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March 2012 Archives

P1130177.JPGUniversity of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners volunteer their time teaching University research-based best practices in horticulture in their communities. In 2011, volunteers contributed over 131,000 hours in Minnesota alone!

But volunteers also are required to fulfill continuing education hours to keep them up to date on the latest from experts in horticulture. In 2011, Master Gardeners logged over 28,000 hours in continuing education.

So ... what qualifies for CE hours? What kinds of opportunities are out there for Master Gardeners?

There are many Continuing Education opportunities, or "CE opps" as I like to call them, available for Master Gardeners in Minnesota. In the past, CE opps were almost always face-to-face learning where the volunteer had to go to the instructor. Sometimes videos were provided too for volunteers to watch and learn.

Today, Master Gardeners can still learn face-to-face, but there are also webinars, online classes, and DVDs that sometimes help people learn and be able to review later. The online  Master Gardener Core Course education modules are always available for any volunteer to access and review. This class is also offered for non-volunteers and U credit students. For information, visit the Master Gardener website

In the Volunteer Section of the Master Gardener website, there is a section "Continuing Education" where volunteers can access education. This blog also feeds CE opps to this website. The biggest CE opp for Master Gardeners in 2012 is the Upper Midwest Master Gardener Conference, July 19-21, 2012 at the Arboretum. It will be taking the place of Master Gardener Summer School for 2012 and is a conference for Master Gardener volunteers from around the region.

Master Gardeners - and the general public - can click on Classes & Events on the Extension or Master Gardener websites. Here people can find horticulture days, plant sales, garden tours and more. Just click on the appropriate link.

Who can be an instructor?
In the past, instructors were required to be faculty or Extension staff from a University. Today, Master Gardeners have many more options! Master Gardeners can gain CE through classes at the MN Landscape Arboretum and many other public gardens. These gardens also often have tours / speakers that MGs can attend and can count toward CE. There are classes through government agencies such as local Soil & Water Conservation District and events offered by the MN Department of Natural Resources that provide great environmental education.

Certainly learning from any University or Extension faculty / staff from MN and surrounding states is a great CE opp. Online opps from other Universities are valuable too. They can be found by clicking on the category "CE Opps" in this blog. Other University programs like the Department of Forestry's Shade Tree Short Course, Tree Care Advisors, Woodland Advisor and the MN Master Naturalist are good CE opps for Master Gardeners. They offer volunteer activities that may also apply as Master Gardener volunteering as well. The University blog My Minnesota Woods is a great resource for education about trees and forested areas as well as urban tree care information. A must to bookmark or add to your list of favorites!

Industry experts and authorities are good resources for continuing education for Master P1100794.JPGGardeners as well! The MN Nursery and Landscape Association is an excellent source of continuing education for Master Gardeners who are MNLA members and non-members alike and helps strengthen the connection the University and industry. Many Minnesota industry professionals are nationally - and internationally - renowned experts in their field and collaborate with the University on research and teaching, and help bring science and business together.

Lastly, there are many Master Gardeners who are experts in a particular field whether it be orchids, lakeshore restoration, soil science, plant disease diagnostics, public speaking, using social media, fundraising, youth education, etc. Master Gardeners can learn from other Master Gardeners, and the topic may not always be about horticulture. It may be about how to best communicate with others about horticulture! So take advantage of time to learn from fellow MG volunteers!

How do I know if a CE Opp qualifies for hours?
The most important thing for Master Gardeners to remember is that Continuing Education can be counted for hours when the Master Gardener is LEARNING. I also encourage people to look for CE opps about topics that you know nothing / very little about, could use an update on, or is something you are interested in teaching as a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

Thank you to all Master Gardener volunteers for your continued contributions in your communities! Celebrate volunteering during National Volunteer Week April 15-21, 2012!

P1160972.JPGArticle by: KIM PALMER, Star Tribune
Updated: March 23, 2012

Our "unprecedented" early spring leaves homeowners in a quandary: Spring into action? Or put on the brakes?

It looks like May. It feels like May. Does that mean we should act like it's May in caring for our lawns and gardens?

That's a tough one. Even experts aren't sure what to make of our balmy March.

