!
Lastly, there was a brief discussion of rejoining the Michigan Master Gardener Association, which was also covered in more detail in the last edition of the Real Dirt. There seemed to be agreement that there were more benefits to rejoining than not. Questions can be referred to Michele Worden, President of MGANM.
by Michele Worden, Advanced Master Gardener, MGANM President
I hope June finds you happily working in your garden. I have been working furiously since I got back from Grand Rapids. Whitney Miller and I recently returned from Master Gardener College feeling inspired and newly armed with knowledge and plants. Back home I installed a Peace Pole that I received as a gift and planted the plants I bought at the Kent County MG plant sale – golden hyssop, a New England aster, a dwarf purple bee balm and the new Cheyenne sunrise coneflower. I also planted the free conference ‘favor’ plants that our hosts, Proven Winners, gave us. The best part is for all that fun at Master Gardener College we each received 16.5 hrs educational hours. More than an entire year of required education in one fell swoop….with free plants. I love it. Highlights of the conference and garden tours are posted on the MGANM Facebook page.
One of the things I came away with from Master Gardener College was how dedicated Master Gardeners are to serving their communities across the state. At the dinner on Friday night, MSUE awarded Gold Badges – a new award – to those who had 1000+ volunteer hours. One woman even had 11,000 lifetime hours! (Our own Lillian Mahaney was included in this group.)
This year was also the first year for the Extraordinary Master Gardener Project Search (a poster display contest) and I was very impressed by all the work that Master Gardeners have done. Projects presented included environmental stewardship through educational sign creation for public spaces, educational display gardens at highway rest stops, memorial gardens to heal a community after tragedy, installing a youth and community garden at a 4H center, and more. Master Gardeners are truly a force for good in their communities: helping address food insecurity, teaching children and their parents about environmental sustainability and just making the world a more beautiful place. Whitney Miller brought home an Honorable Mention for MGANM with the Green Roof Demonstration Garden, the first Michigan all-native green roof, and by far the most original and innovative project presented. Mary Wilson has asked Whitney if she will submit the Green Roof Project as the first Michigan entry for the 2017 International Master Gardener Conference in Portland Oregon. Please say congratulations to Whitney and the entire Green Roof volunteer team when you see them!
On Friday night we attended the annual member meeting of the Michigan Master Gardener Association (MMGA). The MGANM Board is recommending joining our colleagues across the state and affiliating with MMGA affiliation. We had an informal discussion on this topic at the June meeting, and all MG’s in attendance also thought we should affiliate with MMGA. Please watch your email for a link to a voting website soon. Affiliation will require that a majority of MGANM members support the move.
Another thing I noticed at the conference was how long Master Gardeners have been dedicated to their local associations. I spoke with a member of Montcalm Master Gardener’s Association – she was wearing a 20th Anniversary T-shirt – and she told me about their 20th year celebration event. This year is the 20th Anniversary for MGANM (1996-2016) and we are planning an anniversary party too! Please join us on Tuesday August 2nd at 6 pm for a BBQ, some edible herbal delights, and a cake of course! We are inviting all current and past Master Gardeners, friends and partners. The event will feature a Program on the Green Roof Project by Whitney Miller and Nate Griswold, and a guided tour of the native plant gardens at the Boardman River Nature Center by Martha Dively and Becky Mang. You will have the opportunity to meet the new Master Gardener coordinator, Michelle Ferrarese, and clap for the recipients of the Extraordinary Service awards. We are also having a Silent auction to support a new scholarship. We would like to send a representative from MGANM to MG College each year to promote with leadership training, continuity, and connections. In short, it will be a great event! Please share this event with Master Gardeners past and present. We hope you can come! Please rsvp at email@example.com for planning purposes. And Happy Anniversary MGANM!
by Michele Worden, Advanced Master Gardener, MGANM President
I have been attending first the Master Gardener Conference and now Master Gardener College since at least 2006. Attending the conference I come away inspired for the next big garden project and having learned something new. I am always happiest when I am learning something new.
This year’s Master Gardeners College did not disappoint. On the first day, there were tours. I chose the option entitled “The Tour of the Unknown” because Rebecca Finneran and Mary Wilson were leading the tour. These ladies are hilarious and kept us in stitches on the bus, as expected.
