The Union County Heritage Festival is Saturday, September 22 and we're bringing you a day of excitement, fun, games, and educational activities. We hope you will join us for a brief respite from cleaning up the debris left after the hurricane.
This year's theme is, "Go Native," and the festival will feature activities and information on native plant varieties found in North Carolina.
The day starts early at 8:00 AM with the Wild Turkey 5K run followed by a fun run for children 5 and younger at 9:15 AM. Go here for more information about registering for the run. You can download a race form and bring it with you or fill out the online registration form found on the linked page.
After you catch your breath, you will be able to stroll around our gardens and the grounds of the Union County Agricultural Center where we will have craft and food vendors, educational activities, and special crafts and games for the kids.
For more information on our vendors, please follow this link and if you want to find out what we have lined up just for kids, you will find that information here.
Enjoy the lively music provided by Crystal Fountains and 2 Ukes, Banjo & a Box. Both bands will treat the audience to bluegrass and we will also hear some jazz and rock when 2 Ukes, Banjo & a Box take the stage. You can find out more about the bands here.
Our speakers this year will take us from the kitchen to the skies with Chef Ross Purple offering expert instruction on making the perfect risotto and Brenden McGlinchey from the North Carolina Falconry Guild will walk through the process of trapping, training, and hunting with a red-tail hawk. Find out more about our speakers and their presentations here.
There's something for everyone at the Heritage Festival. Thanks to our sponsors entry to the festival is free and we have plenty of parking. So, head on out and enjoy a fun afternoon with your Union County neighbors.
Who knows... you might even get to meet a famous goose! Our philanthropy again this year is Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. They have done amazing work helping with the rescue of birds and other animals during the hurricane. We're excited to support them.
See you Saturday!
Steve Bender, AKA The Grumpy Gardener, is a delightful curmudgeon, a skilled gardener, the Senior Garden Editor for Southern Living magazine, and the author of a very funny book on gardening.
We were lucky enough to have him as a guest on, The Successful Gardener, our WIXE radio show, that airs Saturday mornings from 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM.
Our sides hurt from laughing as we stood in the teaching garden at the Agricultural Center and chatted with Grumpy.
If you missed the show but don’t want to miss out on all the fun, you’re in luck! We have about 20 of the hardcover books in our possession. You can email Annie and she will set one aside for you. The books are $20 each and make great gifts for anyone who enjoys plants, gardening, or good humor.
Here are just a few snippets from the book.
“When anyone asks me what’s the best time to prune a mimosa, my instinctive response is, “Any time you can find a chain saw.”
He, of course, goes into much more detail about his initial love for and subsequent loathing of mimosas, but we don’t want to give too much away!
On African Violets:
“Nowadays, being given an African violet is akin to receiving your AARP membership card. It means you’re old, maybe on death’s door. Once the most popular of all flower houseplants, the African violet remains practically unknown to Generation X, Generation Y, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Millennials, and anyone who uses a smartphone to turn on their AC and dishwasher from another state.”
After reading the rest of the entry, it’s obvious that Grumpy is definitely a fan of this once-exalted plant.
While the book is heavy on humor, it offers a great deal more in sound advice for the novice or experienced gardener.
On pruning Boxwoods:
“The prettiest large boxwoods you’ll see result from a painstaking practice called “cloud pruning” performed with hand pruners. New growth is nipped back, and then small branches are removed from the insides of the shrubs to create openings between layers of foliage. The result looks a bit like a cumulus cloud. Opening up the bushes this way gives a natural look and also increases penetration of sunlight and air to the centers. Healthier bushes ensue.”
Have you passed up the tall lanky tomato plants on the sale table at your local nursery or hardware store for a bushy, more expensive plant just because it looks healthier? You might want to rethink that strategy.
“How to Plant a Tomato: Buy a tall, leggy plant. Strip off the bottom foliage so just three of four leaves remain at the top. Dig a hole deep enough so when you place the plant in it, only the leaves and an inch of stem will show above the soil surface. Fill in thoroughly with soil and water. Roots will form all along the buried stem.”
Union County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
Class of 2016
It’s not too late, but almost, for pruning spring flowering trees and shrubs. Just get it done by early to mid-July. I usually like to use July 4th as my cut-off date for pruning spring flowering trees and shrubs.
Spring flowering plants form their buds for next spring’s flowers in late summer and fall. So, the ideal time for pruning is just after they finish flowering in late spring/early summer. You can prune these plants in late winter/early spring if they are overgrown and need major reduction, just be aware that you will be sacrificing most of the flowers for that season.