"There are so many unknowns here," said horticulturist Deb Brown. "It's such an unusual year, there isn't a good precedent."

In this record-breaking year, here are the experts' best educated guesses about what you should -- and shouldn't -- be doing outdoors.

Rake? Probably yes, but with caution. "Now that we have had some rain, and the grass is greening up, it's OK to rake the lawn," said Brian Horgan, turfgrass specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

But rake gently, using a lightweight, fan-type rake, Brown cautioned. "The danger in raking at this point is that you can pull out young grass; you need to be careful."Read more ....

Calling all gardeners! The following video will make you smile, sigh P111071828.jpg
and give you a thrill. Each flower is filmed for two days to get this result. Be sure your audio is working to get the sound track.

La vida de las flores

P1150029.JPGAre your green thumbs itching yet? I can hardly sit still these days with this warm weather and buds literally bursting as I peer out my window at the Hort Science Department Display Garden here on campus. I have started my mental list of things I need to do in my garden - they are in pretty good order - and wanted to share some resources particularly for ornamental perennials and annuals. In addition to great Extension publications on the University of Minnesota Extension website, here is a short list of some of my favorite ornamental perennial and annual plant resources:

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates
(2nd edition) by Mike Heger, Debbie Lonnee and John Whitman. I am a big user of web references, but this is one of my favorite reference books. In its second edition, this book is extremely well organized and provides care and maintenance about selected perennials including cultivar ratings by the authors. I have several copies of the first edition myself. Though only out since winter, this new edition is already well-used by the Master Gardeners at the Arboretum Yard & Garden Desk. This is an awesome reference / resource for perennials and one I definitely recommend.

Dividing Perennials
Found on the University's Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series website (SULIS), this publication, written by Molly Ferguson - U alum, landscape designer, and Master Gardener volunteer - contains solid information about dividing perennials. But the really great part of this publication is the extensive and printable chart Molly put together with specifics about dividing various perennials. A great handout for any gardener.
Dicentra spectablis flwr1.JPG
Annuals (PM 1942) and Perennials for Sun (PM 1914) and Perennials for Shade (PM 1913). Written by friend and colleague, Cindy Haynes at Iowa State University Extension, these three small, inexpensive (about $5+S&H) and beautifully photographed books are part of a series of small paperback books about plant types for the home landscape.

Growing and Using Annuals and Bulbs (MSU #399): Written by a collaborative of MN and MI Extension faculty and printed / published by Michigan State University,  this former part of the UMN Extension Master Gardener notebook is still available for $2+S&H from MSU. Though an older publication, it still contains some good basic info for the home gardener. Information such as the reference list should include newer books, websites, blogs, etc., and that some of the cultivars listed may not be available anymore - and there are many more available today that would be good options.

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust provides great information about designing with and caring for perennials. However, it's the pictures of her garden that inspire me to re-design my garden. Tracy is a master at combining plants - large scale and small scale - for the maximum impact. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, go!

And of course, seeing is believing .... who doesn't like a field trip?

Noerenberg Gardens is part of the Three Parks District.
Located inP1020797.JPG Wayzata, MN, it is a smaller garden, and features amazing plant combinations that can be wild and dramatic, or elegant and formal. It's one of my favorite local gardens to visit and photograph. Being right along the shore of Lake Minnetonka (but you can't get there by boat - no docking is allowed), it has a long history in the lake area and startling arrays of plants and hardscape throughout the Minnesota growing season. I once asked curator Arla Carmichael if she ever covered plants in the winter and she said no - if a plant didn't make it, it was just an excuse to try something new. Thank you Arla, for supplying me with a perfect gardening philosophy.


The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
I would be remiss if I didn't mention our own University's Landscape Arboretum as one of my favorite resources for inspiring perennial and annual design. I am never without my camera and what a blast to head out with a built in excuse during the work day to shoot images of the immense collections of perennials and vast annual plantings that scream with color and texture. You nNever miss the opportunity to visit the Arb!

What are some of your favorite resources for perennials and annuals? Share below!

