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December 2010 Archives

A Holiday Message to You

People often comment to me "Winter must be your quiet time". I just chuckle. They naturally thinkThumbnail image for DSCF0693.JPG that just because the plants are dormant, we are too. LOL!

Life around the state office is hectic year-round, but especially in December as we prepare for the upcoming core course. One hundred fifteen people are registered for the Arboretum site and another 50 or so for the online class PLUS 30-some credit students. (I'll see you all in April when I come up for air!)

Another year has sped by and we are looking into 2011 with positive anticipation. Bridget is helping people get their hours in, Dave is collecting county reports for the annual report, and I have been rebuilding the online class site in Moodle - and attending meetings about new projects, finances, collaborations. I wish we had a boring day once in a while, but I guess this is the nature of the job. Never a dull moment!

Amidst all the hectic times, it's important to stop and be thankful for the people in your life. I am thankful for my wonderful husband, Karl,  (pictured here with our dog Nikki and me). He is my biggest fan and totally flexes with my constantly moving schedule. I am thankful for Dave and Bridget - I don't know what I would do without them. I am thankful for the county coordinators and volunteer leaders around Minnesota who help keep volunteers in their communities informed, supported and working as a team. I am thankful for all the people here at the U who support our program from our deans to our department head to our communications and IT people.

Last but not least, I am thankful for all of you and all that you do to help bring horticulture to people in your communities. My best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for sharing your time and talents and for volunteering as a Master Gardener the past year.

Here's to a great 2011 together!

Thumbnail image for Holiday plants - Ext slide 1.jpgHappy holidays Master Gardeners!

I created the following Powerpoint for a recent presentation I did at an independent living complex. In fact, I just gave it yesterday, and you are welcome to use it.

Holiday Plants.ppt

Have a very happy holiday season!
Click to print PDF fact sheet:

Additional info from the MDA:

As Minnesotans deck their halls this holiday season, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is asking them to watch for Oriental bittersweet - an invasive imposter easily mistaken for a common decorative holiday vine called American bittersweet.

Oriental bittersweet is established in many eastern states, and in 2010 was found in Winona and the Twin Cities. The vine is sometimes collected for use in wreaths and other decorative arrangements due to its bright fruit. However, this attractive indoor garland turns ugly in a forest environment by strangling and smothering trees. When established, it can dominate the forest canopy, reduce forest productivity, and block sunlight from understory plants.

According to Monika Chandler, an MDA invasive plant specialist, the vine is right up with buckthorn when it comes to troublesome plan. "Oriental bittersweet is considered a serious threat to our forests based on what it has done in the eastern states," Chandler says. "You don't want this vine on your property if you can avoid it."

Oriental bittersweet plants spread when people unwittingly transport the vines or seeds, or plant them when mistaking them for the desirable native and non-invasive American bittersweet. While American and Oriental bittersweets have red fruit and look similar, they are easy to distinguish in winter by the color of their fruit capsules, which surround the red fruit. American bittersweet has orange fruit capsules, while Oriental bittersweet has yellow fruit capsules.

To help prevent the spread of this nasty vine, MDA asks Minnesotans who find it in holiday decorations to bag or burn the materials. Minnesotans who believe they have found an infestation of their vine can contact the department's Arrest the Pest Hotline at 651-201-6684 or 1-888-545-6684. Potential detections can also be reported by email to MDA at

Chanhassen, MN (Dec. 16, 2010) - Award-winning teacher and author Toni McNaron, University of Minnesota professor emerita of English, will teach a new series, "Books in the Garden," at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.The monthly noontime sessions will meet the second Wednesday of the month, Jan. 12 through June 8, exploring the idea of "the garden" in literature from classic to contemporary.  Class members will arrive at the Arboretum's Learning Center having read the selected text and be ready to engage in a lively discussion with McNaron.

"We're looking forward to having such a gifted teacher as Toni here to lead this class," said Susan Thurston-Hamerski, manager of adult education. "People can bring a brown bag lunch and spend time talking about rich literature with a group of book lovers. There are six sessions, and I expect those who enroll will appreciate the community of a book club, without anyone needing to clean their house. Toni will present the context and background of the work and the authors first. People will know they will get a lot covered during their lunch hour, and they will be welcome to linger as long as they wish."

A sampling of the literature includes "Gardens in the Dunes" by Leslie Marmon Silko, "Rappacini's Daughters" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Kew Gardens" by Virginia Woolf, and "Quite a Year for Plums" by Bailey White.

 Books for the sessions can be ordered through Mary Cheleen of the Arboretum's Gift Store at 952-443-4409.       