Make sure that you have the proper pruning tools on hand and that they are sharp so that you make clean cuts. Pruning cuts will seal faster if you have a clean cut. Essential tools include hand pruners, loppers, handsaw, and perhaps a pole pruner or saw for larger plants. For tool lovers, there are now ratchet type hand pruners and loppers that make it easier to prune if you may be lacking in upper body strength. They are a little pricy, but worth it if you have a lot of pruning to do.
Decide what your objective is – is it simply to open the plant and shape it, or does it need a larger renovation? Large renovations may need to be done over a 2- to 3-year timespan, a bit at a time. Begin by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Next, if the plant is overgrown, thin and open the plant to allow better light and air penetration. Finish up by pruning to maintain the natural shape and the desired size of the plant. I once attended a workshop where the instructor told us that inside every overgrown azalea is a smaller one just waiting to escape. As part of the workshop, we pruned azaleas that were 4-5’ tall back to a size of 3’ and to the untrained eye, it was not obvious the plants had been pruned. This is the “art” part of the art and science of pruning.
When pruning trees and shrubs be sure to make proper pruning cuts. Use thinning cuts to open and shape the plants by removing branches at the point where they are attached. You can influence the direction of new growth of branches based on where you make the cut. If you want the plant to grow outwards, prune above a bud or branch that is on the outside of the branch or twig. If you want the plant to grow upwards, prune to above a bud or branch that is on the inside of the branch or twig.
Proper pruning can help to keep your trees and shrubs healthy and looking beautiful in your landscape.
Horticulture Extension Agent
Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a non-native invasive plant that has recently been in a topic of the local news.
Like many of our non-native invasive weeds, this plant was originally brought to the United States as an ornamental plant. It has large architectural leaves. The dried fruit is used as a spice in Iranian cooking. This plant grows rapidly and can quickly take over native habitat crowding out our native plants and reducing habitat for wildlife and creating erosion problems. Seeds can be carried by wind and water & birds can help with spread when they eat the seeds.
The problem with this plant is that if you get the plant sap on your skin and that skin is exposed to sunlight you can have a painful reaction called phytophotodermatitis. The skin reaction can cause large, painful blisters similar to a severe burn and can cause permanent scarring.
Giant Hogweed is in the carrot family (Apiaceae), so there are several plants that are look-a-likes and can be mistaken for it: Angelica (Angelica atropurpea), Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). Though in the Caprifoliaceae family, the Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) can also be mistaken for Giant Hogweed. I came across two resources that report the Giant Hogweed as being found in North Carolina in Caldwell and Watagua counties.
So, BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for Giant Hogweed!
If you think you have seen this plant, report it to your local NC Extension Office or the NC Department of Agriculture.
NC Invasive Plant Council Fact Sheet Giant Hogweed:
USDA Poster Giant Hogweed:
NCSU Plant Factsheet Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis):
Photos from Virginia Tech news
A former co-worker of mine in Virginia, Corey Childs, Agriculture Extension Agent, visited the site in Clark County on June 18, 2018, where over 30 Giant Hogweed plants were recently found to collect samples for the Virginia Tech herbarium.
Debbie D. Dillion
Join us for our first Successful Gardener meeting on January 4, at 7:00 and learn to plant a tree with Bill Smith, Union County's Urban Forester. The timing is perfect with our upcoming tree and fruit sale.
Your new trees will have a greater chance for success if you put them in the ground properly!
This meeting is open to the public and begins at 7:00 PM on Thursday, January 4. It will be held at the Union County Agricultural Center at 3230-D Presson Road, Monroe.
A Dutch friend asked me recently, "Are heirloom bulbs different from historical bulbs?" Not really, I told him, but we'd say "historic" instead of "historical" -- and then the former English teacher in me kicked into high gear and I gave him my thoughts on other words commonly used to describe older plants:
Historic, not Historical -- Although their meanings overlap somewhat, historical usually means "relating to history" while historic means "a part of history." So a historical novel -- a story written ABOUT the past -- is not the same as a historic novel -- which was written IN the past. Some people say that historic has to refer only to important things in history, but the modern sense of history has changed so much that we no longer think it's only kings and famous people who are historic. Our house and office, for example, are in the Old West Side Historic District, and thousands of houses across the US are also in historic districts -- not historical districts. Universities have programs in Historic Preservation, there's the Historic Iris Preservation Society, the American Daffodil Society has a section in every show for Historic Pre-1940 Daffodils, etc.