 A: No. The University of Minnesota does not provide compost, farmpost, mulch, soil or plants to any entity or individual outside the University. Our LandCare Facilities Management follows best sustainable landscape management practices by reusing landscape waste as compost, soil amendments, wood mulch, etc. Unfortunately, LandCare produces only enough of a supply of these for use on the various University campuses they manage.

However, here are some sources for landscape materials in Minnesota:

MN State Hort Society / MN Green Program
Seeds and plants (must be a member of MN Green)
Contact: Vicky Vogels
(651) 643-3601 ext. 211
(800) 676-6747 ext. 211

Gardening Matters
Resources for community gardens
Sabathani Community Center
310 E. 38th St., #204, Minneapolis, MN 55409

The Mulch Store
Compost, mulches; some sites accept home yard waste including ash
Main info: (952) 946-6999
Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM with a limited staff.
Saturday hours will begin April 7th.

Four locations:
14800 Johnson Memorial Dr. (Hwy. 169)
Shakopee, MN 55379
(952) 445-2139

1030 W. Cliff Rd.
Burnsville, MN 55337
(952) 736-1915

Empire Township
16454 Blaine Ave. E
Rosemount, MN 55068
(651) 423-4401

4275 Creek View Circle
Minnetrista, MN 55331
(952) 446-1056

Communities sometimes also have free mulch / compost for residents. Please check with your local municipality.

MN Landscape Arboretum Summer House / Apple House
Landscape plants, landscape ornaments, pots; local in-season fruits and vegetables including MN apples
Open during the growing season May - October, 10am - 6 pm daily
Main Arboretum information: (952) 443-1400

I spent a few minutes with MPR's Tom Crann on All Things Considered yesterday:
Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, (612) 625-0237,

Water landscape trees soon, but go easy on lawnssprinkler_edited-1.jpg

ST. PAUL, Minn. (3/21/2012) --Homeowners still need to help their trees and lawns make up for a record soil moisture deficit to mitigate damage done by a dry fall and winter.

This week's wet weather is providing much-needed moisture to parched soils, but it isn't enough to pull the state out of its moderate to severe drought classification, according to University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley.

Water landscape trees as soon as ground is thawed
Drought conditions can lead to tree decline, pest problems, and permanent damage for young and old trees alike. "Dry soils get colder in the winter and freeze deeper, which can kill roots," explains Gary Johnson, Extension specialist in urban and community forestry. And dead roots make it hard for trees to take in water. Read more ...

Spring has indeed sprung!  This is an unusually early spring with temperature records set across Minnesota according to Mark Seely's WeatherTalk. Gardeners should be careful about uncovering plants as we could still see frost as late as mid-May (our frost-free date in zone 4 is around May 20 and June 5 in zone 3). Mulch should be pushed aside plants that are greening up and sprouting. Rain / moisture will be out biggest contributing factor to how the spring will proceed and how we will go into the summer. Information about drought is found on our Extension website. Today, I had to take a few minutes and walk around our beautiful St. Paul campus here at the University. Planted with a diverse population of plants (and well-used by our plant ID classes), the campus is literally bursting into spring before our eyes. Some of the eye-catchers are below.

Royal Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star') A great ornamental specimen small tree. Spring fragrant double white 3" flowers; fall foliage yellow to bronze. Full sunP1170012 Magnolia.JPG. Mature size: 10'x10'. Hardy in zones 4-6.

P1170040 Pachysandra.JPG

Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis) Evergreen groundcover with rich green leathery leaves and spikes of small white flowers in spring. Part / full shade. Mature size: 8" x 12". Hardy in zones 4-8.

American Elm (Ulus americana) No longer sold or planted due Dutch Elm Disease, these old P1160987 Elm.JPGspecimens on campus are fine examples of why we planted so many elms in our urban landscapes. New varieties, resistant to DED, are being bred and trialed by University and industry breeders.

P1170047 White Forsythia.JPGWhite forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) Not actually a Forsythia at all, this deciduous shrub blooms prolifically with white, forsythia-like flowers. Full sun. Mature size: 5'x5'. Hardy in zones 4-8.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) P1170026 Scilla Hill.JPGPlant these small bulbs in the fall and in no time, you will have a blanket of blue. "Squill hill" on campus is always a sure indicator spring has arrived. Full / part sun/ Mature size: 5" x 4". Hardy in zones 2-8.

