Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FELDER RUSHING and 'Slow Gardening'

Join Extension Master Gardener Volunteers and
Friends of the Pitt County Arboretum for a presentation by Felder Rushing, America's Foremost Gardening Humorist on January 28th, 2012 from 10 am to noon. Never thought of gardening as funny? Think again! Come for an hour of offbeat, quirky gardening humor. Felder Rushing is author and co-author of 16 gardening books, including Passalong Plants. He will speak on the topic of his latest book, Slow Gardening, answer questions, and sign copies of his books. A limited number of tickets are only available through the Pitt County Office of NC Cooperative Extension by calling 902-1709. 

Event Location
Pitt County Agricultural Center
403 Government Circle
Greenville, NC 27834


Saturday, December 24, 2011


The last post focused on holly berries, but a further look around the Arboretum reveals more plants with berries.
Pittosporum tobira

Pittosporum truncatum

Pyracantha sp Firethorn

Pistacia chinensis (Chinese Pistache)

Nandina domestica

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holly Berries at the Arboretum

Ilex opaca
American Holly
Ilex x Mary Nell

The hollies (Ilex)  have adorned themselves for the holidays.  What could be more festive?  We have a fair selection of holly trees and shrubs at the Pitt County Arboretum.  As you see, each variety has its own leaf color and shape.  Each has different clusters of berries in varying shades of reds.  Hollies grow in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Keep in mind if you go shopping for one, dwarf doesn't necessarily mean small.  You also may need both a male and female species to get lovely displays as pictured here.  Read the plant tags carefully and ask the nurserymen questions. You can read more about  general growing tips of hollies by clicking here.  You can also 'google' the individual hollies shown here.   But in the meantime, enjoy these pictures taken this week.

Ilex x attenuata 'Savannah'

Ilex vomitoria 'Pendula'
Weeping Yaupon Holly

Ilex cornuta "Burfordii Nana'
Dwarf Burford Holly
Ilex x attenuata 'East Palatka'
Ilex x attenuata 'Fosteri'
Foster's Holly
Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens'
Ilex verticillata 'Sparkleberry'

Ilex cornuta 'Needlepoint'

Mockingbirds like hollies, too!
Pictures by TS

Sunday, December 11, 2011


 Sepals of Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Photo by AS 
Common names for this herb are boneset, healing herb, or knitbone.  Comfrey is a hardy perennial with leaves that contain allantoin and was used in folk medicine as bandages to aid in healing.  It is not recommended for eating due to the alkaloids found in them.  What is it good for?  Organic gardeners claim older leaves can be tossed into the compost pile to aid decomposition.  It is a deep-rooted plant that can grow to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  It flowers throughout the summer with pinkish blooms.

For further reading, click on these links:

Friday, December 2, 2011


Are you interested in meeting, mingling, and working along side people who
  • Love digging in the dirt (which they often refer to as "SOIL")?
  • Swoon over a just turned compost pile?
  • Have the phone number of the Transfer Station on speed dial to check when mulch can be picked up? (FYI:  902-3351)
  • Claim their favorite wardrobe accessory is a Felco pruner in a leather case clipped to the belt?
  • Own a Hori Hori and can use it as deftly as a chef's knife?
  • Are eager to meet and share the joy and trials of gardening with you?
Then perhaps it is time for you to take the Extension Master Gardening Course.  The Pitt County Cooperative Extension is starting a new class beginning on Thursday, January 5, 2012.  Applications are being accepted now.  Hurry, though, the deadline to apply is December 9th.  Follow these links below for more information.

If you have any questions, contact Sarah Roberson at 902-1709.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Join Extension Master Gardeners for a FREE Walking Tour of the Pitt County Arboretum.  This months tour guide will demonstrate how to take cuttings from your garden to use for holiday decorating.

10:00 AM

The Tour begins under the Green Roof Shelter in front of the Ag Center (Click on MAP link for directions).

Call 902-1709 if you have any questions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


"Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity:  it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all."

William Faulkner

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Danny Lauderdale's weekly Daily Reflector article stressed the importance of protecting the tools we use in our gardens.  If you would like to read in more detail how to maintain shovels, rakes, hoes, pruners, etc., follow this link:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


 To either side of the entrance to the Ag Center you will find a row of fall blooming 
Camellia sasanquas.  They form a full, glossy green hedge when not in bloom.

