Reflections on Winter…

“There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues.” ~ Hal Borland


The winter comes: the frozen rut
Is bound with silver bars;
the white drift heaps against the hut;
and night is pierced with stars.”
– Coventry Patmore

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” ~William Blake

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

“Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream.” ~Josephine Nuese

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ~ Edith Sitwell

“Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them.” ~ Vincent A. Simeone

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Everything Edible: Roots to Fork

Everything Edible: Roots to Fork
3rd Annual Lewis & Clark County Master Gardener Celebration
Saturday, March 4, 2017

Please see the registration information, including agenda, pricing, hotel info and the registration form for the Lewis & Clark County Master Gardener Celebration to be held March 4, 2017 in Helena. Look like a GREAT time!

Make check payable to: Lewis & Clark County Extension Fund.
Mail to: Gold Country MT , Master Gardeners Assn., 100 W. Custer Avenue, Helena, MT 59602
Registration Form:
Hotel Accommodations: Comfort Suites, 3180 N. Washington St., Helena, MT: 406.495.0505. This is legislative season so make your reservations early. The hotel provides a shuttle to/from the Fair-grounds, rooms are at state rate ($95, single/double occupancy), there is continental breakfast, and vehicle plug-ins. Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds is located 2.5 miles due west on Custer Avenue. Room block expires Feb. 16, 2017, reference: Master Gardeners. Registrants are responsible for their own accommodations.
Facebook: Gold Country Montana Master Gardeners Association

International Master Gardener Conference

The upcoming International Master Gardener Conference will be in Portland, Oregon at the Oregon Convention Center July 10-14, 2017. Early registration deadline is January 13, 2017. This is going to be super fun!

There are social events, movies, a trade show and tours, plus full days of seminars and keynote speakers. Lunches are included in the conference price. This conference is open to anyone!

The International Master Gardener Conference (IMGC) has been held every two years since 1987. The IMGC provides an opportunity for Master Gardeners, State and County coordinators to come together and learn through seminars and tours, celebrate successes through the International Search for Excellence Program, and meet and network with Master Gardener volunteers, faculty and staff from across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Korea.

Check out their website and blog via the link below. They also have a Facebook page as well as online Newsletters covering facts and details about the conference and Portland.
Website & Blog:

Landscaping with Native Plants

Native plants may be a wise choice for many landscapes for several reasons. First of all, once native plants are established they seldom need watered, which can be very cost-effective due to the rising cost and shortage of available water. Besides providing ground cover, drought resistant deep-rooted native plants help hold soil in place and prevent erosion by taking up water that might otherwise cause flooding. Also, native plants help with biodiversity in the environment by producing the exact type of nectar, pollen and seeds that are needed as a food source for native birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. Furthermore, native plants that have evolved to grow in our conditions are usually less susceptible to diseases and therefore require fewer pesticides, fertilizes and other chemicals which is better for the environment.

Even with native plants, it is important to pick the right native plants for your area. Before selecting, look around your area and see what is growing in undisturbed natural areas. If you decide to collect native seeds, it is best to only take a portion of the available seeds from one area and leave some seed pods to insure the plant continues to thrive in that area. (Also, seed collection is prohibited in national parks.) The native flowers seeds of yarrow, Lewis’ blue flax, blanket flower and lupine are easy to collect and fairly easy to grow. Many native seeds need to be planted in the fall or winter because they need to be exposed to cold temperatures in order to germinate. Some seeds take scarification or abrasion and take several years before they germinate. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
has a booklet entitled ‘Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains’ which gives pointers on how to get native plants established and has native plant choices listed according to their bloom period. A list of pollinator friendly plants that are native to Montana can be found at:

Native landscapes provide a natural beauty which mimics nature and changes with the seasons. Instead of mowing or cutting back plants in the fall, learn to enjoy the seasonal beauty of dried materials in the landscape and let the plant function as a windbreak and wildlife habitat. A link to a list of native plants of our region that can add variety and beauty to your landscape can be found at  If you are looking to buy native seeds at a nursery, the Montana Native Plant Society has information on sources for native plants and seeds for our area. Blake Nursery in Big Timber, Oasis Environmental Nursery in Livingston, and Lawyer Nursery
in Plains all carry native plants.

Note: Wildflower Seed Mixes are not always Native species.

