Fall Fest Sneak Peek

A great event for gardeners

Fall Fest is coming soon – so be sure to save the date: Saturday, September 28 from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm.

Fall Fest registration

Join us for educational sessions and hands on workshops, plant sale, garden marketplace and more. 

Registration for the educational sessions will be available soon (we’ll let you know as soon as it opens!). Here is a sneak peek at the lecture and workshop sessions so you can plan your time. We have 3 sessions each with different topics to choose from.

Session 1: 9:00 – 10:15 am

Lecture A –Picking Prolifically Pleasing Perennials

Ray Murphy, Master Gardener & Nemours Estate Gardener

Perennial garden

So many perennials, so many choices! Let’s take a look at both popular and lesser known perennials for your garden. We’ll discuss their care, and some of the different conditions to consider that will make your yard look beautiful! Fee: $20

Workshop A – Corn Husk/Sunflower Wreath

Beth Folkomer, Master Gardener


Join Beth and create your own Harvest Rustic Wreath to adorn your front door or gate. You have two choices to select (with your own creative touches, of course) a plain corn husk wreath or a sunflower corn husk wreath with pinecone seed pod. All supplies included. Limited to 15. Fee: $20

Workshop AA – Fern Propagation

Mary Tipping, Curator & Plant Recorder, Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College


Discover with other fernophiles how to cultivate fern species from spores – which is much easier than you think. Spores of two different fern species, related cultivation items, and an overview of fern reproduction will be provided in this class. Limited to 15. Fee $20

Session 2: 10:45 am – 12:00 noon

Workshop B – Natural Impressions in Air Dry Clay

Gerri Eunson, Alyce Zellers & Catherine St. Clair, Master Gardeners

Learn how to use air dried clay to capture nature. We will be creating a necklace with a pendant and a holiday ornament. You will leave with completed projects plus additional items to dry and finish at home. All supplies included. Limited to 15. Fee: $20.

Workshop BB – Tool Maintenance

Liana Baurele, Master Gardener

Tool sharpening

Looking for a simple sharpening method to bring your garden tools back to good form? Look no further. Armed with a complimentary sharping stone and illustrated directions, Liana can show you how to put a sharp edge on your dull garden tools. Bring 2 tools of your choice to work on. Limited to 15. Fee: $20.

Session 3: 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Lecture C- Compost Forum

Sam Barnett, Chris Coulter, Teia Harding, Chantel Wildman, Master Gardeners

compost bin

Learn from our panel of master gardeners all of the correct steps required to produce your own ‘Black Gold’ from garden and kitchen scraps along with the different techniques to achieve this rich organic product. Fee: $20

Workshop C – Succulent Pumpkin Centerpiece

Gerri Eunson, Alyce Zellers & Catherine St. Clair, Master Gardeners

Succulent pumpkin

Create a stylish, fall themed decoration to celebrate the season. In this hands-on workshop, we will combine live succulents, moss, seed pods and dried flowers with pumpkins to create a festive centerpiece that will last through Thanksgiving. All supplies are included. Limited to 15. Fee: $20.

Workshop CC – Autumn Craft Workshop for Children & Adults

Teresa Albers, Master Gardener

This workshop consists of two activities geared to children (8 years +) and adults. Leaf rubbing is both fun and educational as children and adults learn together about leaf structure and identification while creating a leaf rubbing collage. Decorating mini pumpkins offers children and adults shared sensorial exploration and creative expression. Come and join Teresa in these Fall activities of joyful, creative self- expression. All supplies included. Limited to 5 adults & 10 children. Fee: $5 per child

A boxed lunch will be available, and of course tons of treats at the famous bake sale. Stay tuned for registration information!

End of Season Plant Sales

The good, the bad and the ugly

Those end of season plant sales can be very exciting. The prices are so great, you can finally fill all those “holes” in your landscape.  But how can you tell if a great price is also a great value? Here are a few things to consider.

Make sure the plant in question matches the planting conditions you have, is hardy in your zone and will fit into your landscape. Its not a bargain no matter the price if you can’t grow it well in your yard.

