Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Get Growing: Plants suffer, too, when temperatures drop

It’s cold outside! It’s cold inside, too, unless you have a snug house with a woodstove or are willing to turn up the heat.

Is there anything you can do to protect your plants? Yes. Check on any houseplants positioned in windows. It would be wise to pull them back from the glass at night to avoid frostbite. African violets and other tropicals simply can’t fathom temperatures in the teens.

Outside, my rhododendron hasn’t uncurled its leaves in several days. They fold up when the temperatures are below 20 and most days this week we’ve been lucky to see 22 degrees. My sister in California was complaining just last week about the temperatures in the Santa Cruz Mountains dipping below 32.

Sorry, I can’t be very sympathetic.

Snowdrops were already trying to bloom including my new Galanthus elwesii, the so-called “giant” snowdrop. Snow briefly covered it, but has been swept away by the wind in that area of the garden and the poor little white flower looks shell-shocked.

In the garden, place evergreen boughs over the most marginal perennials.

Temperatures are supposed to return to the 40s next week and you could use an anti-desiccant spray like Wilt-Pruf on broad-leafed evergreens to help them conserve moisture. It must be applied only when the temperatures are as warm as 40 degrees, however.

Meanwhile, keep warm by the fire and dream of spring by perusing seed and plant catalogs — and placing your orders — and attending a garden lecture or spending a morning in a college greenhouse.

SPRING SYMPOSIA: As we all shiver in the frigid weather, our thoughts turn to warmth and flowers and vegetables from the garden. Plan now to attend one or more of the annual spring garden symposia sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. First comes “Bringing Nature Home” at Frontier Regional High School in Deerfield on March 16. Doug Tallamy, author of the popular book “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens,” will be the keynote speaker. There are two workshop sessions with eight choices in each time slot. Workshop leaders include John Forti of Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H., Ellen Souza of Turkey Hill Brook Farm in Spencer, who is the author of “The Green Garden,” and Nick Dine, creator of the Williamsburg gardens and a garden at Franklin Medical Center. Other topics include organic gardening, mushroom logs, hypertufa demonstration, rain barrels, shade gardens, compost and the ever-popular cooking workshops with Stockbridge Herb Farm owners. The fee for the day is $35 with an optional additional fee of $8.50 for a sandwich lunch.

The Holyoke symposium is at William Dean Technical High School on April 7. It is titled “Green in ‘13’ ” and features three workshop sessions with 24 topics. Learn about perennials, naturescaping your garden, berries in the home landscape, water gardening, pruning, summer-flowering bulbs, clematis or organic lawn care. Among the workshop presenters are Ron Kujawski and Barbara Pierson of White Flower Farm as well as UMass Extension personnel and master gardeners. The fee for the day is $30 if paid before March 16 with a late fee of $5. A turkey sandwich lunch is an additional $5.

The final symposium in the series is April 13 at Lenox Memorial Middle & High School. “Berkshire Gardens: Dreams to Reality” offers three workshop sessions with four choices in each session. Topics include invasive plants, landscaping with shrubs, hostas, container gardening, heirloom vegetables and plants for butterflies. The fee is $30, which includes a pizza and salad lunch.

Registration forms and information are available at www.WMassMasterGardeners.org. Brochures will be at local garden centers as well.

MARDI GRAS FOOD: Mary Ellen Warchol and Denise Lemay of Stockbridge Herbs will demonstrate New Orleans-style signature dishes tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Annie’s Garden & Gift Store in North Amherst.

“Mardi Gras: Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler” is free but preregistration is encouraged. Call 549-6359.

SEED STARTING: Master Gardener Ed Sourdiffe, who has been appearing on “Mass Appeal” on Channel 22 in Springfield, will demonstrate seed-starting techniques tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Hadley Garden Center on Route 9. The event is free. Call 584-1423.

READING SILENT SPRING: The first of a three-part lecture-discussion series on “Reading Silent Spring Together” is tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Forbes Library in Northampton. Andrew Whitely, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts, will lead the discussion and explain “The Science Behind Silent Spring.” The lecture is free, but register by emailing wmmgasilentspring@gmail.com. The series, which is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, continues Feb. 2 in Greenfield and Feb. 16 in Amherst.

HYDRANGEAS FOR THE NORTH: Tim Boebel will discuss new varieties of hydrangeas that will thrive in northern hardiness zones tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. The fee is $30. Register by calling 298-3926 or online at berkshirebotanical.org.

TRACKING WINTER RESIDENTS: Charley Eiseman of Northern Naturalists will lead a walk through Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area in Northampton on Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. Learn how to recognize the tracks of area mammals and how they survive the winter in their chosen habitats. Meet at the North Farms Road entrance to the conservation area. Sponsored by the Broad Brook Coalition.

ORCHARDING: Alan Surprenant of Brook Farm Orchard in Ashfield offers four seasonal workshops for homeowners wishing to establish tree fruit orchards. The first workshop is Feb. 9 with an emphasis on variety selection, site selection, pruning theory and hands-on pruning. Workshops in April, August and November will address other aspects of successful tree fruit growing. The fee is $85 per workshop and enrollment is limited to 12 people at each event. To register call Surprenant at 625-9615 or email him at alansurprenant@hotmail.com.

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