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Get growing: Farewell to gardening guru Ron Kujawski



It was a great shock to read last week that my gardening mentor, Ron Kujawski, is retiring. We will miss his wonderful Gardener’s Checklist, which appeared in the Gazette for 33 years.

Ron retired from the University of Massachusetts Extension Service a few years ago. I met him in 1985. I applied for the master gardener program that he founded in Massachusetts and was thrilled to be accepted for the Class of 1986. Ron’s vast knowledge was leavened by his quirky sense of humor. He was and is an excellent lecturer who keeps his audience entranced. He taught me many lessons in gardening but also in human relations. At the end of our training he offered me a dream job coordinating the master gardener volunteers in Hampshire County, a position I held for two years until UMass ended the program due to massive state budget cuts.

A few of us founded the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, with Ron’s help, and eventually, in 1995, we restarted the program totally run by volunteers. Ron always gave at least one lecture during the 13-week training — until this year.

His book, “Week-By-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook,” published by Storey Publishing in 2011, written with his daughter, Jennifer (I remember her as a toddler!), is one of the best guides to vegetable growing that I know.

Ron’s students and friends will miss his guidance and presence very much.

But I know his readers will miss him, too. Happy retirement, Ron!

MULCHING: Don’t toss those Christmas trees out by the street to be collected for the landfills. Cut off their boughs and spread them over perennials and ground covers as winter mulch. Yes, snow is the poor man’s mulch, but it can melt away at any time and alternate freezing and thawing can be lethal to your plants. Evergreen branches provide wonderful protection from this cycle.

ANOTHER NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Educate thyself! Whether you read a good garden book or magazine, attend a free local gardening clinic, participate in a discussion of books or travel to hear a famous gardener speak, spend some time this winter learning more about the art and science of gardening. A few suggestions follow.

SILENT SPRING: 2012 was the 50th anniversary of the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. “Reading Silent Spring” is a three-part lecture and discussion series on the book, sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, on Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 16. The free program is open to all.

Participants should read the book before attending a session and should register by emailing wmmgasilentspring@gmail.com. You may attend one session or all three. The first session, “The Science Behind Silent Spring,” is at 1 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Forbes Library in Northampton where the discussion will be led by Andrew Whitely, evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts. The second session is at the Greenfield Public Library at 11 a.m. on Feb. 2 and the discussion of “The Relevance of Silent Spring After 50 Years” will be led by Emily Monosson, environmental toxicologist at UMass. The final session, “Our Threatened Future,” is Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. at Jones Library in Amherst where the speaker will be Jan Dizard, chair of environmental studies at Amherst College. Master Gardener Anne Williamson of Amherst obtained a grant from the WMMGA for the series.

BIRD FEEDING: The first winter gardening clinic at Hadley Garden Center is Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. Dan Ziomek will discuss types of bird feeders and varieties of bird seed and suet in the free lecture.

PERENNIAL COMBINATIONS: Barbara Pierson of White Flower Farm will discuss “Perennial Combinations That Work” on Jan. 12 at 10 a.m. at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. The fee is $30. Register by calling 298-3926 or online at berkshirebotanical.org.

PASSION FOR PLANTS: A three-part study group on small ornamental trees, reliable ground covers and hot new annuals will be offered at the Berkshire Botanical Garden on Jan. 17, 24 and 31 from 10 a.m. to noon. Elizabeth Cary and Dorthe Hviid are the instructors. The fee is $70 for the series or $25 per session. Call 298-3926 or register online at berkshirebotanical.org.

HIDCOTE LECTURE: Glyn Jones, head gardener at the famous Hidcote Manor Garden in the English Cotswolds, will give the annual winter lecture for the Berkshire Botanical Garden on Feb. 23. The lecture will be held at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington. Hidcote, now owned by the National Trust, was designed by Lawrence Johnston, a transplanted American. Jones will discuss the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement on Johnston’s garden designs and his trips to China in the 1930s to find new plants. He will explain the recent restoration of the gardens and suggest ways area gardeners can incorporate some of Johnston’s ideas into their own landscapes. Tickets are required and may be reserved online at berkshirebotanical.org. Prices are $42 or $35 for members of the botanical garden. This lecture series always sells out.

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