While you can expect some leaf and branch damage by the end of the season, wilting or burned plants, or rotting ones, that have obviously not been cared for are risky. Extremely stressed plants may not survive in spite of your best TLC.

Don’t be surprised if perennials have been cut back. The stems may be shorter but they should still be intact. A gentle tug may tell you if stems are rotting. The exception to this are spring ephemeral perennials that are going dormant. These may have naturally lost many of their stems making it a bit more difficult to access the health of the plant. Nursery staff should be able to tell you if a plant is a spring ephemeral.

Check carefully for any pests or diseases you do not want to introduce into your garden. In some cases this can include noxious weeds (Hairy Bittercress – I’m looking at you!).

Don’t be afraid to carefully slip the plant from its pot and check the root system. There should be evidence of live roots. At the end of the season, you can expect some root wrapping around the pot edges, but if a plant is extremely root bound and feels hard as a brick, consider carefully. You will need to cut and tease those roots out in order to plant properly. This is difficult with extremely root bound plants.

Be aware that clearance plants may not have the same warrantee as full price plants, best to check with the nursery.

Try to plant your finds as soon as possible so they can begin establishing themselves. Mulch them, but do not fertilize.  You may be able to divide some perennials that have been growing in a pot all season when you plant.

Be sure to keep the plants watered throughout the fall.  Squirrels are notorious for digging up transplants in the fall so keep an eye out. Sometimes fall planted specimens are more susceptible to frost heave so be prepared to tuck them back in during winter thaws if need be.

Want more information? Check out this Penn State article.

Penn State Extension – Garden Bargain or Bust?

Plant Profile: Rudbeckia laciniata

A tall, native coneflower

Rudbeckia laciniata is commonly known as cut leaf coneflower or green headed coneflower.  It is a stately native perennial that can reach 9 feet tall under the right conditions but generally grows 5-7 feet tall. Its preferred location is full to part sun in moist soil. It naturally occurs in moist woodland clearings or along stream beds. It is adaptable to average garden soil, but may wilt during periods of drought without supplemental water.

Like many plants, there are both pros and cons to adding Rudbeckia laciniata to your garden.

On the positive side, this rudbeckia provides plenty of sunny flowers and has a long 2 month bloom time – July through September.  The size and bright coloration of this plant creates a strong accent in the garden at a time when some other perennials are starting to wane.

The flowers are attractive to bees (both native and domesticated) and butterflies, providing a late season nectar source.  They have attractive seed heads and the flower seeds provide food for finches in the fall.  This coneflower is generally pest and disease resistant and can handle hot, humid summer weather.  It is considered deer and rabbit resistant.

Because of its tolerance for moist soil and periodic flooding, it is a good plant for flood prone areas or rain gardens. Given space, it can create a (very tall!) groundcover. The root structure provides good erosion control.

However (here come the cons), in moist sunny areas this coneflower can spread somewhat aggressively by underground rhizomes. Plants should be edged or divided in spring to control the spread.

In fertile soils, more shade or windy areas the plants will probably need staking to keep it upright. 

While the plants will probably survive drought, the lower leaves will droop and brown. Drought stress can occasionally result in powdery mildew.

If you can give this plant a bit of moisture and some room to grow, it might be a great addition to a pollinator friendly landscape.

Want more information? Here are some links:

Missouri Botanical Garden plant profile – Rudbeckia laciniata

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center –  Rudbeckia lancinata

The Fall Vegetable Garden


Believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about your fall vegetable crops. 

The fall vegetable garden can sometimes be a bit challenging in our climate because soils are often hot and dry in July and August. This can prevent seeds of cool season crops from germinating. 

One way to get around this is to start these vegetables indoors where the temperature and moisture can be controlled. Start the seeds in mid-July and then transplant the seedlings into the garden in mid-August. Be sure to properly harden off the seedlings before transplanting.

Plants that respond well to this technique include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, kale, lettuce and spinach.

If you would prefer to direct seed all you crops in the garden, there are a couple things you can do to increase the chance of success.

Make sure the seeds are kept moist until the seedlings are well established. On very hot days, this may mean watering more than once.

If possible, provide some temporary shade for your seed bed until the seedlings are well established, particularly during the hottest part of the day. You may be able to plant some of the seeds in places where they get some afternoon shade from existing plants.