The "Books in the Garden" course meets at noon on the following Wednesdays: Jan. 12, Feb. 9, March 9, April 13, May 11, and June 8 in the Marion Andrus Learning Center and costs $60 for Arboretum members or $70 for non-members. A full description and registration information can be found at or call 952-443-1422.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest, is part of  the University of Minnesota's  College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. It is located nine miles west of I-494 on Highway 5 in Chanhassen. Open daily except for Thanksgiving & Christmas Day. Adults: $9; free for ages 15 & younger and free for members. Admission is free all day Thursday, November through March.
Interested in attending the Northern Green Expo? This a tradeshow and educational conference for the green industry (landscaping, nurseries, irrigation, hardscapes, etc.) and is hosted by the MN Nursery and Landscape Association and the MN Turf and Grounds Foundation. Details at The Expo is being held Jan. 5-7 at the Mpls Convention Center.

The University has a large booth in the tradeshow education area where various exhibits engage visitors. Almuni, students, staff and faculty all volunteer in the booth. I am looking for up to 6 Master Gardeners to run a "Q&A Wheel". Visitors spin the wheel, it lands on a green industry topic area (ex: landscaping) and the MG asks and prepared question / answer. If the visitor answers it correctly, they receive a prize. It's a little "carnival-ish" but fun none the less and you'll have the opportunity to attend the sessions on plants, landscapes, irrigation, turf, etc.

Volunteer receive free admission to the tradeshow. A pass to educational sessions can be purchased at the Expo. You may count the hours in the booth, manning the wheel, as volunteer hours for the state program.

Below are time slots open for volunteering. Please let me know ASAP if you would like to volunteer! - Thanks - jw

Norther Green Expo - UMN Booth
Wednesday, January 5th
  • 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
  • 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 6th
  • 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
  • 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Friday, January 6th
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

The 2011 Minnesota Organic Conference is a great continuing ed opportunity for you as Master Gardeners! The agenda includes sessions on soil biology, soil fertility and composting, vegetable grafting, season extension, GAP, scaling/sizing operations for retail sales, marketing, and others.

The conference dates are January 14-15 and location is Saint Cloud.  There's also an optional pre-conference afternoon workshop on Jan 13 about conserving habitat for native pollinators!

Conference early-bird registration ends FRIDAY DEC. 17. Save $25 off the two day conference or $15 off 1-day registration.

 The full program is at


The UMN Extension Master Gardener Program was featured in the January 2011 issue of Urban Farm magazine. The article, Superheroes of American Horticulture, featured  Ramsey County Master Gardener, Leonard Gloeb, who has volunteered over 16,000 hours as a Master Gardener. Mny of Leonard's hours have been spent at Children's Hospital in ST. Paul. The article also noted Master Gardeners involvement with Dream of Wild Health and Sabbathani Community Center's Urban Gardener Program taught by Hennepin County Master Gardeners.

Thank you to Leonard, Terry Straub and Sarah Jaycocks for their input and to the article's author, Adrianne L. Shtop from Urban Farm magazine!

To read the entire article: Superheroes of American Horticulture.pdf.pdf
Picture 3.jpg

Wow! Where did the time go?!

The 2011 Master Gardener Core Course is right around the corner!

We have another big and busy class schedule ahead! The class will be held at the MN Landscape Arboretum Jan. 8 - Feb. 4), in Winona (Jan. 29 - Feb 26), in Morris (Mar. 15 - Apr. 9) and online (Jan. 11 - May 6). Class site specifics can be found on the state MG website. Click the following link to download the 2011 class schedule.

2011 Master Gardener Core Course Schedule.pdf

Please note: space is limited in all locations. Interns, ProHort, and U credit students have first priority for seating in these classes. Active MGs may attend space permitting. Note on Jan. 15, the Arboretum class will be held in the Snyder auditorium. Space will be very limited that day.

Registration for the Arboretum class closed Dec. 8. There will be 116 students attending (106 MG Interns, 10 ProHort + 3 University credit students). The online class registration closes on Dec. 11. So far, 76 students are registered (68 interns, 8 ProHort). Thirty-one credit students total are registered for the class.

Active and emeritus Master Gardeners may attend any of the classes - including online - for free and count these classes as continuing education (CE) hours. Instructions for accessing the online class will be published on this blog in early January.

NEW IN 2011: The online class has been migrated to Moodle. Moodle is easier to use than WebVista and I think you'll like it much more. As I said above, the online class will be available to active MGs for review. You are also welcome to attend the "live chats" online. The class calendar will list these chats as well as the class schedule.

All core course students are registered and have access to the online class site - even if they are attending the face-to-face classes. This allows everyone to have the option of attending a "live" class or doing their classwork online and is designed to offer flexibility and be equitable for all students. The online class site will be available about one week prior to the first day of the online class (Jan. 11).

Due to congestion at the large information desk in the Arboretum Great Hall, we experimented with Master Gardeners taking up residence in the Snyder Building and on the Morgan Terrace answering people's gardening questions. The reviews were mixed - some liked it, some did not. In the end, we have decided the Great Hall is where we, as Master Gardeners, and the Yard & Garden Desk need to be.

