2016 Master Gardener Program

2016 MG Program for blog

Winter tends to be less eventful than much of the rest of the year. The weather is too cold to go outside and do much gardening and we tend to have to stay inside and find other ways to occupy our time. However, this is a great time of the year to get some education, such as attending the Extension Master Gardener Program.

MG logoThe Nebraska Extension Master Gardener program is a horticulture related volunteer training program based in many counties throughout the state. It has been part of Nebraska Extension since 1976. Master Gardener volunteers are trained by UNL Extension faculty and staff and then volunteer in their community. They contribute time as volunteers working with their local Extension office to provide horticulture-related information to their community. Participants are required to complete 40 hours of training and 40 hours of volunteer service throughout the first two years of their involvement in the program. Master Gardener volunteers retain their certification through 10 hours of annual training and 20 hours of volunteering each year.

Each year the Master Gardener program is held throughout the state, including in Gage County. The programs are held from 6:30-9:00pm on Tuesday nights at the Gage County Extension Office. This year the programs run from January 26-March 8. The schedule for the classes is as follows:

  • January 26– Orientation & Landscaping in the Shade – Nicole Stoner
  • February 2– Selection and Care of Evergreen Trees and Shrubs – Todd Faller
  • February 9– Putting Perennials to Work – Scott Evans
  • February 16– Basic Botany/Plant Identification – Stacy Adams
  • February 23– Weed Identification and Control – Natalia Bjorklund
  • March 1– Polarizing Yard & Garden Issues – Kelly Feehan, Tamra Jackson-Ziems & Nicole Stoner
  • March 8– Efficient Landscape Irrigation – John Fech

This class will additionally be provided in Wilber following the same schedule on Wednesday afternoons from 1-3:30pm. It will run from January 27-March 9 at the Saline County Extension Office.

MG Activity CollageFor volunteer service, most of the Master Gardeners in the area participate in management of many of the gardens in your community. Look around the landscapes in public areas the next time you drive around town, there are signs to show which landscapes the Gage or Saline County Master Gardeners help to manage. They do a great job and really help keep our communities looking nice.

The cost of the Master Gardener program is $160 for the first year, which includes a book, t-shirt, and nametag. For returning Master Gardeners the cost is just $10. Please contact me at the Gage County Extension office at 402-223-1384 to sign up for the program. The deadline for enrollment into the class is January 15, 2016.


Holiday Plants

Happy Holidays wreath for blog

Happy Holidays! The holiday season is very enjoyable, especially the wonderful decorations. Many of our holiday decorations are horticultural displays like the main centerpiece of the season, which is a tree. We use holly plants for their berries and green leaves. We also use greenery from conifers as wreaths, swags and garland. These decorations not only look nice for the season but they tend to bring a nice holiday scent inside our homes.


Wreaths can be made from greenery from your own landscape. Fresh greenery not only adds a great decorating touch to your home for the holidays, but it also will add a nice holiday scent to your home. White pine, juniper, spruce, ivy and holly are all great choices of live greenery for your home this holiday season. You can take these directly from your landscape, just be careful when you prune these decorations off of your living plants. Don’t make all of cuts in the same location and try to make them far enough back in the plant that the other branches cover the cuts. Use a hand pruner to make good cuts that will not harm your tree or shrub.

Holly makes a good to plant use as decoration in our homes for the holidays. According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, evergreens are used to decorate the house for the holiday because they are used to represent everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. Holly plants are evergreen shrubs with dark green or variegated foliage and have bright red berries to make a beautiful holiday display. The berries of holly are poisonous, so keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Mistletoe is another great holiday tradition. This is the small leafy plant that we hang from a doorway or just somewhere up high where people will walk under it. The tradition is that if two people meet underneath the mistletoe they are supposed to kiss. This tradition began in ancient times as a ritual people did to increase their chance of marriage in the upcoming year. The berries of mistletoe are also poisonous, so keep them out of reach of small hands and pets as well.

Multiple colors of Poinsettia

Poinsettia Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Poinsettias are a wonderful plant for the holiday. The traditional poinsettia is red, but newer varieties can be found in white, pink, peach, yellow, and marbled or speckled colors. The colored portion of the poinsettia is actually a bract, or a modified leaf, not a flower. The flowers are the tiny yellow parts in the center of the colored bracts. Poinsettias are not poisonous, but can cause a skin reaction, so keep them out of reach of small children and pets.

When we purchase holiday plants, the care of them begins in the store where you purchase them. The first thing you need to do for the best health of those plants is to ensure that they are covered up with plastic as you bring them out to your car from the store and from your car to your home. Exposure to cold temperatures and wind, that is inevitable in Nebraska, can damage the leaves, the flowers or the bracts. When you get them home, you should take the plastic off of the plant and be sure to keep the plant watered. You also need to make sure that your plant is in a pot with drainage holes and remove the decorative wrapping from the pot when you get it home to allow for more drainage. This will help you enjoy your holiday plants for the whole holiday season and then some. Have a Happy Holiday Season!