Friday, December 7, 2012

Doreen Stratton's "Griot" Walking Sticks

"Griot Walking Stick #6"
"Griot Walking Stick #6" (detail)
Master Gardener and artist Doreen Stratton creates one-of-a-kind works of art she calls "Griot Walking Sticks." "Griot "is an African word that means “story teller."

Doreen generously donated her latest creation, "Griot Walking Stick #6," to the Garden Giveaway Raffle at the Bucks County Master Gardeners' Annual Meeting on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. Griot Walking Stick #6 was crafted from a 50-year old oak tree which came down during Hurricane Sandy.

"I've begun collecting 'walking sticks in the raw' that I eventually turn into a piece of art. My previous walking sticks have painted images of Native American and African Andinkra symbols on them. Number Six just seemed to call out for minimal features," said Doreen.

Doreen included this description along with her donated creation:  "A Master Gardener may cherish this walking stick while attending educational functions. Or have it handy as a Master Gardener Speaker educating the public on subjects dear and near to their heart. When not out walking or learning, it should find a comfortable corner at home.  Enjoy!  Griot Walking Sticks are like people: none are alike."


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Master Gardeners at Venice Ashby Community Center in Bristol


Master Gardeners Karren Cherrington, Elaine Hagey, Ann Eidson, and Cathy Raupp focused on "Autumn" as their theme for a project with the children at the Venice Ashby Community Center in Bristol. They played "Autumn Bingo" with the kids and discussed all the wonders of the season like pumpkins, colored leaves, apples, scarecrows, etc. Thanks to Karren who donated the fruits of her labor, they decorated gourds by adding eyes, hair, bows, ribbons and lots of smiles.  As the photos show, a good time was had by all!
Submitted by Master Gardener Cathy Raupp

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Leonid - a Zone 8 Shrub in Bucks County?

On an early summer trip to Long Island, I picked up an interesting plant called Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonurus) in a 4-inch pot. The plant tag said it was a 3-4' tropical shrub that blooms in one year. The photo showed amazing orange flowers. SO I brought it home. It bloomed in late August - amazing tiered flower stems! - and was all set to continue until frost before Gary Dunbar saw it on a recent visit. Knowing Gary has a small greenhouse, I offered it to him and the Lion's Tail now resides there. Now that it's cozy it might bloom all winter!
- Photos and story submitted by Master Gardener Sue Schneck

Mums and Bees

I noticed a lot of honey bees on the giant mums hanging on my front porch this week. With all the hype about Africanized bees I wondered about the species, so I took some photos and asked our (very) local bee expert Scott Guiser about them.  Here's what Scott told me:

"- These are honey bees. I can say this is a honey bee because it is hairy and just the right size and still working on a vegetarian diet in November.

- No honey bees are native to North America. Europeans brought them.

- Based on gross morphology, it’s difficult to distinguish western honey bees native to Europe (Apis mellifera mellifera) from African honey bees (A. mellifera scutellata). African honey bees look just like western honey bees. It’s the stinging and not the buzzing that distinguishes Africans from their cousins (among other things).

- These are probably A. mellifera ligustica, the Italian subspecies, but I could not distinguish one sub-species from the other … there are Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica), Caucasians (Apis mellifera caucasica), etc., etc., even Spaniards (Apis mellifera Iberica)! These are all geographic subspecies or races that have minor but interesting and sometimes important differences.

- Now I know where my bees are probably getting yellow pollen. I could not imagine what they were working on. Perhaps someone has mums in Bedminster?"

Photos and story submitted by Kathleen Connally

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Master Gardeners at Silver Lake Green Fest

Bucks County Master Gardeners Crystal Lecuyer, Roberta Turner, Jim Bray and Gary Dunbar hosted a successful booth at the Silver Lake Green Fest on Saturday, October 5th, teaching the public about composting.  Master Gardener Gary Dunbar took the lead on the project and offered this report:

By Master Gardener Gary Dunbar

First off, my thanks to all for coming out and helping. The entire event went very smoothly, from setup to breakdown. It was a very successful event.

We interacted with over 200 people, fielding questions of all types regarding composting. Quite a few people seemed surprised that you could add things like teabags and coffee filters to the pile, andquite a few said they were going to start composting. The stand-out question in my mind, which was brought up four times, was the possibility of the compost pile starting a fire. Evidently hearing that the pile heats up is causing concern for some folks. We informed them that a) the pile does not heat up to a temperature that would start a fire, and b) a compost pile needs to be kept moist, which would negate any chance of combustion within the pile. 