In 2011, we will be back in the Great Hall possibly at a new Y&G Desk separate from the information desk. That is still being decided at the time of this post. Questions are pretty low in Dec and Jan, so we have decided to take a vacation from the desk until Feb. 1 when the Y&G Dsk will open in the Great Hall.

County and local groups in the metro area will also be asked to commit to staffing the desk with at least one person from Feb 1 - Dec. 1. This will eliminate the randomness of staffing (and my blatant appeals for volunteers on Friday afternoons!). Open slots will be available for volunteers from outside the metro throughout the months.

The 2011 calendar will be available soon for you to get on the schedule. Sign up right away to get your first choice!
Master Gardener State Advisory Board

The State Master Gardener Advisory Board is an important body of Master Gardener volunteers who have a strong interest in providing input and advice on the direction of our program to the State Master Gardener program team. Board members serve as ambassadors for the Master Gardener Program whenever possible, and provide valuable communication to their home county and surrounding counties as requested.

Applications are now open for four advisory board member positions from the following geographic locations:
2 members - Metro area
1 member - South of I-94
1 member - North of I-94

The State Advisory Board meets four times a year at the UMN Landscape Arboretum. New in 2011 is the option for participation via Skype or a similar technology. We hope this option of travel or technology will encourage more Master Gardeners to apply and participate. Members are required to attend a minimum of three meetings per year either in person or via technology. In the case of inclement weather, meetings may be proceed online for all members or be rescheduled.

Volunteer Hours: Board members may count activities associated with their participation on the Board as volunteer hours under the category H. Administrative :#2 Serve on State Advisory Board.

Any active, certified Master Gardener may apply to become a board member. Board members vote on the applicants at the January meeting, and the new members' terms begin in June. If you would like to apply to be considered for a place on the Board, please send the following:
  1. A letter stating your interest and qualifications for serving on the Board
  2. A letter of recommendation from your County program coordinator or volunteer leader.

You may also recommend a fellow Master Gardener for the Board.

Please submit your letters of application to Cindy Borgen, Vice Chair Master Gardener State Advisory Board

** Please attach letters and include in the subject line MGSAB Application

Mail: Cindy Borgen, 36599 Co. 57 Blvd, Dennison, MN, 55018.

About the Master Gardener State Advisory Board
The Board membership is comprised of 12 UMN Extension Master Gardener volunteers who serve a three year term in an advisory capacity to the Master Gardener director.

Six members represent the 13 county metro area. Three members represent counties north of I-94. Three represent counties south of I-94

In addition, there is one member each representing Master Gardener coordinators, extension educators, regional directors, and the Arboretum. The Master Gardener state director and program manager also serve on the board.

The Master Gardener Advisory Board has three committees comprised of board members and staff that meet prior to the quarterly board meeting: Marketing Communications, Education, and Finance Development.

The current board  members and their local group / county are:

Larry Cipolla - Hennepin - Chair, State Advisory Board
Cindy Borgen - Clay - Vice-chair, State Advisory Board
Peggy Zimmerman-Belbeck - Wright
Gwen Stadstad - LeSueur
Pam Hartley - Anoka - Marketing committee chair
Nancy Hall - Crow Wing
Diana Rankin - Kanabec
Paul Richtman - UMN / Washington
Mary Zeug - Stearns
Larry Tarnow - Olmsted - Financial Development Committee Chair
Jerry Tilden - Chippewa / Yellow Medicine
Craig Winters - Ottertail - West

Julie Weisenhorn - State program director
Dave Moen - State program manager
Bridget Barton - State program assistant / secretary
Nathan Crane - Regional director - Mankato
Kathy Zuzek - Extension educator - Horticulture
Tom Kenny - Arboretum liaison
Sarah Jaycocks - Program coordinator - Ramsey Cty

For more information about the Board bylaws:
Do you have a project that you, as a Master Gardener, reached a level of excellence beyond the typical great work done by Master Gardeners? If you do, you should think about submitting it to the Search for Excellence recognition program!

The International Master Gardener Search for Excellence is the recognition program of Master Gardener volunteer work throughout the United States and Canada.

  • Search for Excellence has seven categories in which Master Gardeners can demonstrate their outstanding contributions to their communities: Youth Programs, Demonstration Garden, Workshop or Presentation, Community Service, Innovative Projects, Special Need Audiences (Senior, Disabled Audiences or Horticultural Therapy), Research (applied scientific methodology.
  • All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place, whether by the Master Gardeners or the general public they were involved with.
For selection criteria, the application process, and past winners:

The IMGC Search for Excellence Committee oversees the Search for Excellence Winners. Awards will be given out at the International Master Gardener Conference in Charleston, West Virginia October 11-14, 2011.

Applications for the Search for Excellence are due on Feb 1, 2011.

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