Camellias come in a large variety of sizes ranging from 4-15 feet with flower colors in shades of pinks, reds, and whites.  According to 'Floridata':
"Sasanquas can cope with many different soil types. They prefer rich organic acid soils (the same as azaleas and rhododendrons). Provide plants with an organic mulch such as leaf litter or shredded bark. These plants have beautiful natural shapes but if you need to do some pruning it is best done "lightly" and in very early spring before the buds form."

Follow this link for the NCSU Fact Sheet:  Camellia sasanqua

Friday, November 11, 2011


It may be a bit cooler this weekend, but the scenery outside is worth heading out to see.  Many trees and shrubs are at their peak color.  Bring your family, a picnic, and a camera and come out to the Arboretum this weekend for a picture perfect time.  The stores may be trying to get you to think about Christmas, but why not savor the fall for a few more weeks?
Cornus kousa  (Kousa Dogwood)

Friday, November 4, 2011


A group of Master Gardener Volunteers spent this week at the Arboretum mulching.  They used shredded leaves and the free mulch from the Pitt County Transfer Station.  Mulching now will help protect the roots from some freeze/thaw cycles we inevitable experience.  It also will keep the soil a little warmer so root growth can continue.  And we are hoping that it will help smother weed seeds!  Click here for an interesting article on FALL MULCHING.    Remember to keep mulch a few inches away from the base of the plants and please don't volcano your mulch even if you see it done in commercial settings.  Read this MULCHING  fact sheet for all you could possibly want to know about the why, what, and how of mulching.
The Transfer Station at 3025 Landfill Road in Greenville has FREE MULCH for you, too.  Call 902-3351 to find out days and times you can pick it up.  At the Greenville location, they will load your truck/pickup/trailer for you.   In Ayden-Grifton site at 5171 Weyerhaeuser Road you will need to load it yourself.  Be sure to take a tarp to cover it before leaving the station.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


 Join the Extension Master Gardeners
for the next FREE WALKING TOUR
of the

Meet under the Green Roof Shelter
in front of the Ag Center

November 3rd, THURSDAY

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
(Rain or Shine!)

The November tour will feature
composting: the how, the why, the when!

Questions? Call (252) 902-1709

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Sawtooth Oak
Forty 4 year olds, their parents and teachers recently toured the Arboretum.  The curious, inquisitive group searched for butterflies, watched bees on the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), caught insects, collected seeds from Love-in-a-Puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum), tickled their noses with wands of Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), searched the Childrens' Garden to find the letter of their name, and filled their pockets with Sawtooth Oak (Quercus acutissma) acorns.  They later enjoyed treats brought by the parents and spread out on blankets next to the Butterfly Garden.

If you are not able to come to the regular free walking tours given by Master Gardener Volunteers on the 1st Thursday of every month, please call 902-1709 to schedule a private tour for your group at other times.  Please call at least a week before your desired tour time and date.  Our next scheduled tour will be Nov. 3rd beginning at 10:00 AM in front of the Ag Center.  This month's theme will be COMPOSTING - very relevant now that leaves have begun to fall.  Come out and learn what else you can compost and see how easy it is to make black gold!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Presented by Danny Lauderdale, Extension Agent and the 
Pitt County Master Gardener Volunteers

Date:  November 16, 2011
Time:  10:00 a.m.-Noon Check-In at 9:45 a.m.
Where:  Pitt County Ag Center Auditorium
                   with outdoor demonstrations in the Arboretum
      What:  Learn how & when to prune trees, 
                shrubs, vines, and perennials

Free demonstration, but you need to register by Nov. 14th by calling 902-1709
Homeowners, Commercial, Landscapers, Professionals

Friday, October 21, 2011


The final harvest of grapes netted twenty-three pounds of grapes.  That brings the total harvest for the season to 60 pounds which were donated to the Greenville Food Bank with some minor sampling done by the picking crew to make sure they were just right!  According to our Small Fruit Curator, nothing needs to be done this fall to the grape vines.  The leaves will fall off and then in late winter/early spring they will be pruned back severely.  Follow this blog and we'll let you know when we are doing that task.

Hurricane Irene did some damage to the trellises and they will be straightened up at pruning time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011



Photos by Master Gardener A.S.

