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Get Growing: Garden symposia abound

Avid local gardeners look forward every year to the three spring garden symposia sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. The series started in 1996 as a single event and has mushroomed to three venues due to popular demand. Last year more than 600 people attended one of the three symposia in March and April. It’s a great way to get educated about gardening and meet other gardeners from novices to experts.

This year’s offerings begin on March 16 at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield with “Bringing Nature Home” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The keynote speaker is Doug Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.” Other speakers include Ellen Souza, author of “The Green Garden” and John Forti of Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N. H. There are two workshops sessions offering a choice of eight topics in each session. Topics include Gardening with Birds and Butterflies, Simple Organic Methods, Enhancing Woodland and Shade Gardens, Compost, Design of Gardens in Health Care Settings and Essential Oils for Health. In addition, Mary Ellen Warchol and Denise Lemay of Stockbridge Herbs will give two workshops on food. The fee is $35 for the entire day. A sandwich lunch can be ordered for $8.50 extra.

“Green in 13” is the title of the April 6 symposium at William Dean Technical High School in Holyoke from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are three workshops sessions with eight offerings in each session. Among the topics are Learn To Do Your Own Landscape Design, Low Maintenance Mixed Borders, Lavender and Labyrinths, Canning and Freezing the Safe Way, Berries in the Home Landscape, Pruning, Seed Starting, Clematis, Edible Landscape and Hypertufa. Ron Kujawski will discuss Headaches in the Vegetable Garden and Summer Flowering Bulbs. Barbara Pierson of White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Conn., will cover Container Gardening and Jim McSweeney of Hilltown Tree & Garden of Chesterfield will discuss Natural Pest Control. An innovation this year is two workshops led by four master gardeners in each session giving mini-demonstrations on such topics as worm composting, rain barrels, tool sharpening, terrariums and lawn mower care. The fee is $30. After March 16 it is $35. A box lunch is available for an additional $5.

The final symposium is April 13 at Lenox Middle and High School in Lenox. ‘Berkshire Gardens: Dreams to Reality” runs from 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. There are three workshop sessions with four offerings in each session. Topics include Critter Control, Invasive Plants, Container Gardening, Hostas, Heirloom Vegetables, Right Plant, Right Place and Growing and Cooking with Herbs. The fee is $30 before March 31 and $35 after that date. A pizza, salad and dessert lunch is included.

Individual sessions may be selected for $12 each.

All of the symposia feature sales of books from Storey Publishing and Timber Press at a 20 percent discount. There are also garden-related vendors and raffles.

More information and registration forms are available on the organization’s website: www.WMassMasterGardeners.org.

Early registration is advised since many workshops fill up fast.

BULB EMERGENCE: My son in Connecticut, who has just bought his first house, emailed the other day worried about bulb foliage emerging in areas where the snow has melted. Even at my house — where we had 24 inches of snow two weeks ago — the sunny area by the side steps reveals daffodils merrily poking up their heads.

Should I cover them, Jay asked?

Well, you could cover them with pine boughs but good old Mother Nature knows what she is doing. The foliage will survive nicely without any help from human beings. More worrisome is when the flower buds emerge and there is a snowstorm. Then, pine boughs might help. Right now in our area most bulbs are still buried in snow and are just biding their time until spring really arrives. And that rodent in Pennsylvania claims spring will be early.

You can bring spring inside to hasten that happy day. Cut boughs of forsythia, apple or crab apple, magnolia or the super-early witch hazel. Put them in a vase filled with water and spritz with a water mist daily. I had an event at my house on Feb. 10, so on Feb. 6 I cut some witch hazel — which is really easy to force — and brought it inside. In just 48 hours I had blossoms and lovely astringent witch hazel fragrance. Forsythia and the others will take longer, especially magnolia, but we can anticipate spring by forcing shrub branches.

WINTERSCAPING: Snow is lovely but you can enjoy plants in the winter landscape as well. Debbie Windoloski will discuss how to “winterscape” your garden so it isn’t boring even when we lack attractive snow cover. Her lecture is tomorrow at 10 a.m. at Annie’s Garden and Gift Store on Route 116 in North Amherst. The talk is free, but registration is encouraged by calling 549-6359.

COMPOSTING: Whether you want to build a compost pile outside or try worm composting inside Eric Tiedeman-Mau of the Hadley Garden Center will tell you how in a free garden clinic tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Hadley Garden Center on Route 9 in Hadley. On Sunday at 1 p.m. Sonia Schloemann of the University of Massachusetts extension program will discuss small fruits — grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries —in a free program that was postponed from the Feb. 9 storm. Winter Garden Clinics continue through March 9. 584-1423.

POISONS: Emil Monosson of the University of Massachusetts will present a free program on “Evolution in a Toxic World” on Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst.

Monosson, an environmental toxicologist, will discuss how life’s rapid and slow evolutionary response to environmental poisons can help people fight their destructive effects. For more information and to register call 256-6006.

ECO MANAGEMENT: Arcadia Wild Life Sanctuary in Easthampton holds an Ecological Management Conference on March 2 from 9 a.m. to noon. David McLain, conservation caretaker at Arcadia, and John Burk, Smith College ecologist, will lead discussion on managing natural areas and the research being conducted at Arcadia and other Audubon sanctuaries. The session is free. To register call 584-3009.

Cheryl Wilson can be reached at valleygardens@comcast.net

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