Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium

  • Post published:03/05/2011
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Sue Reed, Keynote Speaker at her drawing table

The days are longer and the sun is brighter, so even though snow lies deep on the ground we know that spring is coming.  That means that the annual Master Gardeners Spring Symposium held on Saturday, March 19 at Frontier Regional High School is coming up, too..

This year I am presenting a slide show of Elsa Bakalar’s perennial gardens in all their glory. Elsa passed away last year, but her memory remains green for many of us. Her gardens remain an inspiration, especially knowing that she achieved those magnificent blooms and sturdy plants organically. Compost was her secret.

Elsa’s garden was certainly extraordinary, a perfect garden to be included in this year’s theme Gardening Beyond the Ordinary.

This year’s keynote speaker Sue Reed, landscape architect and author of “Energy Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden”,  will talk about the ways we can all design our domestic landscapes to be sustainable and beautiful.

Reed’s book covers some familiar ways that we are used to thinking about saving energy through our plantings. I have known that windbreaks can help cut down on heating bills in the winter and that deciduous trees can help keep a house cool in the summer, cutting down on cooling bills. The trick is knowing just how and where to arrange these plantings.

Sometimes the energy Reed talks about saving is human energy. Minimizing lawn areas that have to be mowed is an energy saving project that my husband heartily endorses. If not lawn, then what? Reed talks about trees and shrubs, and even vegetable gardens, that can be grown instead of lawn. Generously sized paths and patios can be attractive design elements as well as being welcoming spaces that can be used. Ground covers can be used in areas that are not hospitable to lawn grasses, or that are not needed for social activities.

Minimizing lawn areas not only save human energy, they benefit the environment. People tend to use unnecessary amounts of fertilizers and herbicides that take energy to manufacture, and then cause problems with toxic run-off into our sewers and waterways.

Reed’s book is a comprehensive guide to creating an energy saving landscape that protects the environment and is beautiful, giving us pleasure for many years.

All of the 14 workshop sessions, will give practical information. Ryan Voiland who is in the process of moving his amazingly productive Red Fire Farm from Granby back to his home town of Montague, will talk about using cover crops in the garden; Jonathan Bates of Food Forest Farm Permaculture Nursery will talk about creating edible landscapes for beauty and food in the morning, and mushrooms in the afternoon. Everyone attending the mushroom workshop will go home with a log inoculated with shitake mushrooms and the promise of homegrown mushrooms later in the season.

Ed Sourdiffe, Master Gardener will once again give his always popular workshop about Easy Gardening and Simple Organic Methods for Organic Gardeners, and Wes Autio, UMass professor of pomology will reveal the secrets of pruning.

A father and daughter team, Ron and Jennifer Kujawksi will also talk about getting more out of your vegetable garden including ways to prioritize your crop selection and ways to use your space more efficiently.

Master gardener John Barry will present his talk about the importance of growing native shrubs in the morning and the afternoon.  Nowadays even people who live on suburban lots are realizing the important part they can play in maintaining the local food web, supporting local birds, butterflies, and all the little creatures that may be less beautiful and less noticeable, but just as important to our environment.

Denise Lemay and Mary Ellen Warchol of Stockbridge Herbs will once again be on hand to prepare and hand out treats. In the morning they will discuss – and share – gluten free dishes; in the afternoon they’ll be whipping up all manner of classic and special salad dressings. Spring is salad season and these ladies will prepare us.

Allison Bell and Maida Goodwin, Plant Conservation volunteers will talk about Grace Greylock Niles who wrote Bog-Trotting for orchids in 1904, and was a part of the conservation movement in the early 20th century.

One kind of unusual garden that is becoming more and more popular is a “green roof”. Michael Keeney of Treefrog Landscapes will talk about the challenges and benefits of growing plants on your roof, and how to choose suitable plants.

Needless to say I am looking forward to Everything’s Coming Up Roses – tried and True Roses for Western Massachusetts presented by Tracey Putnam Culver who works at the Smith College Botanical Gardens.

The only problem with the Spring Symposium is knowing that you can only choose two of these great workshops. Very difficult.

The Master Gardeners Spring Symposium runs from 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday, March 19.  The cost for the whole program is $30, or $15 to attend only the keynote talk.  A delicious lunch for $7.50 is also available. It is advisable to sign up early.

For more information logon to or contact Bridget Heller at or 665-8662.  ###

Today, March 5, the Spring Bulb Show opens and runs til March 20. Hours are 10 am – 4 pm. Click here for more information.

Between the Rows        February 26, 2011

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