We didn't plant them and we don't harvest them, but they're here anyway growing in our mulched beds.  What do we do about them?  Nothing really.  Mushrooms in the mulch are actually helping to decompose twigs, leaves, and other organic matter.  Most disappear on their own in a few days.  If they are bothersome to you in your garden you could pick them and dispose of them.  Don't eat them, unless you are
110% sure they are edible.  Here are two publications with more details on fungi:  'What's Growing in my Landscape Mulch'  and Mushrooms and Other Nuisance Fungi in Your Lawn 

So what to do?  Enjoy their unique beauty!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ornamental Grasses

If you are looking for something

  • easy to grow and maintain
  • drought tolerant 
  • high pest and disease resistance
  • 4 season interest
  • large variety of sizes
Look no further than ornamental grasses.  Click here to read about selections good for North Carolina:  Ornamental Grasses .

Below are pictures of the Arboretum's Wildflower Garden where native Pink Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, is at its peak.  It is especially lush this year, perhaps due to the extra rain we've had.
Muhlenbergia capillaris
Gaillardia aristata

Salvia coccinea
Muhlenbergia capillaris

(Photos by Master Gardener C.T.)
For all you could possibly want to know about muhly grass, click here .

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Join Master Gardener Volunteers this Thursday, October 6, 2011, for the next free walking tour of the Pitt County Arboretum.  This month's tour will feature tips on planting spring bulbs and self-seeding annuals.  The tour begins at 10:00 AM under the Green Roof Shelter in front of the Ag Center.  Click on the map link in the right hand column for directions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox.  On this day the number of daylight hours approximately equals the number of nighttime hours.  The exact moment of the equinox is 5:04 AM. What does this mean to the Arboretum?   The beginning of Fall signals Master Gardener Volunteers to begin preparing the Arboretum for the coming winter months.  Some of the chores they will be tackling include cutting back dead foliage on perennials, weeding, and raking leaves.  This garden waste will go into our compost bins.  Read this brief summary on COMPOSTING  or refer to this site BUILDING YOUR COMPOST PILE for more details.

They also will be reviewing what plants have performed well or might need replacing.  They won't be doing any major pruning on trees and shrubs as this is best done when plants are dormant.  However, any broken or dead branches may be removed.  This may be a major chore right now as damage from Hurricane Irene lingers.

Home gardeners can add these tasks to their fall to-do-list:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The Herb Garden at the Arboretum is laid out in a circular pattern.  This layout makes it easy to reach herbs from the center crushed gravel walkway.  This is a good pattern to imitate if you are considering putting in an herb garden in your yard so that the herbs are readily accessible for snipping.  Many herbs will grow year round in Pitt County.  Check out this publication for a list of herbs to grow/how to grow them/how to use them:  Growing Herbs for the Home Gardener. 

Are you a tea drinker?  The next few weeks are good times to head out to your herb garden to gather herbs to dry, brew, or store.  This will give your perennial herbs a chance to recover from being cut before our first frost and a chance to gather annual herbs that will be damaged by frost.   You might be familiar with chamomile, mints, and lemon balm teas, but have you tried parsley, rosemary, or dill?  There is often a question of whether or not they have medicinal values.  Click here for an interesting study done at Tuft University:  Reading Herbal Tea Leaves 

Additionally, you can find out how to make herbal tea by reading this:

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Last fall 4 types of muscadine grapes were planted on sturdy wooden and wire trellises.  The vines were flush with leaves and grapes when Irene came through.  Even though they are in a fairly exposed location at the Arboretum they survived with just a few leaning posts and some grapes blown to the ground.  Before the storm, the first to ripen were the Nesbitts, a black colored grape.  The other varieties we have, Carlos (bronze colored and the leading variety grown in NC), Higgins (pink/bronze colored), and Hunt (dark purple colored), are all ripening into nice sweet grapes thanks to the sunny days, drier air, and warm temperatures.  So far 37 pounds of grapes have been donated to Greenville's Food Bank and it is expected that many more pounds will be picked throughout September.

According to  NCSU Horticultural Leaflet  Muscadine Grapes in the Home Garden, muscadines are well suited for growing in our area.  Additionally, it states that

"Muscadines grapes, (Vitis rotundifolia, or alternatively, Muscadiniana rotundifolia) are often referred to as scuppernongs. Muscadine is native to the Southeastern United States and has been cultured for more than 400 years.  It was first known as the ‘Big White Grape’, and was later named ‘Scuppernong’ after the area in
which it was found. With time, the name scuppernong became generic with all bronze muscadines, regardless of actual variety name.  However, this is incorrect nomenclature, since ‘Scuppernong’ is only one of many cultivars of muscadine grapes."

