Moss Mansion Christmas Party

On December 4th, the Yellowstone County Master Gardeners had the best Christmas Party ever, with 70 in attendance. The Moss Mansion was beautiful with the “Montana Christmas” themed Christmas trees decorated in each room.

Special thanks to Sharon W. for putting together the upstairs hors d’oeuvre(and Chris S. for hosting), scrumptious dinner of prime rib, ham, turkey, baked potatoes, green beans, salad, veggies, wine and a delicious selection of cheesecakes for dessert.

The present exchange turned out to be a bit of a challenge as our usual large, upstairs room was occupied, but adjustments were made. We made our circle of about 30, around downstairs tables, and with a new ‘left and right game’ the presents found their recipients.

A huge shout out to Teresa and Russ B., Duane and Tyler W., Levi R., Swann M., Heather V. and Shane F. for all your helping hands. Thanks to you the evening’s coordination, set up and clean up went much faster. You all rock!!!

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Just What is Plant Select and What is Happening at Zoo Montana?

Plant Select is the country’s leading brand of plants designed to thrive in high plains and inter-mountain regions, offering plants that provide more beauty with less work so gardeners of all levels can achieve smart, stunning, and successful gardens using fewer resources and with a more positive environmental impact.

Driven by the belief that the right plants in the right place matter and that cultivating plants in tougher growing environments requires smarter approaches, Plant Select leverages a uniquely collaborative model and highly selective cultivation process to find, test, and distribute plants that thrive on less water.

Plant Select’s goal is to create smart plant choices for a new American landscape inspired by the Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select is a nonprofit combining forces of Colorado State University and Denver Botanical Gardens. I (Teresa Miller Bessette) applied to Plant Select for the gardens at Zoo MT to become a test site. Sharon Wetsch and I drove to Fort Collins in August and received plant material. A new site was cut and the plants were planted. There will be meetings and more plant material in the spring!

Submitted by Teresa Miller Bessette

On Thursday March 15th from 4- 5:00 PM in the Community Room at the Billings Library, Master Gardener Teresa Bessette will be giving a presentation on the gardening activities that are going on at ZooMontana’s Botanical Garden. Make plans to attend to hear more about how the Zoo qualified as a test site for Plant Select and what it involves.

 

Second Annual Pumpkin Carving Class

Our Second Annual Pumpkin Carving class was held on Friday, Oct. 27th in the comfort of the newly remodeled 4-H building. Much less chilly than the greenhouse.

Jeff Schaezle once again patiently worked with six of the Master Gardeners, helping us create our ghoulish mascots for Halloween. Merita was most diligent in cleaning up after us as we all busily whittled away at our works of art (a very messy process).

It was quite challenging, as the goal is to create images with 3 dimensions, so that the faces can be illuminated from inside, but only through thinly carved areas, not the traditional holes usually chiseled for faces. The process took much more time than the traditional method, but the end result was well worth it.

 

 

New Leadership: Dara Palmer

On a late summer day, I met with Dara Palmer and her partner to discuss her new leadership role as Montana Master Gardener Coordinator. Since Dara worked with Toby for six and a half years, the transition seems less daunting, although Toby’s and Dara’s personae and styles are very different. We receive benefits of both! Specific goals and attention to detail excite Dara. As a big thinker, she plans to accomplish lots while in her new role.

MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

Incidentally, ‘Dara’ rhymes with ‘Sara.’ Her new position began this past July. Prior to this achievement, she earned her Horticulture Bachelor’s of Science degree from MSU (Bozeman) and has completed all levels of the MG program. She really knows the nuances. Prior to the position as Toby’s assistant, Dara worked as a landscaper and in a greenhouse for a combined total of 12 years, so her depth of knowledge and experience in gardening reign formidable.

Toby has not left us. He continues to write Mont Guides plus bulletins and serves on the weekly Ag Live PBS television show. In addition, he continues as state Horticultural Specialist, conducts workshops, and is very involved with Heritage Orchards in Montana. When clarifying what he continues to do, I wonder how he managed it before and can even keep track with his various on-going duties! We wish him well in his future numerous endeavors and hope he will stay in contact.

Dara shared lots of information about the Montana MG program. Level 3 did not occur in 2016, but in 2017, 25 people attended. In no particular order, Billings, Great Falls, Helena, and Gallatin County boast the most active associations. Bravo, Billings! Gallatin County did not have a County Extension Agent at the time of this interview. Their former Volunteer Coordinator is none other than Dara. I asked about government cutbacks: Cutbacks will not be for the MG program specifically but rather the Extension as a whole, and the final word on those negotiations were not available at the time of printing. Neither people, the earth nor plants remain static.

Many Level 3 graduates request more continuing education, so she is toying with the notion of a gold designation in the future for those high achievers. To do so would serve the purpose of aligning us with national standards, a goal within sight. Dara considers camaraderie the greatest strength of the program, especially when coordinators from across the state meet. Those connections stem from a deep concern for horticulture, her passion. The fun factor must be front and center, too.

As a personal gardener, ornamentals (perennials, trees, and shrubs) interest her most. She had to replant her first real vegetable garden this past spring due to a cold, wet stretch in Gallatin County. Yet it did yield harvest.

Her greatest challenge with the program? IT improvements. She wants to customize the website so it is more user-friendly. I assured her that it is more user friendly than many websites with which I interface! Next on her to-do list is to write a new Level 2 Handbook, although she recognizes that that calling will take years. She longingly describes fine tuning the curriculum, re-writing exams, and new study guides. Based upon Dara’s intensity, I sense that demands on the students will increase. The expectations will be offset by a student manual which spells out steps, so the process registers as attainable. Food donations need to be standardized across the state, also. And less sweaty t-shirts, ah, an eagerly anticipated relief, will arrive soon.

Welcome, Dara, and let us know how we can help to better improve the program for everyone! We can make Montana more beautiful and healthy, one plant at a time.

Submitted by Bess Lovec

 

METRA Square Foot Garden Results

This year, once again, we had some stiff competition with our METRA Square Foot Garden Contest. There were 5 competition 4×4 beds this year. You all made our garden demonstration something to check out. There were many very nice compliments this year.

Special thanks to all of you who competed: Cindy Roesler, Joann Glasser & Pat Morrison, Rick Shotwell, Roy Wahl, Susan Carlson And the winners are: First Place – #1 Cindy Roesler ($50 Second Place – #5 Joann Glasser and Pat Morrison ($25) Third Place – #2 Rick Shotwell ($10).

Thank you to Mary Davis and Rosemary Power for being our honored judges. Our judges suggested sharing with you what they will be looking for next year. Here’s the list: 1. Well thought out design 2.Space utilization 3 Creative plant choice 4.Plant health 5.Care & maintenance of garden 6.Overall attractiveness 7. Labeling/Educational 8. Mixture of color, form & texture.

Please consider being a part of the 4×4 Garden Contest in 2018. There are 2 available competition beds that you could use to share your ideas of what could be done in a small space garden.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre