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Workshops reflect shades of green

Placer Nature Center working with Master Gardeners on series
By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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It’s actually easy being green. A workshop series at the Placer Nature Center makes it even easier with sessions on pruning, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, composting and beneficial insects. The classes are a collaboration between the nature center and the Placer County master gardeners. Master Gardener Elaine Applebaum is working with the center’s Education Director Linda Desai in the planning and presentation. Some of the workshops are repeats, including this weekend’s session on fruit-tree pruning. “It is a really popular class,” center program manager Megan Krekorian said. “People like to return to get a brush-up. For the fruit-tree demonstration, (attendees) will be able to do some pruning. We have a variety of trees in the garden, so there will be enough trees for everyone to have a chance to do a couple of clips.” Applebaum, Peggy Beltramo and Chris Biswell will be the speakers. New this year is the Gardening for Butterflies and Hummingbirds, set for March 6. The focus is on the types of plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, how to best position the plants, and the different types of plants that attract different types of hummingbirds and butterflies. “There is at least one year-round species of hummingbird in the foothills,” Applebaum said. To attract hummingbirds, it is a matter of choosing flowers with a particular shape and color. “They go for the reds and the pinks,” she said. For butterflies, the shape of the flower is more important. “They like places where they can land safely and sit for awhile to sup their nectar — things like the daisy flower with flatter surfaces,” Applebaum said. Water is another necessary element. “The sound of water is what attracts them — (it can be) even just a little drip somewhere,” she said. Feeders aren’t necessarily part of the picture. “You know, that it is a controversial topic,” Applebaum said. “If you aren’t careful about keeping feeders clean, you can introduce disease to the birds. Generally, with the right kind of flowers and the water, that will be enough to bring them in.” If you want butterflies, then you must be willing to accept caterpillars, too — the larva stage. “So be willing to put up with holes in the leaves,” she said. Butterflies can also be finicky. Some will only drink the nectar of certain types of flowers. “To get native butterflies, you want to plant native plants, which ties into the nature center,” Applebaum said. “We have this wonderful bounty of nature around us and so we should be keeping it in our gardens as well.” The nature center offers a unique vista on composting for those who attend the workshop, set for April 3. “We’ve had master gardeners say that the nature center has one of the best setups and displays of composting in the area,” Krekorian said. “…. People can see all the stages and what each looks like. They can see how to turn their compost and view the different types and varieties of composters that are available. We have one of each of the composting systems that are on the market.” Volunteer Richard Huntley, who manages the center’s composting education center, specializes in vermiculture — composting with worms. “He’s fantastic and just got into the master gardener program,” Krekorian said. The center shares a campus with the California Conservation Corps and often gets leftovers from the CCC kitchen. “That goes into the vermiculture and feeds the worms,” she explained. “Worms will break down the compost quicker. They’ll eat through rotting vegetables and organic matter. They absorb the bacteria and nutrients and leave this great soil behind that’s extremely fertile.” The June workshop on beneficial insects will have a session for adults, followed by one on ladybugs for children. “We’ll actually be looking at insects in the wild,” Krekorian said. “We’ll be teaching people how to notice what insects are in their garden. You might see an insect and think it is bad, but the workshop will teach which ones are actually good.“ Master gardener Lisa Mertz will be the speaker. All the sessions include an indoor informational portion followed by a live demonstration and hands-on learning outdoors. That’s something that stands out for Applebaum. “They have a great demonstration garden,” she said. “A lot of time I’ll do these talks where I’m standing up in front talking. But here, we’ll give a talk and then go out and put it into practice. For example, with the pruning, afterward, anyone who wants to prune will be able to give it a try.” Attendees may also bring along a problem or diseased plant. “They can bring the plants in sealed plastic baggies, and the master gardeners will try to diagnose the problem and answer their question that day or get back to them on what the problem might be,” Krekorian said. ------------ Placer Nature Center green gardening workshops • Fruit tree pruning – 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6 • Gardening for butterflies and hummingbirds – 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6 • Composting – 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3 • Beneficial insects – 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 11 Cost is $5 per family and free for Placer Nature Center members. For more information, see placer naturecenter.org or call (530) 878-6053