 An extensive brochure on how to get started can be found here:  Muscadine Grape Production Guide.  You may also contact the Extension Master Gardeners (see right side column 'Ask a Master Gardener' for how to do that) if you have more questions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The Arboretum weathered Irene about the same as the rest of Eastern Carolina.  Some of the larger trees lost were a Chinese Elm, High Cotton Crape Myrtle, Eastern Red Cedar, and Bradford Pears.  A group of Master Gardener Volunteers worked diligently Monday after the storm to clean up smaller limbs and leaf debris.

As we all continue to clean up perhaps your thoughts mirror many others who wonder what if anything can be done to minimize damage from future storms.  Read this article written by Pender County's Extension Office on Hurricane Resistant Trees.  It list better choices of trees to plant in addition to better ways to plant them.
Another Internet search brought up a useful site which lists hurricane resistant trees as well as those not recommended.    Click here for that list:  Hurricane Resistant Trees

The good news is that Fall is the best time of year to plant.  Why?  Paul James, Master Gardener and The Garden Guy says:
"Why is fall planting so good for plants? In the fall, the warm soil encourages root growth. Roots continue to grow through the winter until the ground freezes, or in areas with mild winters, roots may continue to grow. In early spring, roots begin new growth or continue to develop at a faster rate, and top growth begins. While the same plant planted in spring gets a slow start due to cool soils, the fall-planted plants are becoming well established. Hence, the spring-planted plant on the right lags. When summer finally arrives, the fall-planted plant is far better equipped to deal with heat and drought, largely due to its well-established root system."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WALKING TOUR - Fall Vegetable Planting

Join the Extension Master Gardeners for the next free walking tour of the Pitt County Arboretum.  The tour will be this Thursday, September 1st, beginning at 10:00 AM.  Follow the signs and meet under the Green Roof Shelter in front of the Ag Center.  (Click on the MAP link in the right hand column for directions.)  The tour lasts approximately one hour.  This month's tour will highlight fall vegetable planning and planting.  Now is the time to get your greens in the ground.  Come out and learn more about what and how to plant this time of year as well as see all of our wonderful trees, shrubs, perennials, roses, herbs,  and small fruits in the other areas of the Arboretum.
Tours are given rain or shine (but not hurricanes!).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

HURRICANE IRENE - What if......

Maybe we won't need to use these, but just in case, here are two links to some "After the Storm" information:

Tree and Forest Disaster Recovery
Storm Related Pest Problems

Hurricane Irene

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WHAT'S IN BLOOM? Mystery Plant? Do you know?

Abelmoschus esculentus
This flower is on a plant related to the hibiscus.  In some countries it is known as 'Lady's Fingers'.  It produces an edible pod.  It is very drought and heat resistant.  What is it's common name?

So how often do you get a big, beautiful flowering plant that also has edible parts?  Okra pods are fast growing and may require daily pickings.  Our okra in the vegetable plot at the Arboretum is going full steam right now.   The pods are best harvested at 3-4" long after that they tend to become tough. What about the "goo" when cooked?  This is a plus when making gumbo, not so much in other recipes.  Several hints found to minimize this are to leave them whole, sprinkle with lime or lemon juice, and cook quickly.  Here are some recipes from NCSU's Produce Lady if you are ready to try some healthier ways to prepare this vegetable.  You'll have to scroll down a bit once you go to the link for the okra ones.

For more on this good-for-you vegetable click here to read what a former Extension Master Gardener from Mecklenburg County wrote about growing, harvesting, and preparing okra.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Have you been to the Arboretum lately?  If it has been a while, you're sure to be amazed to see how we have grown.  If you can't come to our monthly (first Thursday of the month) tours led by Master Gardener Volunteers, you are invited to take on a self-guided tour anytime from dawn to dusk.  Where to start?  The best place to begin is under the Green Roof Shelter in front of the Ag Center.  It is the tall, wooden, open air structure right next to the front parking lot.  Under the shelter you will find a display that contains Arboretum brochures with maps to aid you in exploring the gardens.  Also, you will see two shelves lined with flower pots filled with cuttings of shrubs, trees, perennials, herbs, grasses, etc.  that are showing their best/most interesting features at the time.

So what might you see this week in bloom?  Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower), Salvia farinacea (Mealycup Sage), Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite' (Rose of Sharon),  and a variety of roses to name a few.

 Also, if you have a group or club that would be interested in having a tour at another time, please call.  The phone number, address and map links may be found in the right column of this blog.

Hope to see you soon!  

