Shady Side Academy-hosted symposium offers latest on urban gardening
Home gardeners venturing outdoors for damage control after a wicked winter might want to seek advice from the pros at the Western Pennsylvania Garden & Landscape Symposium.
Sponsored by Penn State Extension Master Gardeners, Penn State Center Pittsburgh and Shady Side Academy, the daylong symposium April 18 at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel will feature a range of presentations by horticultural experts, researchers and native-plant specialists.
The event will include the Garden Marketplace, with representatives from local nurseries, lawn-and-garden centers and greenhouses armed with answers to questions about plants and the latest varieties of perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, along with garden accessories and tools.
Philip Bauerle, interim Master Gardener coordinator, Penn State Center, and one of the symposium organizers, says removing winter damage on broadleaf evergreens such as boxwood and holly will most likely be gardeners' first chore this spring.
“It's easy to tell what the winter damage is on the evergreens, since it isn't green anymore,” he says. “We also expect to see a lot of the marginal plants that had been planted, plants that do better in a warmer zone, to be killed off if they had been replaced since last year.”
He says the first thing a gardener can do is get reoriented to their garden.
“After spending so much time cooped up, it's tough to remember where things were planted,” Bauerle says. “Also, if a gardener leaves cleanup — such as removal of leaves from the garden and cutting back perennials — until spring, now is the time to do so.”
Linda Chalker-Scott, associate professor and extension urban horticulturist at Washington State University, is one of the symposium speakers. She predicts that gardeners will no doubt see a lot of winter injury as plants begin to “wake up” from dormancy.
“This will be most common in parts of the plant that weren't protected by mulch, snow or other insulating materials,” she says. “The trick will be to leave everything alone until the plant is breaking bud somewhere. Once leaves and flowers start to open, it's easy to see which parts are not growing. Those portions can be pruned away.”
In Chalker-Scott's presentation, “The Rights of Spring: Avoid These Seven Deadly Sins When Planting Trees and Shrubs,” she will focus on the biggest myths gardeners hear about choosing, planting and caring for landscape trees and shrubs and will recommend better alternatives based on current horticultural science for urban gardens.
“Attendees will discover the best science behind this topic translates to a cheaper, easier and more sustainable way to care for landscape plants,” she says.
The horticulturist says there are three common mistakes made by garden enthusiasts in caring for their landscape plants:
• Overworking the soil. Grinding landscape soil into a fine-textured material destroys roots of existing plants, beneficial mycorrhizae, and all kinds of good guys that live in the soil.
• Too much chemical use — whether it's fertilizer, pesticide or anything else. And this includes anything organic, because organic materials are chemicals.
• “Killing with kindness.” When we don't understand how plants work, we tend to do things we think are best for our trees and shrubs, which ultimately hurt more than help.
Before planting new additions to gardens, Chalker-Scott recommends finding out which plants do well in a certain region and knowing the true mature size of plants.
“And being patient — don't expect an instant landscape,” she says. “Trees and shrubs are living organisms, not design elements.”
The symposium's keynote speaker will be Bill Cullina, a native-plant specialist and executive director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Bauerle says Cullina's opening presentation, “Sugar, Sex and Poison: Shocking Plant Secrets Caught on Camera,” will focus on how plants discourage animals from eating them, while simultaneously relying on animals for pollination and seed dispersal. His closing presentation, “The Botany of Design,” will discuss the effects the physiology of plants — such as the evolution of large-leafed plants — has on garden design.
Other speakers will be Lloyd Traven, USDA-certified organic grower and co-owner of Peace Tree Farm in Bucks County, who will discuss new introductions to the plant market this year in “Bringing Awesome Every Day,” and Penn State researcher and professor Eric Burkhart, plant-science program director for Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, whose topic will be “Native Pennsylvania Plants for Every Garden and Every Season.”
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
The Garden Marketplace will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 at the Ice Rink Arena, Shady Side Academy Senior School campus, Fox Chapel.
The marketplace, which is free and open to the public, will include the annual Daffodil Show, sponsored by the Daffodil and Hosta Society of Western Pennsylvania.
There will be 18 vendors with a variety of offerings, including new vendors Tree Pittsburgh, with native tree seedlings grown from seeds, and Wolf's Den Pottery, featuring hand-decorated botanically themed vases, bowls, cups, mugs and pitchers.
Although we've had a pretty cold early spring, the daffodils are definitely starting to bloom.
The Daffodil and Hosta Society of Western Pennsylvania will be showing off those blooms next weekend at the annual Daffodil Show, held in conjunction with the Garden Marketplace. The show includes entries from local members to be judged and awarded during the marketplace.
The free show will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 at the Ice Rink Arena. Exhibitors can enter flowers from 3 to 10 p.m. April 17 and 6 to 8 a.m. April 18.