Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry

The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation keeps records on the largest trees in the state. These trees have been cataloged as the largest representatives of their particular species discovered so far. From looking at past registries, it appears that most of these record trees are located in the northwestern part of the state.

However, many species of Montana trees have not yet been nominated and there is a special category for urban trees. There is no funding to support this program; its success is mostly dependent on the volunteer efforts.

Forms and technical directions on how to measure a tree for nomination can be found on-line

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Maybe like me, this will perk your interest in becoming a “Big Tree Hunter”. Is there a “specimen big tree” in your yard or neighborhood? Or, will one of us find a tree to nominate in one of our outdoor adventures across the state?

(By the way, if you really get into this, there is also a national big tree registry. http:// )

An excellent reference book on trees: Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

Chrysanthemums – Fall Fireworks

Gardening fever can set in before the first spring shoots even pop through the snow. It can fade by the time you’ve watered, weeded, pruned, and fertilized the lawn and garden through heat, wind, bugs, and hail. Those fabulous fall bloomers that have been slowly preparing themselves all season can be a lovely rejuvenating show after a long, challenging summer, reminding you that there is always something wonderful around the corner.

Chrysanthemums are a hardy, rewarding addition to any planting for vibrant fall color. Current varieties can be traced to their wild roots in China, where they were first cultivated as a flowering herb. Many countries and cultures consider the chrysanthemum to hold special meaning, commonly symbolizing nobility, death, honor, and the month of November. One variety’s blooms are used to make tea, leaves and stems are used in various ways in far eastern cuisine, and valuable pyrethrum insecticides are made from crushed blossoms. Exhibition varieties include florists’ favorite football and spider mums and can be trained into many interesting forms. Various garden hardy forms deliver drama, bright color, and lots of long-lasting blooms on stems that don’t require staking or caging. Popular colors include deep reds, flaming oranges, and piercing yellows, but pinks, plums, and white are also lovely for blending with other fall selections.

Versatile mums can be happy in beds or containers in full sun with well-drained, fertile soil, but want to have dry feet and need room to develop their bushy habit throughout the summer. They pair well in a bed with spring bloomers that die back through the summer and leave room for dense mounds to form without competition. When mums are crowded they can be especially susceptible to molds and disease, so they respond well to division (in the spring) every three to five years. Also plan for rotation to prevent disease. Mums bloom in response to the seasonal changes in light (photoperiodic) as summer wanes, so don’t place them near street lamps and other sources of artificial light. Most will tolerate light frost and make a delightful little cut flower after other summer blooms have faded. Potted mums can be overwintered in a cool, brightly lit room indoors with limited watering, and should be gradually acclimatized to the garden in spring (protected outdoors during the day and in that cool room at night) while days get longer but frost is still a danger.

Make selections from varieties that appeal to your tastes for size, color, flower type and bloom time. They can be planted from seed, cuttings, or purchased from nursery stock (most commonly in late summer or early fall). When transplanting your established plants or introducing nursery stock, allow the roots to establish during cooler weather rather than the hottest days of summer for best results, but at least six weeks before killing frost. Consider overwintering potted mums when purchased during fall holidays for planting in spring. Some folks recommend pinching for encouraging a bushy habit and more abundant blooms, but many common varieties don’t need this special treatment to become a tight mound covered in gorgeous blooms from early to late fall. Become familiar with the variety you choose to make the best decisions regarding planting, pinching, and placement.

Compiled from Wikipedia, Chrysanthemum Flowers: What Are “Hardy Mums”? by David Beaulieu, and experience by Corinna Sinclair

What’s Weeding – Interview with Rick Shotwell

By Bess Lovec

I really like Rick’s approach to gardening, unlike mine.  I constantly feel like I should be weeding, have weeded, or plan to weed.  His yard does not synchronize with his quote about weeding, though!

Rick can’t remember when he hasn’t gardened because, as he says, there is something about Shotwells and tomatoes.  His uncles routinely competed with each other for raising the best ones.  His grandfather went so far as to sneak out of the nursing home and plant tomatoes among the shrubs.  Rick has no idea where his grandfather got the tomato plants or seeds.  This tradition apparently will continue, since his granddaughter latched onto his cherry tomatoes and told her mother that she wants to grow her own food.  Rick saves seeds from tomato plants and rotates the plants’ locations to maintain the family competition.

He finds satisfaction in growing his own food, and currently produces corn, cucumbers, and hot peppers for a mutual friend of ours, plus other vegetables.  Rick experimented with corn this past summer but considers the results poor due to lack of enough sunlight.  He plans to change the direction of his cucumber trellis from north/south to an easterly/westerly direction.  So this Master Gardener, who took the classes twice, continues to learn and grow.  The MG Program consistently promotes modesty:  When I first phoned Rick, he claimed to know nothing, an understatement if there ever was one!  The MG program introduced him to different ideas, and he means that in a positive slant.  Taking the classes twice helped to solidify the information for him.  I plan to do so as well.  My first round of classes felt like my face was in an open fire hydrant.  I only recall random snippets.

His greatest challenge is finding enough area in his urban setting.  He has reworked it, putting in sprinklers and re-sodding his front yard three years ago.  And earwigs taking root in his corn this summer provided another challenge.  From a design standpoint, Rick claims that anything looks good in a pot, and that is where flowers go at his place.  He prefers keeping lilacs trimmed.