Friday, August 5, 2011

WHAT'S IN BLOOM - Turk's Cap

Here is a nice plant that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  It will flower in part shade, but does well in sunny locations, too.  It tolerates drought, once established, or will grow in moist soil.  The bright red turban shaped flowers love the hot weather in late summer to fall.  This perennial is even listed as not a favorite of deer!  Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) may be found in our Childrens' ABC Garden where it is about 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  You can't miss it.  The hummingbirds have found it, so you will surely see them zipping from bloom to bloom when you visit.  Further growing conditions can be found by clicking here.

Friday, July 29, 2011


It is easy to have a great looking garden in May and June.  But the true test of a plant here in Eastern Carolina will come in July and August.  Hot, humid weather and irregular rainfall take its toll on all living things.

Come out to the Pitt County Arboretum this Thursday, August 4th for a free walking tour.  Master Gardener Volunteers will be highlighting perennials, shrubs, trees, herbs, and even vegetables which are thriving and which are not!

The tour begins at 9:00 AM under the Green Roof Shelter in front of the Ag Center Building (click on the map link in the right column for directions).  The tour lasts about an hour and is given rain (wouldn't that be nice?) or shine.  Bring your friends, neighbors, and your questions!

Friday, July 22, 2011


The Arboretum's Fire Hydrant Garden was created to demonstrate what can be grown in small, sunny, dry and rather inhospitable spot.  This small bed contains assorted sedums and grasses.  But scattered throughout is a nice annual that conveniently reseeds itself each year:  Cosmos sulphureus.  
This plant stays about a foot tall with golden flowers of about an 1" to 1 1/2".  It has ferny foilage.  But best of all it blooms and blooms and blooms.  It readily reseeds to ensure more blooms until frost and then if you have let some go to seed, they will start blooming again after sprouting when the soil warms next growing season.  This flower doesn't need fertilizing or much water.  Plants under stress tend to just be smaller.  Watch carefully for new seedlings sprouting around the base of the plants this year so you won't mistakenly pull them out next year thinking they are weeds.  Below you will see them in the Fire Hydrant Garden:

So, if this hasn't convinced you to grow these easy care annuals, read this from the AgriLife Extension from Texas A&M.  (NOTE: List has been edited for space.  The full article can be found at Aggie Horticulture)

#10 -- Cosmos is one of the easiest-to-grow flowers... and is generally a pest-free annual.
# 9 -- Cosmos is THE BEST annual for Hot, Dry Locations
# 8 -- Cosmos is THE BEST annual for Poor Soils
# 7 -- Cosmos is a self-seeding annual
# 6 -- Cosmos is an annual which can be direct - seeded into the planting area
# 5 -- Cosmos flowers can be used as Cut Flowers.
# 4 -- Cosmos flowers are suitable for drying.
# 3 -- Cosmos are suitable for backgrounds and screens. 
# 2 -- Cosmos attracts birds and butterflies such as (Monarch - Danaus plexippus)
AND, THE NUMBER 1 REASON everyone should grow cosmos is -- Growing cosmos is as close as any of us will ever come to actually causing a "cosmic event" but it will be easy for ANY of us to produce showy flowers in an orderly arrangement of cosmic proportions.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Gomphrena Globosa 'Las Vegas Purple' is what you will find in spectacular bloom this week.  Even after another scorching hot, humid week this Globe Flower or Globe Amaranth (as it is commonly called) is looking fabulous.  This excerpt from the Learn2Grow website describes it perfectly:

"Distinctive, round, brightly colored flowers cover this popular warm season annual in the heat of summer. Globe amaranth is an attractive, bushy bedding plant that is native to the southern regions of Central America. Its papery everlasting flowers dry and hold their color well, so they are especially popular for crafting and flower arrangements.
Globe amaranth forms neat clumps and has simple, slightly fuzzy green leaves of medium green. From summer to fall, its stiff, upright branches hold small, round, clover-like heads of papery bracts (petal-like leaves) that subtend tiny yellow flowers. The flower heads attract butterflies and are long-lasting. Deadheading is only necessary when the blooms turn brown. Full sun and summer warmth are essential for this effortless ornamental. It grows best in perfectly drained garden soil and will withstand some drought once established. It has few to no pest and disease problems but will develop root or stem rot if planted in poorly-drained soil. Enjoy this long-blooming annual in containers or sunny mixed borders. More compact cultivars, like those in the Las Vegas Series, are ideal for smaller garden spaces. The flower stems are long enough for cutting."