Heartleaf Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) I saw these P1170051 Bergenia.JPGplants, often confused for rhubarb or cabbage, planted in every home in central Sweden and knew I had to have one - or several. Large thick heart-shaped glossy leaves are bright green in spring and turn bronze in cold weather. Stalks of hot pink flower clusters bloom in early summer. Part sun. Mature size: 12" x 18". Hardy in zones 3-8.

P1170022 Forsythia Rhododendron.JPGRhododendron & Forysthia: With Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) about to burst into bloom on campus (you can see a few yellow flowers here), the bright green of the Rhododendron spp. attracts the most attention here. An evergreen shrub with white or lavender flowers. Part / full shade. Mature size: 6' x 4'. Hardy in zones 4-7. Prefers moist, acid soil.

P1170024 Red Maple.JPG
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Named 'red maple' not for its leave, but its scarlet spring flower, the Acer rubrum creates a red glow while other trees are creating a green glow in early spring. Full / part sun. Mature size: 55' x 45'. Hardy in zones 4-6. Prefers moist, acid soil.

P1170042 Viburnum.JPGViburnum spp. Many Viburnums dot our campus landscape and range in size from compact to large shrubs. Big fat flower buds, white flower clusters and persistent colorful fruits are some of their features. Full / part sun. Mature size: varies by species / cultivar. Hardy in zones 2-8 depending on the species / cultivar.P1160990 Viburnum with fruit.JPG

IPM3 is offering 5 courses in April 2012.  The courses are IPM Core Concepts Module, IPM Core Concepts Module in Spanish (Módulo de Conceptos Centrales de MPI para Personas de Habla Hispana), Invasive Species, Imported Fire Ant IPM, and IPM for Facility Managers and Supervisors.  The Session runs from 9 April to 21 May except for Facility Managers and Supervisors which runs from 9 April to 18 June 2012. 

IPM3 will continue the 33% discount from regular tuition rates for the April courses.  Registration is now open at  

Please contact me at with any questions and, as always, we appreciate your help in passing this information along to your colleagues.

Mark E. Ascerno, Professor Emeritus and Co-Chair
IPM3 Training Consortium
Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55108

Voice:  612-624-9773
FAX:    612-625-5299

Visit the IPM3 website:

Follow IPM3 on Facebook:!/pages/IPM3/272476356101537?sk=wall

With bed bugs being such a hot topic, you may be receiving questions on their control and prevention. Please direct people to these University of Minnesota resources for information:

Bed bug web resources:
Bed bug hotline: 612-624-2200 or 1-855-644-2200

Cold, gray weather got you down? Get a jump on spring by attending a University of MinnesotaP1070940.JPG Extension Master Gardener Horticulture Day workshop near you.

During March and April, nearly 20 Horticulture Day events will take place across the state, each coordinated by the nearest county Master Gardener program. The workshops highlight the latest in gardening and home landscaping research and education from the University of Minnesota.

To find a Horticulture Day near you, visit

"The education is fantastic--there are topics to suit just about everyone's curiosity," said Julie Weisenhorn, state director for Extension's Master Gardener program. "But the coolest thing about attending Horticulture Days is being a part of the energy and excitement of Minnesota gardeners at the end of a long Midwest winter."

Read more ....


July 19-21 at the UMN Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN

Every two years, the Upper Midwest Regional Master Gardener Conference is hosted by WI, IL, IA, or MN. In 2012, it's our turn here in Minnesota, and we are excited and proud to be hosting the conference at the world-renowned Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

This conference is for Extension Master Gardeners and their guests only.

The conference will also feature a vendor fair, a silent auction with proceeds going toward the Jr. Master Gardener program in Minnesota, book signings, Minnesota Wine Opening Reception and a Minnesota Buffet Banquet featuring speaker Dr. Ed Schneider, Arboretum director.

The class sessions are diverse and exciting and focused around research in the Midwest! Some are classroom-based, some hands-on, some a little of both. Registration is now open. We hope all Upper Midwest Extension Master Gardeners will join us!

Registration is online:
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