Antique -- In America, older varieties of apples are typically called "antique apples." I don't know why, but they are. Antique suggests something that's old but with the added connotation of value or worthiness. People collect antiques, we have antique shops, etc.
Vintage -- Although it comes originally from the world of wine, "vintage" is being used more and more often to describe things from the past that aren't as old -- or maybe as serious -- as antiques. It's most often used to describe clothing, but it's also frequently used for items offered on eBay and Craigslist. It seems to be a word that's more appealing to younger adults, who may see "antique" as being stuffy or hoity-toity but who appreciate the scruffy, counter-culture look of, say, ragged jeans, and the creative diversity of older things.
Oldies and Old-Timers -- The dahlia and gladiolus societies sometimes use these terms, but as much as I like their informal, approachable tone, I think they discount the importance of older varieties. "Oldies," to me, sounds like something that's merely quaint and interesting, while "historic," "heirloom," and "heritage" sound like something valuable that we ought to take care of and preserve.
Heritage -- This is often used in England and Canada to describe historic resources such as buildings, etc. It's also being applied to plants now. (Ten years ago, "antique flowers" was the common term in England.) It has the sense of something being handed down but with more of a community or national significance rather than just personal or family importance. It's a term that's just starting to catch on for buildings and plants here in the US -- and I've actually been thinking of changing our name from Old House Gardens - Heirloom Bulbs to Old House Gardens - Heritage Bulbs.
Heirloom -- This suggests something old that's often of more emotional than monetary value, and that has been handed down from generation to generation. My wife and I have antique furniture in our house that we bought at antique shops, but the rocking chair that her grandmother gave us is not just an antique, it's a family heirloom. This to me is the best word to describe what our bulbs are. It says, "These are important, they're not just old, they've been handed down, entrusted to us, they speak of the past, they carry and evoke emotion, they deserve our care." Not everyone can get excited about history and historic, but heirloom means that you care about it, that it has personal meaning and value. It's also the word most often used to described older vegetable varieties whose seed has been saved and passed down -- and that have become very popular here. Many fancy restaurants, for example, serve heirloom tomatoes, heirloom beets, and so on.
Of course there are many other words -- old, old-fashioned, retro, old-school, etc. -- but I think I've said enough.
*Article duplicated with permission from Scott Kunst, owner & founder of "Old House Gardens - Heirloom Bulbs"
Excerpt from Volume I of The Medicinal Herb Grower by Richo Cech,
Chapter 2, pages 15-18, reprinted with permission.
I am inspired by a story. It’s about a homeless man named Chuck who made his bed under a freeway bridge in Portland, which is the big city in Oregon located many miles north of where we live. Having lost his family and his job, he took to wandering aimlessly through the city, accepting a free meal here, sitting on a bench by a fountain there, passing the time."
One spring day, he was crossing one of the major thoroughfares near the downtown area. Miscalculating the speed of the cars, he had to step lively to reach the median strip, which had been recently rebuilt and filled with new soil. He hopped over the curb, but when his boot sank unexpectedly into soft dirt, he stumbled and fell down on both hands, there between the opposing lines of traffic. Unharmed, he pushed himself back up, and as he rose, gathered up a fistful of soil in each hand. The dirt was soft and rich. Instinctively he put the soil to his nose and smelled.
Suddenly the memory of his childhood on a farm in Ohio flooded back to him. It was spring, and his grandmother was preceding him on the path to the cornfield. She wore a simple farm dress and her thick, white hair was loosely braided and fell down her broad back, swinging slightly with her gait.
The man shook his head and the vision dissolved, but the experience left behind an unmistakable feeling that welled up in his heart- it was the urge to garden. His face broke into a pleasant smile. Passing motorists shook their heads and clucked their tongues. Chuck took no notice. His smile was soon replaced by a thoughtful expression, the soil fell from his hands, and then and there he hatched a wonderful idea. He would plant that empty median strip with rows of corn!
Chuck eyed the swath of dirt between the yellow painted curbs. If he ran one row straight up the middle and made two more rows a scant six inches from the curbs, then he’d have three rows with two feet between each row- just about right. He wondered if such a thing would be allowed. Then, he straightened his back, a determined look came over his whiskered face, and he stated aloud to the traffic, “I’m going to plant corn here.” And that’s just what he proceeded to do.
He remembered where he’d seen a hoe in a trash pile and, having retrieved it, started to hoe his way down the median strip.