Our first stop was to the perennial provider of Proven Winners, Walters Gardens, in the Dutch farming country near Grand Rapids. Pictures are available on Facebook under Master Gardeners Association of Northwest Michigan. I was aware of Proven Winners, but I did not know that the perennials of that marketing brand were provided by Walters Gardens. I did not know that Michigan, in addition to being a fruit and vegetable belt because of our temperate peninsula climate, was also a horticultural powerhouse in the growing of landscape plants, both retail and wholesale. The tireless work that Walter’s Gardens puts into making sure the plants grown are genetically superior by growing through at least 3 Michigan winters in the field is amazing. The perennials are field grown. It was fascinating. Should the deer eat the tops of the plants, they divide the roots for propagation. Lastly, we strolled through the enormous display gardens at the headquarters. These gardens are open to the public during the week. Next year I hope to join a tour that goes through the greenhouses. So many tours, so little time.
We next toured a private residence of a retired horticulturalist. She had a tidy vegetable garden and an informal perennial and wildflower garden that wrapped around her rustic log home. Her vignettes and art work were spectacular. I also have a log home with a rather wild wrap-around garden. I am inspired to take a page out of her design book and add some art and more vignettes.
Our last tour was to the home of the owner of Sweat Meadow Nursery, the Proven Winners providers for shrubs and woody ornamentals. The large gardens of the owners’ house serve as a display and a plant trial garden. These are the gardens featured in the Proven Winners catalog. Strolling along a portion of the gardens nestled along the Grand River, we learned about the latest in breeding in hydrangeas, ninebark, and shrub roses, among others. To get more plant variety, they force the recessive genes expression by crossing sibling plants. Many new cultivars are also hybrids of the Asian and North American varieties. There are some exciting plants coming out soon!
On Friday night, we enjoyed a dinner with an award ceremony for the “Gold Badge” volunteers, MG’s that have over 1000 hrs in service to their communities. We also saw the poster session displays from the Extraordinary Master Gardener Project search, including our own Michigan’s first all native plant Green Roof Project. Additionally, Whitney and I attended the annual member meeting of the Michigan Master Gardener Association (MMGA), and applauded the new chapters that have joined in the past year. MMGA has grown into a strong voice for Master Gardeners across the State.
On day 2 of the College, we enjoyed education lectures and two keynote speakers. Educational hours for the conference exceeds the yearly requirement. The morning keynote speaker, Paul Zammit from Toronto Botanical Garden, was inspirational. His talked was entitled “The Power of Horticulture” and he extolled that amazing benefit of gardening for all ages. He talked about the difference that Master Gardeners make and encouraged us to “get out there” and share what we have learned with young and old.
In the Soils session, we had an explanation of Cation Exchange Capacity (CAC) and how this is one of the most important aspects of soil and your soil test. A good soil is around 14, while a sterile potting soil mix is a paltry 4 – which is why you have to keep fertilizing. A CAC of 4 means that the soil does not hold any of the fertilizer in the soil for the plant to adsorb later. I also learned that if your builder scraped off all the top soil with it’s top soil “structure”, adding compost to subsoil does not help you. You need to buy top soil and put that down. Compost can provide hummus but cannot rebuild the soil structure and plants do not grow in subsoil.
The College is an ideal place to learn about the pressing environmental needs/issues of our time. There were several sessions on native plants and pollinators, two issues that are intertwined and important for Master Gardeners to disseminate scientific knowledge to help our communities create healthy ecosystems. One of the things that was really interesting and useful was the lecture by the afternoon keynote speaker, Dr. Whitney Granshaw, a Colorado State University Entomologist. Whitney explained the interactions of the pollinator web in the garden and showed us the difference stages of well known beneficial insects. We all know what a lady bug adult looks like, but what about the early life cycle stages? I learned that is it important to identify a lady bug at each of its metamorphosis stages, because the less well known early stages are when they are voracious and eat all the harmful inspects in the garden. You do not want to unknowingly kill the larval, or early, stages but many people do.
Throughout the conference attendees may shop – for rare plants, garden tools and garden art in the Master Gardener Marketplace. This year we also participated in the Kent Country Master Gardener plant sale, which had terrific plant variety. I was excited to find a native I usually grow from seed and a new cultivar of coneflower “Cheyenne Spirit”.
Finally, there were some sessions that were just pure fun. Paul Zammit offered a session on designing container plants, and Jessica Wright from the MSU Children’s Garden was intriguing with an all herb ornamental landscape, plus some fun uses for those herbs. Did we mention that many herbs are great butterfly host plants? Herbs make a yummy and beneficial landscape solution.
There is still so much to learn – which is why I love being a Master Gardener! I hope that you can join us next year for Master Gardener College. You owe yourself a treat!