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Get Growing: Gardening hours dwindle as frost arrives

Cheryl B. Wilson

It was 17 degrees at my house on Tuesday morning, quite a surprise although the predictions were for the low 20s. I knew it was really cold when I went out at 6 a.m. to retrieve my newspaper and saw that the leaves of my ‘Boule de Neige’ rhododendron were curled up. This only occurs when the temperature is below 20 degrees.

So I checked the thermometer and was startled to see it was 17 degrees, the coldest yet in South Amherst. After all, it is November. At least with the end of daylight savings time, it is actually light at 6 a.m. On the other hand, by 4 p.m. the sun is setting so it wasn’t possible to do any gardening late in the day.

Those bulbs will have to wait until the weekend.

Speaking of bulbs, have you dug up your dahlias yet? Traditionally you leave the tubers in the ground for two weeks after the first hard frost that blackens the leaves. Then you shake off the soil — don’t wash them with a hose — and let them dry in a frost-free place for a couple of days. I dug mine a week ago just before going away for the weekend. At first I put the tuber — yes, I have only one plant — in the garage, but before I drove away to Connecticut I realized we might have a frost, so took the tuber inside to a wicker planter. The heat was turned down for the weekend so the tuber wouldn’t cook. This week I packed it in dry peat moss in a cardboard box and put it in the basement. Now if the mice will just stay away….

BOTANICAL PRINTING: There is a reception tonight in Lyman Plant House of Smith College for Leonore Alaniz, a printmaker whose artwork is on display through Feb. 10 in the Church Exhibition Gallery of the plant house. The reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. and the chrysanthemum show in the conservatory will be illuminated. The mum show is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as tonight and next Friday night.

ARRANGEMENTS: If well-crafted fresh flower arrangements fascinate you, drive over to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston this weekend for “Through the Garden Gate,” a standard flower show staged by the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and tomorrow with closing at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free with a ticket to the gardens for $12. Betsy Williams will give a lecture on “Fairy Garden Fantasies” at 2 p.m. tomorrow. There is a $10 fee for the lecture. For more information check the website: www.towerhillbg.org.

RECYCLING FOR THE BIRDS: Master gardeners Toi Graham and Mary Varelas will demonstrate making bird feeders out of recycled materials Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke.

Logs, crystal plates, goblets and other attic finds can be crafted into do-it-yourself feeders for winter birds. A donation of $5 is requested to help restore the museum gardens. For other events at the museum check the website www.wistariahurst.org.

URBAN TREES: The 15th annual Trees in the Urban Landscape Symposium is Nov. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston. Admission is $10 with an additional $10 for a box lunch. Topics include: fruit trees in the urban landscape, the destructive emerald ash borer (an insect recently found in Dalton, the first sighting in Massachusetts), community tree inventories and state of the nation’s urban forests. Register online at www.towerhillbg.org.

TREES AT HIGH LEDGES: Learn to identify trees without their leaves in a hike at High Ledges in Shelburne, a Massachusetts Audubon Society sanctuary, on Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Patti Steinman, education coordinator for the Connecticut River Valley sanctuaries, will lead the walk. Learn about a variety of maples, oaks, hickory, birch, beech and hop hornbeam. If it’s a clear day you will be able to see Mount Greylock and perhaps Mount Monadnock. The fee is $15. This is a moderate walk. Bring water and a snack and wear sturdy shoes. Register by calling 584-3009.

TOVAH MARTIN: “Unexpected House Plants” is a wonderful new book by the well-known garden writer Tovah Martin who will give a lecture and workshop on the topic on Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. Participants will take home house plant cuttings. Martin will also sell and sign her book. The lecture fee is $35. Register by calling 298-3926.

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