Coconino Master Gardener Association

Currently, warblers of several species are migrating through Flagstaff towards Canada and beyond. The Yellow Warblers, like this little guy are often an exception. They frequently choose to remain in Flagstaff throughout the summer. All of the warblers are busily searching the innermost branches of shrubs and trees for insects.
Photo by Cindy Murray.

Welcome to the Coconino County Master Gardeners' Association Blog. The mission of the Coconino Master Gardener Program is to support the University of Arizona by providing researched-based information on environmentally responsible gardening and landscaping to the public. The program creates a corps of well-informed volunteers, and delivers quality horticultural education programs adapted to our regional high elevation environment. The mission of the association is to provide support for those volunteers and Master Gardener graduates, continuing education, and opportunities to participate in community programs that increase the visibility and participation in the Master Gardener Program.
On this site you will find gardening news, links, a calendar for local events, volunteer opportunities, book reviews, agenda/minutes for our association monthly meetings, and association documents and contacts.
The Coconino County Master Gardener Association was founded in 2009 by a small group of master gardeners with the help of Hattie Braun the Director of the MG Program. After several small meetings it was opened to all master gardeners on May 21st, 2009. Meetings are held monthly on the 2rd Thursday of each month from 6:30pm - 8:30pm. We meet at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (1601 N. San Francisco). The agenda usually includes continuing education and a short business meeting. Watch this blog for the agenda and minutes for all meetings. Contacts for the association (officers and committee chairs) are listed at the bottom of this blog.

Reporting Master Gardener Hours

All master gardener trainees and certified master gardeners need to report their hours.
Beginning in 2010 certified master gardeners need to have 6 Education hours and 12 Volunteer hours in order to maintain certification.The on line reporting system allows you to report Education or Volunteer hours.
If you have any questions or concerns about the new reporting system, please contact Crys Wells or Hattie Braun. Their contacts are listed at the bottom of the blog under
Link to reporting

Ideas for hours------
--Attend monthly meetings
--Work on an association committee
--Work at an informational booth for the Master Gardeners
--Be a speaker about gardening topics at a variety of venues

--Host a garden tour
--Work at the home show
--Work at a MG site (Olivia White Hospice, the Arboretum, Riordan Mansion, or school gardens (many others)). Check out the Assoc. Doc. & Forms under Volunteer Sites.
--Work in the Extension office
--Write an article for the newspaper column -Gardening Excetera
-Volunteer with the Seed Library
Be creative! There are many ways to fulfill your hours. Just remember for volunteering it needs to be a non-profit endeavor or an approved for profit site.

Change in Contact Information

Have you moved or changed your e-mail address, but would still like to be contacted about high elevation gardening information from the Extension? The Coconino County Extension Master Gardener Program has a site that will let you change your information on-line.

Click here to change your contact information!

Event Calendar

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Warner's Update

Watch for Warner's gardening and cooking seminars throughout the spring on the calendar. Stop by the nursery and meet the 2 new 4-legged employees - Cruiser (a black and white feline) and Pancho Bob (an elusive white cat with a large tail). They are still kittens in training for their work and sometimes difficult to find but worth the effort.

If you are itching to get started with gardening they have lots of new seeds and material to get them started.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

1st Friday Art Walk Fundraiser for Olivia White Gardens

The Flagstaff Leadership Program has chosen the Olivia White Hospice Garden as their project for 2011. They will be spending a workday in the garden, helping us to get the garden started for the season in April.

In addition they will be doing a fundraiser for us on 4/1 in conjunction with First Friday Art Walk in the courtyard in front of Rainbow’s End, Black Bean, Flag Brewery, etc. There will be music at Rainbow’s End, which is always packed full of people in that small space. There may be music on the outdoor stage at Flag Brew. They will have members of the class at each of the businesses, with OWH brochures and a donation jar. The members will solicit funds and the amount gathered will be matched by the businesses up to a certain amount (which has not yet been determined).

Please come and join in the fun while supporting the gardens at Olivia White.

Loni Shapiro
Volunteer Garden Coordinator
Olivia White Hospice Home

Gardening Column from the Daily Sun 3/26/11

Susan Lamb

I remember how bored I was in Latin class, gazing out the window at birds chirping in the trees. I’d been persuaded that Latin would come in handy for its own sake but also as the basis for lovelier languages. True on both counts, but sing-songy grammatical drills and readings from pompous elders of the Roman Republic seemed awfully irrelevant at the time. Biology class was much the same in those days: studying life sciences meant rote-learning of taxonomic terms and performing ghastly dissections. I didn’t see a connection between either of the subjects and the real world that called to me from outside that window.

But life has a funny way of creating connections, of tapping all our experiences and yearnings to assemble the creatures we eventually become. I thought I’d left those rigid disciplines behind when I joined the National Park Service but failed to consider how interpreting the natural world would bring me face to face with my old adversaries: Latin and Life Sciences.