If some of your warm season crops (cucumbers, beans, summer squash) are looking a bit tired or worse for wear, you probably still have time to plant another sowing of seeds and harvest another crop.  Just look at the days till harvest on your seed packet and make sure you have enough days until the first expected frost. You can find the first expected frost date for your exact location here.

Want more information? Here are some links:

National Gardening Association – When to plant vegetables

Cornell Extension Vegetable Growing Guide

Delaware Cooperative Extension –Vegetable Garden Planning Schedule

Weed Watch: Japanese stiltgrass

A grassy invader


Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) is a non-native, invasive, annual grass. It has lance like leaves with a silvery stripe down the center, arranged alternately on a thin, wiry stem somewhat like a very miniature bamboo. It normally is 2-3 feet tall at maturity in late summer with seed heads at the top of each stem.  

Stiltgrass was probably introduced into this country as packing material in shipments of goods from China in the early 1900’s. Since then it has made itself at home in open woodlands, paths, roadsides and of course lawns and flowerbeds.

Stiltgrass has the ability to form dense stands that crowd out and smother native and desired plants. The stems root at the nodes, allowing a single plant to advance across the ground.  While stiltgrass is an annual and the parent plant dies in winter, it creates an enormous amount of seed and quickly builds up a bank of seeds in the soil. Each plant can produce up to 1000 seeds and they remain viable in the soil up to 5 years. The key to control is preventing new seed production and preventing germination of the existing bank of seeds.

Stiltgrass close

The plants are shallow rooted and can be pulled by hand. Plants should be removed before mid-August when the seed matures.  Cutting or breaking the plant stems earlier in the season may stimulate them to create and drop seed early, so try to remove each plant completely. The process of weeding may disturb soil and expose more seeds from the seed bank, encouraging new weeds. Mulching directly after weeding will help prevent germination of new seeds. Planting desirable plants densely to leave less open garden area may also help prevent stiltgrass germination.

Plants in a mowed lawn will still create seeds at the lower height. If possible, wait until just before the seed matures to cut large stands of stiltgrass so there is not enough time before winter cold for seed development.

There are some options for chemical control of stiltgrass.  This article from Penn State Extension describes those options.

Want a little more information? Here are some links:

Penn State Extension – Controlling Japanese Stiltgrass in Your Garden

PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources: Japanese Stilt Grass PDF

The Humane Gardener – How to Fight Plants with Plants

Plant Profile: Echinacea purpurea

a native pollinator favorite

Echinacea pupurea

Echinacea purpurea has the common name Purple cone flower.  It is a lovely herbaceous perennial that is native to eastern North America. Its showy blossoms usually appear in late June to early July and can rebloom through August. The blooms are very attractive to bees and butterflies making Echinacea a great addition to a pollinator friendly garden.  Gold finches will also visit the flower heads as they ripen to eat the seeds.

Echinacea grows best in full sun, but will take some shade. It requires well drained soil and is tolerant of drought and poor soil. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall depending on the cultivar and for the most part is self-supporting, but may need some support if grown in rich soil or too much shade.

Echinacea generally will continue to bloom whether spent blossoms are removed or not, but removing spent blossoms early in the season may make the plant look more tidy. Consider leaving some spent blossom seed heads over the winter as a food source for birds, but be prepared for some self-seeding around the base of the plant.  I consider this a bonus, and simply move the volunteer seedlings where I want them in the spring. Echinacea is also used as an herbal supplement to boost the immune system.

Echinacea flower

While called purple coneflower, the common version is more of a pinkish-purple and it has been hybridized into a variety of different colors including white, yellow, orange, red and even bi-colors. Some varieties are quite fragrant.

There are also coneflowers that have been hybridized with double or triple the petals to create a “pom-pom” effect, but note that these doubles and triples are not useful to pollinators because the hybridization process eliminates nectar sources.  These hybrids are also mainly sterile, so they do not provide seeds for birds.

Echinacea can be susceptible Aster Yellows. This is a disease caused by infection by a microorganism called a phytoplasma. The infected plant’s flowers will remain green and the cones will be distorted with leaf like projections.   The disease can be spread from an infected plant to a healthy one by leafhopper insects as they feed on different plants so it is important to remove any infected plants you find. There is no cure for Aster Yellows.

