Horticultural star Margaret Roach headlines Cornell’s Garden Day

The keynote speaker at this year’s Garden Day will be Margaret Roach, former garden editor for Newsday and Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. (photo by Erica Berger)

The keynote speaker at this year’s Garden Day will be Margaret Roach, former garden editor for Newsday and Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. (photo by Erica Berger)

[Editor’s note on 4/8: Just heard from Carrie Doyle at the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and she reports that this event is now officially sold out.]

It’s time to put the winter landscape to bed and prepare for the growing season. And Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County (CCEUC) will provide just the event to do that at its 16th annual Garden Day, scheduled for Saturday, April 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at SUNY-Ulster in Stone Ridge. Regular readers of Almanac, who know that we usually publish articles about upcoming events closer to the day that they’re held, may wonder why we’re letting you know about this one so far in advance. The reason? This event sells out quickly; preregistration (and early registration) is strongly recommended.

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The cost to attend Garden Day is $35 in advance, paid by April 10, which includes a place in four-out-of-16 gardening workshops offered. Admission at the door will cost $40, but last year there wasn’t room for walk-ins, and that option may not be available.     The keynote speaker will be Margaret Roach, former garden editor for Newsday and Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. She maintains a website, www.awaytogarden.com, and has written two gardening books. The first, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, is her story of walking away from the corporate world to embrace the garden, and The Backyard Parables is a garden memoir and handbook.

“You can’t make roses and hydrangeas bloom in winter, but you can have a beautiful landscape 365 days a year if it has good structure and texture,” says gardening expert Margaret Roach. “But beautiful in February is different than beautiful in August.” The key to creating a year-round garden, she says, is not only in strategic planting – knowing what plants to put where – but also in adjusting one’s expectations. “There’s a philosophy to it: looking for different ways to see and to be satisfied with what you see. It’s adjusting your vision and learning to enjoy the subtleties of each of our unique seasons in this region – to celebrate them and not fight them.”     Roach’s keynote lecture at 9 a.m. in the student lounge will be on “Unlocking Seed Secrets: From Politics to the Practical.” She’ll speak about choosing the right varieties of seeds from sources that match a garden’s conditions, and she’ll demystify the politics (think GMOs) while offering some practical “Aha!” moments to get gardeners growing with confidence. She’ll address such matters as whether buying organic seed matters, whether heirlooms are better than hybrids, pest control for tomatoes and how to know what to sow when.     The theme this year for Garden Day is “Beauty & the Feast: Planning and Growing the Garden of Your Dreams.” The focus of the workshops will be on creating edible and ornamental gardens that fit one’s lifestyle. Topics will include “Solving the Shade Garden Dilemma,” on growing plants that add color, texture and bloom to areas of the garden where one would think that only ferns would grow; “Wildflower Gardens and Meadows,” a myth-busting explanation of how to grow and use native plants; “Small Trees that Fit in Any Garden,” an overview of tree specimens and site selection; “Perennial Pruning Tips,” a demo class in SUNY-Ulster’s xeriscape (water-conserving) garden; “Contain Yourself: Thinking inside of the Pot,” on how to create whimsical and unusual container gardens; “Let’s Talk Dirt,” an explanation of soil structure, amendments, fertilizers and the pH requirements of various trees, shrubs and plants; and “Garden Friends and Foes,” a review of common garden pests, with the latest updates on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. In addition, classes will be offered on designing for the late season garden, growing garlic, photographing the garden, fruit-tree maintenance, vegetable gardening year-round and growing deer-resistant herbs for beauty, learning to build the best bug out bag kit in nature and of course, food and health.     The classes are suitable for gardening enthusiasts of all skill levels. Instructors include landscape professional Sally Spillane, radio host of The Gardening Show on WKZE; nurseryman David Campolong, owner of New Leaf Designs as well as the Phantom Nursery in Rhinebeck; Polly M. Law, local artist and “plantswoman” who works at the Catskill Native Nursery; and Teresa Rusinek, an educator from CCEUC who specializes in vegetable growing. The remaining 12 instructors are Master Gardener volunteers who have all been trained through the CCEUC Master Gardener program.     The event includes a marketplace set up in the cafeteria, open during the lunch break. “Everyone loves this part of the day,” says Barbara Bravo, master gardener and Garden Day coordinator. Local nurseries including Greene Bee Nursery from Cornwallville in Greene County, Cedar Ridge Nursery in Saugerties and Victoria Gardens in Rosendale will offer vegetable starts, perennials, annuals and shrubs and possibly small trees, alongside heirloom seeds from Accord’s Hudson Valley Seed Library and purveyors of tea and spices, soaps and lotions and interesting garden objects. Not all vendors will be able to take credit cards.     Master gardeners will be available to answer questions and perform free soil pH tests and plant diagnoses, and attendees at Garden Day will go home with free seed catalogues and many free fact sheets about gardening. Door prizes – gift certificates from nurseries, live plants, seeds, books and more – will be drawn at 3:45 p.m.

The cafeteria, occupied by the marketplace, will not be open for dining, but free coffee and tea are offered, and lunches may either be brought in or ordered for $8 prepaid with registration. The lunches are prepared by local eatery Lekker’s in Stone Ridge, with several bag lunch choices available. A bake sale will also be held, with proceeds to benefit the Master Gardener program.

– Sharyn Flanagan

Beauty & the Feast: Planning & Growing the Garden of your Dreams, CCEUC’s 16th annual Garden Day, Saturday, April 18, 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m., $35/$40, SUNY-Ulster, 491 Cottekill Road, Stone Ridge; (845) 340-3990, extension 311, cad266@cornell.edu, www.cceulster.org.

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