Silver Lake Green Fest has a "reward" program for young children who attend. They receive a "passport" that gets stamped by visiting various vendors' booths.  The Master Gardeners decided the kids needed to earn their stamps this year, so we gave them a brief description of what composting was about and a choice between a plastic bag and a leaf, asking them which they could compost. I believe we only had two children that chose the plastic bag.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Annual Dinner Speaker Liz Ball

We're very excited to welcome Liz Ball as our Annual Recognition Dinner speaker! 
Liz Ball has been a horticultural writer, photographer, and teacher for 30 years. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous catalogs, magazines and books, She writes about a wide range of gardening topics for gardeners, but specializes in issues that concern non-gardening homeowners who have lawns and plants to care for, but limited time and interest in working in their yards. She has been writing her weekly newspaper column, Yardening, for nearly 20 years.  

Liz Ball
Liz has co-authored nine books on plant and landscape care for Rodale and other publishers, including Smart Yard: 60 Minute Lawn Care (Fulcrum: 1994).  She is the sole author of many more, including Pennsylvania Gardener’s Guide (Cool Springs Press, 2002) and Month by Month Gardening in Pennsylvania (Cool Springs Press, revised 2007). 

Ten years ago Liz and Rick Ray moved to a new two-acre property in Delaware County, PA, part of which is a wetland/floodplain. In the upper area they cleared invasives, planted trees and shrubs and established gardens and a deer fence. The garden is simultaneously a collection of special plants, a place to try new plants, and a wildlife habitat.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Afton Elementary School Garden

Written by Master Gardener Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

On August 2011 I started planing a new school vegetable garden at Afton Elementary School in Lower Makefield Township. In the past I had also helped to start and currently continue helping at Newton Elementary School's garden but Afton is very special to me because my two daughters attend this school. By January 2012 we had a nice group of parents helping in the planing committee and most important we had the full support of the principal of the school, Mr. Joseph Masgai, and the teachers.

On April 2012 we started Phase One of the project. We built 11 raised beds made of cedar wood, brought soil and mulch donated by Shady Brook Farm and the students council donated a shed that the students helped decorating. Thanks to a Waste Management Grant we were able to install a drip irrigation system.

By early May we started planting vegetables and herbs. All 568 students from kindergarten to 5th grade participated. Two local farmers and myself talked to the kids about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, then we seeded and used transplants all kinds: carrots, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radish, pumpkins, etc.

I was amazed to see how happy and involved the kids were. It was an amazing experience that continues to grow. We received at least one hundred letters and emails from students and parents thanking us for the garden. Some parents even told us that because if the school garden, they started their own vegetable gardens in their backyards.

During the summer, we scheduled one family per week to help with weeding and harvesting. Part of the harvest was donated to local food pantries,;it was also enjoyed by each family and the basil was donated to Villa Rosa and Carlucci's Restaurant where you can still see signs saying that they use our basil.

At the beginning of September we planted some cold weather crops.

This garden is located in the school's courtyard. So far we have utilized half of the space. Phase Two of the project is to build an outdoor classroom gazebo style with benches and tables. Phase Three consists of the construction of a "playscape" where children can play and enjoy perennials and a butterfly garden.

This winter I am planing to help the teachers incorporate the garden in the school's lesson plans. Thanks to the principal and the support of school's PTO, everybody is on board. Next year the cafeteria will use the harvest in the children's lunch and help with composting. This fall the principal requested that, weather permitted, children walk through the garden every morning when they line up and go to their classrooms.

I would like to mention that Sue Schneck was extremely helpful and supportive in the initial steps to make this possible by helping me to gather all the resources for communities gardens. I am very proud of being a Master Gardener and it is fantastic to know that there are 100 of us all over Bucks County doing great things for our community. I also would like to mention that the transplants were bought at the MG Annual Sale back in May and Bonnie Olliver was so gracious to donate all the seeds that we used.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Annual Recognition Meeting & Potluck Dinner

Our Annual Recognition Meeting and Potluck Dinner is coming up - please be sure to RSVP to Kathleen - - and to contact Bonnie to select your potluck choice.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sturbridge Community Tree Project

This past spring, Master Gardener Crystal Lecuyer invested 35 hours in a community project protecting the banks of a stream that feeds the Neshaminy Creek by organizing 65 people to plant 40 trees. The stream has no name but flows through one acre of open space in Langhorne.   Crystal obtained the bare-root trees through the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. The team planted Pin oak (Quercus palustris), Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), Jeffsred Freeman maple (Acer freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’), Armstrong Freeman maple (Acer freemanii 'Armstrong') and Sugar hackberry (Celtis laeigata).