Echinacea are sometimes bothered by Japanese beetle which chew the flower petals but they usually out-grow “beetle season” and continue flowering.   

Want a little more information on Echinacea? Here are some links:

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center profile

Penn State Extension – Echinacea Diseases

Iowa State Extension: Yellows Disease of Purple Coneflower

National Institute of Health of Echinacea Herbal Properties

Home Gardeners’ School 2019

The 23rd annual Home Gardener’s School will be Saturday, June 1 from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.

The Home Gardeners’ School is a day of gardening inspiration, learning from top regional gardening experts, and an opportunity to meet with fellow gardeners. 

This event is hosted by the Master Gardeners of Delaware County at the Education Center in Smedley Park in Springfield, Pa.

You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to attend this event. All levels of experience are welcome.

The day includes 3 activity sessions. Create your own perfect day by choosing your favorite activity for each session.

Bid in the silent auction to win unique plants, gift certificates, books, and other items of interest to gardeners.

And of course our Master Gardener Marketplace with a fabulous selection of outdoor planters: big, small, short and tall! Great for pollinator pots, veggies and ornamentals plus a variety of plants. Unique MG-made items found nowhere else.

Registration and shopping begin at 8:30 am. Our educational sessions are summarized below. You can register on line here.

9:00 – 10:15 Session Choices:

Lecture A – Nature Nurtures – The Power of Plants – Louise D. Clarke, Horticulturist, Morris Arboretum –  Enjoy a fascinating presentation on the scientific evidence that demonstrates the positive effects of the natural (outdoor) environment on both our physical and emotional well-being. Cost $20

Workshop A – Herb Vinegars, Dips & Spreads, Oh My! – Jane Nyiri, Master Gardener -Taste fresh herbs in dips and spreads and enjoy a hands-on experience in making your own herb spread and vinegar to share with family and friends. Recipes will be shared. Limited to 15. Cost $25

Workshop AA – Build a Bird Feeder – Frank Foxwell, Master Gardener – Join Frank in assembling your own birdfeeder for Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds and Scarlet Tanagers. Suitable for mounting outdoors, each feeder has locations for jelly, apples, and oranges. Bring portable drill (Philips head driver, 1/8” & ¼” bits) & hammer. Limited to 15. Cost: $25

10:30 – 12:00 Session Choices:

Lecture B  – Developing Curb Appeal – Duncan Himmelman, PhD, Mt. Cuba Center Educator – Learn how to revitalize your front yard to meets your needs, provides year-round horticultural interest and variety, and increases your property value. Cost $20.

Workshop B – Wood Base Moss Wreath with Clay Pots & Succulents – Joe Daniels, Master Gardener – Create a sensational wood base moss wreath with sedums in clay pots to decorate your summer garden. Hands-on workshop, plants included, bring gloves. Limited to 15. Cost $25

12:00 Noon – Lunch

Purchased lunch selection available through on-line registration.

1:00 – 2:30 Session Choices:

Lecture C – Let’s Look at the New Perennials for 2019 – Sharee Solow, Designer & Owner, Solow Horticultural Designs – Find out the best new plants for your garden this year. Sharee will review the “best of the best” new perennials for 2019, highlighting the ones that will thrive in our area. Cost $20.

Workshop C – Building Your Own Bamboo Trellis or Tuteur – Julia King, Master Gardener – Bamboo is a wonderfully versatile building material and one of the world’s most renewable resources. It’s lightweight, strong, and flexible, and it looks at home in most garden designs. Build your own ornamental trellis or tuteur for your clematis, beans or any other climbing plant in need of a little support on its skyward growth path. Limited to 15. Cost $25.

Workshop CC–Master Gardener –Summer Sippin’ Herb Container – Brenda Troutman, Master Gardener – Grown for their versatile use, herbs are some of our oldest plants. Learn their preferred growing conditions and the new ways to incorporate them into your garden and containers. Each participant will plant a beverage herb container to take home for their summer drinks. Limited to 15. Cost $25.