During his four years in the U.S. Navy, Rick was a brown water sailor, which means he worked in the coastal waters, including two tours of Viet Nam, although he prefers discussing gardening.  In reflecting about his eight years as a Master Gardener, he found particular pleasure while helping with the Special K Ranch.  Lately Rick volunteers at the Metra.  His advice to gardeners is to enjoy the process and be patient.  Did gardening teach Rick patience, or is he truly a patient person among few?  My inkling is the latter.

Cindy Roessler – Perpetual Gardener

by Bess Lovec

This common thread runs through just about every gardener I meet- their first introduction to gardening was through family. Cindy is no exception, and, as is also often the case, it was her mother. She helped her mom and grandmother grow vegetables while growing up in Dickinson, ND, although her mom later grew to adore flowers.

Cindy represents another great source of information for our gardening community. She usually starts her plants from seed, and watching them pop up in spring gives her lots of joy. Another positive she discovers through gardening is sharing ideas with people, especially the network via the MG program. The water lilies in her pond were inspired by Elaine Allard, for example. She winters them and many other plants in her garage. Her range of gardening activities – wow! Cindy uses raised beds and has grown to specialize in flowering perennials, especially hardy hibiscus and delphinium. She has limited her gardening activities, though, by taking out fruit trees, and the lawn remains her husband’s turf.

One of her favorite learning aspects of the MG program was discovering the “awesome” Special K Ranch. They have a large operation, and even sell tomatoes to Albertsons, one of those little known facts about how our community is affected by local gardening.

Cindy has been with Valley Credit Union for 37 years, serving as the Chief Risk Officer.  Gardening functions as her stress buster, supplying a radical contrast to her work, although her full-time position prevents her from being frequently involved with MG. Nonetheless, she belongs to a Bonsai Society which meets monthly at a garden center in the Heights.

As a true gardener, she tries something new every year, this year being non-GMO foxglove. She doesn’t give up easily, either. Her heroic attempt to hatch praying mantises initially failed, but she is going to give that another whirl. The challenges of gardening here, from her perspective, the shorter season and lack of enough sunlight, only fuel her fury to succeed. Also she works to find the right amount of iron to compensate for deficiency in maple trees. Her advice to those new to gardening? Patience and avoid over-watering.

As she continues to mature as a gardener, Cindy is noticing more frequently the connections among animals and her yard. Her crab apple trees feed cedar wax wing birds, while the deer prefer water from the pond and the bird seed intended for birds.  Hummingbirds frequent her yard for a few weeks every summer, entertaining Cindy. I hope you have a chance to meet her during our growing season!

Meet a Student from Toby’s First Level III Class – Marcella Manuel

by Bess Lovec

Imagine being a happy, optimistic gardener, even though moose jump your six foot fence the night before!  Marcella Manuel exudes hope.  She successfully gardens regardless of circumstances.  Marcella chose the challenging climate of Roberts, Montana, although growing up in Lewistown’s climate set her up for handling tough yard duties.  According to her, the joy is in surviving challenges such as snow in June and July, and hail taking out her favorite flower, the lupine, last year.  Thankfully it came back, so never give up.

My favorite story of hers involves a free truckload of cattle manure that she received from a neighbor.  The rancher had not sprayed for five years, but the rancher on the property before him had, and Marcella reaped the results, with herbicide contamination on potatoes and tomatoes.  Initially assessing the issues as wilt, a test of the plant material shed truth on the matter.  With help from the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman and Dow Chemical, getting rid of it took eight – I am not kidding, eight – years.  Aminopyralid kills dicots, not monocots, for those of you who recall Level 2.  Air, sunlight, and water helped dissipate it, although scooping out contaminated soil completed the cleansing.  This lady has grit.

She acquires perennials with deep discounts at one of Billings’ big box stores when the plants are past their prime, then manages to coax them to long, lovely lives.  Plus she grafts to help perpetuate heritage gardens and has helped Toby gather data on heritage orchards across the state.

Both realtors and gardeners must be enthusiastic and optimistic, while knowledge and adaptability lift achievers such as Marcella even higher.  She admits that her appreciation for land might not match visions other realtors have.  Gardening is her stress relief, and we pondered if a chemical is released from the soil which gives euphoria to gardeners, providing sanctuary unto itself.

Marcella shares her knowledge widely, having taught Adult Ed. gardening classes in Red Lodge, Master Gardener Classes in Joliet, and 4-H members.  She has hosted plant exchanges, too.  Never one to take all the credit, Marcella cherishes the new County Extension Agent in Carbon County, Nikki Bailey, and acknowledges other MGs in the Red Lodge area, Brittany Moreland and Maggy Hiltner.

Her newest project is trying itoh peony, a cross between a tree peony and an herbaceous peony.  She saw some at the Seattle Garden Show, a show about which she raves.  Her current advice for new gardeners: start small and try; don’t be afraid.  She counts her mom, the MG program, DanWalt Gardens and other gardeners as her teachers.  What she values most about the MG program, even though it is all great, are activities outside of class.  When hearing her speak, it becomes readily obvious that she is a walking encyclopedia of information about gardening.  Carbon County and the MG program are lucky to have Marcella as a resource and inspiration!

MSU Extension Heritage Orchard Project

MSU Extension is looking for living historic orchards in the state.  To be considered a “backyard heritage orchard,” there must be at least six living trees that are 50 years or older. To be considered a “farmstead heritage orchard,” there must be at least 10 living trees that are 50 years or older.   Qualified orchards will be placed on an interactive map administered through MSU Extension. A website will provide viewers with information about the history of each orchard and a list of identifiable varieties. MSU Extension will work closely with orchard landowners to explore opportunities for tourism, preservation and/or propagation.

More information online at