I resisted them at first, preferring folklore to facts and stubbornly refusing to learn the Latin names of plants. Of course, this couldn’t last. Simple curiosity and the urge to do my job properly soon had me reading books and magazine articles about scientific discoveries and learning Latin names.

A world of wonders unfolded! Scientists now have the most remarkable tools to observe the infinite forms and behaviors with which life expresses itself, and they describe much of what they learn using the Latin vocabulary. There are so many stories in those clickety-clack names as well as puns, tributes, geography lessons, pharmacological tips, rapturous descriptions, and most of all, connections.

People everywhere have always given interesting “common” names to local plants they use for medicine, food, and ceremonies. In western culture, it was Greek philosophers who began to organize the known world systematically. Romans adapted Greek names into Latin forms that persisted in medieval texts about herbal remedies. During the Age of Exploration, scholars continued to use Latin in their efforts to organize the flood of unfamiliar plants and animals brought back to Europe.

In 1757 the Swedish physician Carl Linnaeus conceived the system still in use today. Linnaeus’ father was first in his family to adopt a last name, Latinizing a word from his local dialect for a giant linden tree on his land. Carl used Latin names to classify plants and animals according to what he thought were family resemblances. (With the advent of DNA analysis, science is now in the process of revising the Latin names of plants using genetics instead of flower shapes.) For instance, Linnaeus placed milkweeds — a group of plants with similar flowers and potent chemistry — into the family Asclepiadaceae, a Latinized name for Aesculpius, the Greek god of medicine.

Linnaeus further divided families into groups called genera (think “generic”), based on even closer similarities in flower anatomy. He modified each genus name with a species (“specific”) name to distinguish between closely-related plants, resulting in our binomial system of paired names such as Valeriana arizonica. Valeriana is from valere which means “health” in Latin, for the plant’s tranquilizing properties later synthesized as Valium. The species name arizonica means “of Arizona” because this sweet little pale pink shade lover is a local native.
“All rootedness is learning to call things by their right name,” Confucius. Instead of spending six years majoring in Greek and Latin, it’s much easier now to discover the meaning and derivations of plant names in The Names of Plants by David Gledhill and websites such as
Try it yourself! Look up Calochortus nuttalli, the Latin binomial for sego lily. You will learn that the genus of this member of Liliaceae — the Lily Family — means “beautiful grass” (a description of its leaves) and that it was named for the English botanist Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), who ventured into the wild American West to collect plants. Voyageurs who accompanied Nuttall described him as “some whimsical kind of madman” who used his rifle to dig up plants and store seeds. You’ll never see a sego lily the same way again.
Susan Lamb is a local writer and naturalist ( Dana Prom Smith is the coordinating editor of the column. He can be contacted at

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gardening Column from the Daily Sun

Whetting the Penstemon Appetite

CINDY MURRAY Master Gardener | Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2011

My neighbor, Judah, one a blustery June afternoon asked me, "Cindy, what're all those tall pink flowers growing in your front yard?"
"Oh yes, they're my Palmer's Penstemons."
"Oh, that's what they're called! Could you spare a few plants?"
I said, "Sure. Come on down. We'll dig up a few."
Penstemons have a way of doing that to a person. Once people see these seemingly delicate beauties, they want to grow some for themselves.
Penstemon is a genus of perennial wildflowers composed of 250 species endemic to North America with the highest concentration growing in the Four Corners area. Arizona boasts over thirty native Penstemon species, many of which grow in the Flagstaff area. The name, Penstemon, comes from the Greek pente meaning five and stemon meaning thread, referring to a filament-like and sterile fifth stamen. Since the sterile stamen is hairy and hangs out of the bilaterally symmetrical tubular flower, Penstemons are sometimes dubbed "beardtongues." Most are hummingbird magnets.
Penstemon blossoms may be delicately beautiful, but the plants can be tough as nails. Jennifer Temkin of Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed says, "Penstemons generally prefer full sun and dry soil. They don't like wet feet." Additionally, they're best left to their own devices-too much fertilizer or mulch will shorten their normal several-year lifespan.
One of the first wildflowers to herald in the summer season is the Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus). Don't let the name fool you -- it's native to our region and you can't miss it. Sporting deep purple, slender flowers on 2- to 3-foot stalks, it thrives on gravelly roadsides, ponderosa forests, and open meadows. Its dark green foliage stays lush all winter.
Another early bloomer is the imposing Palmer's penstemon (Penstemon palmeri). Its inflorescence consists of a 2- to 7-foot stalk bearing pale pink flowers. The Palmer's blossom consists of a uniquely large, bulbous tube with two small upper lobes and three rounded lower lobes. This provides the perfect landing platform for a prime pollinator, the bumblebee. Judah says her favorite thing about Palmer's is the exquisite fragrance, a rare attribute in the genus.
At the opposite end of the size spectrum are the diminutive pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) and narrowleaf Penstemon (Penstemon linarioides). Both form compact clumps less than 15 inches tall. Pineleaf is noted for its narrowly tubular crimson flowers and bright green needlelike leaves. Narrowleaf has lavender flowers and tiny linear leaves. They're great specimens for rock and fairy gardens.
Growing throughout ponderosa pine forests and roadsides all over northern Arizona is the beardlip penstemon (Penstemon barbatus). Its tall spikes hold dense clusters of drooping vermilion flowers. Beardlips are more tolerant of shade and moisture than the average penstemon.
My most prized penstemon is the Sunset Crater penstemon (Penstemon clutei). In the wild, it's geographically restricted to the cinder fields of Sunset Crater National Monument. At first glance, you might confuse it with Palmer's, but the stalks are much shorter and the blooms are a deeper pink. Although rare, this penstemon is not difficult to grow. Mine thrive along the edge of the gravelly ditch at the front of my property. As with others of the genus, I deadhead regularly to encourage new flower stalks throughout the summer and into the fall.
Because Penstemons typically take two years to flower, propagation by seed calls for a bit of patience. Temkin says penstemon seeds also require a cold treatment, which is simple: to simulate a winter's exposure to cold, mix sand or perlite with the seeds in a ziplock bag and add enough water to make the mixture moist. Put it in the refrigerator for one to three months. Once the ground has warmed in the spring, stomp the mixture into the soil. Water regularly until the monsoon kicks in. Of course, you can avoid all this by purchasing plants at a nursery, but not all varieties are always available.
The list of penstemon species that thrive in the high country is too long to address here, but hopefully, this introduction will whet your appetite. You may even become one along with me and Judah, a "Penstemaniac."