Nobody hassled him. He was gardening. For the most part, nobody disturbs a gardener, I suppose because everybody appreciates gardens! Swinging the hoe time and time again, he fluffed up the soil between the curbs. The exhaust fumes that arose from the traffic didn’t bother him too much- he was used to it. Despite the location, it felt good to work. He hummed, ignored the cars, and kept at it until dusk.
He made his bed as usual under the bridge. Cars zipped and pinged overhead, and trucks made the cement rumble. The loneliness, the cold, and the constant disruptions often conspired to bring on a recurring nightmare, a dream where he awoke on the train tracks, unable to move, a single light approaching… He would then awake again under the bridge, his face having slipped off the pillow onto the concrete. On this bare night, he was so excited he could barely fall asleep. His plans for the next day coursed through his mind. His body, he noticed, felt good from the exercise. Eventually he yawned and stretched. Then, when sleep overcame him, he had a peaceful dream of his grandmother. She was squatting in the field, her brown hands pushing soil over the corn seeds that gleamed the color of citrine in the furrow. She was grunting a little, pushing down with the weight of her body, firming them in.
Having no money to buy seed, Chuck spent the better part of the next day picking up discarded bottles and cans, and then turned them in for the refund. This gave him sufficient change to buy some corn seed at the corner store. Ignoring the pangs of hunger in his stomach, he excitedly returned to his median strip, scored three deep furrows in the dirt, and planted his seeds. After a few days, warmed by the sun and the hot cement all around, the corn came up, making cheery little rows of light green spears, a mellow contrast to the alarming yellow of the curb.
Chuck smiled, wiped sweat from his forehead, and cultivated the little seedlings in just the way his grandmother had taught him so long ago. He removed weeds, fluffed the soil, and thinned out the young plants. The traffic zoomed by. Two police officers in a car cruised by. He waved. They were seen to converse, then shrugged their blue-clad shoulders, waved back, and went on.
Now, this is my favorite part of the story, which says something not so much about the man, but about humankind in general.
Nobody disturbed him- or the corn.
The corn grew. It rains a great deal in Portland, so irrigation was unnecessary. By midsummer, the corn had made a dense green, knee-patch. Now, cars slowed and drivers gawked at the strange spectacle. People felt a sense of connection to the project, and they no longer thought that the man was crazy. Chuck even made the evening news. The camera showed him with his hoe in hand, looking like a scarecrow in the midst of his corn. People volunteered to help, but it was a small garden.
He shook his head at all the inquiries, smiled a secret smile, and kept cultivating.
Chuck visited his corn plants every day and, as they grew, felt a sense of accomplishment. He danced like a marionette when the plants made tassels and dropped yellow pollen down onto the golden, tousled tufts of silk.
Finally, the ears swelled with ripe kernels, and the day came to pick the first cob of corn. Feeling giddy, he pulled it free of the stalk, peeled away the husk to reveal even rows of plump kernels, and consumed it raw, right there in the midst of the patch.
It was delicious! Then he gestured triumphantly with the nubbly cob, holding it like a trophy above his head. People honked and cheered.
To me the crux of this story is that if someone wants to garden, regardless of resources, location, or social status,
there is always an opportunity to do so.
All it takes is the proper motivation and some hard work. Those of us that have access to good land are very lucky indeed. I hope we can all be as resourceful as this homeless person, in Portland, who took the initiative to make a garden in the midst of traffic. Bless him and all those that garden!
*Article Presented by Carol Larrimore, with permission from Richo Cech of The Medicinal Herb Grower
Pipsissewa is a small evergreen plant that commonly grows in dry, shady, wooded areas throughout the US and Canada. The plant comes from the genus Chimaphila, which means "winter loving." Within this genus are two known varieties, the striped wintergreen (C. umbellate) and spotted wintergreen (C. maculate). Other common names include king's-cure, love-in-winter, ratsbane, dragon's-tongue, ground ivy, prince's pine, and rheumatism root.
Both species' names derive from the Cree Indian word pipsisikweu, which translates to "breaking into small pieces." Used by Native Americans by steeping leaves and roots for infusions to drink or apply topically, its use treated pain, urinary infections, fever, rheumatism and other maladies. It is still used as a naturopathic medicine and was referenced as an ingredient for root beer but I could not find any articles or recipes to verify its use in this way.
It is small plant, typically less than 10 inches with white, 5 petaled, fragrant flowers in clusters atop a stem in early summer. Dark blue green leaves are lance shaped with serrations along the edges with white striping along the veins, 1 ½ to 3 inches long.
If you're interested in learning more about this garden gem, check out the links below:
Union County Extension Master Gardener