Submitted By: Elaine Allard

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle is scheduled for February 22-26, 2017 at the Seattle Convention Center. Below is all the information you will need in order
to make your own travel and hotel arrangements as well as purchase your flower show tickets.
Montana Master Gardener will host a Meet & Greet meal (excluding alcohol) on Thursday
evening, February 23, 2017. If you are attending the show and want to join the Montana group for a free dinner please RSVP to me by February 1, 2017 so Dara can confirm your reservation number at the restaurant. She will email you the dinner details at that time.
For hotel options go to:

The Crowne Plaza is the hotel we have used in the past. It is a very nice hotel, right in downtown Seattle and only 2-3 blocks to the Convention Center, they have the best rate for being so close to the show.
Airlines: Alaska:
Flower Show Tickets: Early bird tickets (before February 21) are $17 per person/per day, after that they are $22.
Flower Show Information: This lists all the show details and seminar schedules as well as exhibitor info.
This is a wonderful show and we always have a great time and learn many new things…as well as coming home with some fun souvenirs. Please consider attending, it is well worth it!

Dara Palmer, Assistant Master Gardener Coordinator
Tel: (406) 994-2120

So you have all the Christmas decorations stored, the income tax information compiled in a folder and now without any other interruptions, let’s get the seed catalogs all spread out and start making plans. You probably have a list of your standard vegetables and varieties. Have you ever thought about trying something entirely different just to see if it would grow well? Try two variety types to see which one produced more? How much space do you have for how many vegetables? When I look through catalogs, it’s like a kid in a candy store – I’d like one of each item.

What do we believe and expect from catalog products? Keep in mind as you swoon over all the pretty pictures that their purpose is to entice you to buy first-most, and to educate you last-most. Those pretty silver Artemesia that are “hardy and easy to grow” could barge into your property like a band of evil pixies, then float over the fence on the wind and take over your neighbor’s lawn, the back alley, and the cracks in the sidewalk out front! What the catalog might not tell you is that your Montana climate will turn those hardy annual plants into perennials that come from seed and from all the root bits, and if you aren’t ready for that it could be a three-year weed-pulling seed experiment gone bad.

When buying seeds it’s important to do your homework. Some seeds need special care to sprout. If you are preparing to pay $5 for a packet of 5 geranium seeds, for example, you should be aware that they are that expensive for a reason. That doesn’t mean to avoid them, it means you will want to know all you can about geranium seeds before they arrive in your mailbox. You won’t want to waste them because you didn’t know they want warm feet until they come up, and then watered from the bottom to avoid any extra moisture at the base of the seedling to avoid damping off. Pansies, on the other hand, better not be on that heat mat – they like it cool. And some seeds will want to be dark when others need to be exposed to the light! They won’t tell you those things in the catalog. Avoid preventable failures by having at hand (hard copy or online) a good seed identification guide that includes germination information (light requirements, moisture preferences, temperature, scarification, etc.), pictures of seedlings and first true leaves, time to germination, susceptibility to fungus or rots, and other helpful facts. [Park’s Success With Seeds is Corinna’s favorite reference.] You will want specific germination information on every seed you plan to buy for the best success.

If you find something you want to try that needs to be seeded indoors, assemble any
lights, heat mats or cables, and watering supplies before they arrive so you know what kind of space you’ll need. It can be a very enjoyable thing to have seedlings in the house on those dreary February days! The same diligence can be done for buying plant material. Know as much as you can about the plant, its best condition before planting, best time to plant, and best initial care requirements before you buy. Know what it is susceptible to, and what it wants for light, water, and soil. If you always have a reliable secondary source of information, you increase your rate of success and can spot ‘creative marketing’
before you fall for it.

It should be pointed out that if you are looking for specialty potatoes Montana has a Premier Seed Potato production that supplies seed potatoes to Idaho, Washington and other states that are famous for their potatoes. ( Nina Zidack of the MT Potato Lab “wants to encourage home gardeners to plant Montana-certified seed potatoes.” One reason is that certified seed potatoes grow better potatoes than potatoes bought in a grocery store or potatoes left over from previous seasons. Potatoes sold in grocery stores are often treated to restrict the sprouting of tubers, Zidack said, “and more importantly they may come from other states and carry virus diseases and tuber and soil-borne pests, or come from areas that have frequent outbreaks of Late Blight.” The Irish potato famine was caused by Late Blight, the most destructive disease of potatoes, which can also infect tomato, eggplant, pepper and petunia. Spores from the fungus may be wind borne and carried 50 miles or more. “Increased planting of Montana-certified seed in gardens will reduce the risk of introducing pathogens or other pests which would cause serious disease outbreaks resulting in monetary losses to [home and professional] growers,” Zidack said. If you have questions about sources for certified seed potatoes, contact your local extension agent or Nina Zidack at (406) 994-3150,

Don’t forget that your Master Gardener Association and Extension is a great source of information when you are trying new things. Use the online resources and your personal relationships through Master Gardeners to help you be a successful seed planter!

Submitted By: Sheri Kisch and Corinna Sinclair