Cindy Murray, a biologist and substitute elementary teacher, is a Master Gardener. Dana Prom Smith, editor of the gardening column, can be contacted at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coconino Master Gardener Assoc. Meeting Minutes 3/10/11

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
1601 N. San Francisco
6:30pm – 8:30pm

Attending: Linda & Ted Neff Mast, Faith Brittain, Tess Wymore, Ed Skiba, Polly Velie, Carolyn Larson, Jeff Best, Beth Tucker, Rebecca Moore, Mathew Moore, Juanita Gillis, Paul & Julie Lambert, Irene Matthews, Sandy Bayes, Susan Thompson, Linda Guarino, Loni Shapiro, Crystal Wells, Ann Eagan, Liz Taylor, Rebecca Rosemon, Pam Koch, Andrea & Galen Gurerette, Leslie Penick, Beth Dykstra, Mary Latu, Linda Moriarity, Bob Corrigan, Debbie Shepard

6:30pm-6:40pm Welcome – Agenda Jim Mast
Brief review of agenda for the evening
Beth Tucker, the Director of the Extension announced that Jim Mast has been named the Extensionist of the Year.
Introduction of speaker

6:40pm-7:30pm Continuing Education
Chaa Organic Farm in Belize
Linda Neff, anthropologist
Linda and her husband have traveled to Belize for two years to do research and work on a farm/resort. They have farmed, and looked at the Mayan culture and their farm practices in this area. Much of the farming was done with terraces and rock walls. Stone tools, rock walls, and cultural remains tell the history. The area they visited is now a farm/resort, with the farm supplying the food for the resort. They went there as part of the Foothill Belize Program from a community college in northern California (Los Altos) and will be returning again in June of this year for the 3rd time. They will be working with other young students at the farm. The Neff’s focus is also on anthropology. The remainder of the talk was about what they looked at – cultural practices, gardening methods, mapping the area, soils, selection of plants and methods, climate effects, and this year they will focus more on plant inventories.

7:30pm-7:45pm Refreshments
Thank you to Andrea and Galen Guerrette

7:45pm - 8:30pm Business Meeting – Jim Mast
7:45pm – 8:00pm Overview of recent Executive Meeting – Jim Mast
Bylaws – changes briefly reviewed and approved by the association. New version of the bylaws will be on the blog if anyone wants a copy.
Volunteer vs. Education hours document – Crys Wells reviewed the document outlining guidelines for recording volunteer and education hours. It is also posted on the blog. The main point was that Volunteer hours require you be doing something (does not have to mean hands in the dirt) and Education requires to attend some kind of educational program (not just reading your favorite garden seed catalog). Volunteers can help with planning and other work required by the Association or Extension. Educational opportunities abound this spring check out the agenda or the blog.
Volunteer hours for February 42.25/YTD 106.75
Calendar – Loni Shapiro went over the calendar photo contest requirements and urged people to get their photos in. We have only received photos from one MG thus far. The deadline is May 4.
Historian & need for photographer – Val Bryant is the historian and we are looking for a photographer. Several people offered association photos – Ed Skiba, Andrea Guerrette. If you have any send them to Loni. If you would like to become our official photographer contact Loni.
Finance Update – Ed Skiba & Jim Mast
Fundraising/Banking/Use of funds collected/new committee –
Ed reports more than $1200 now in savings for the association. These funds are used for paying for our venue ($250 per year), office costs, fundraising costs, and misc items. Other possibilities could be MG projects, conferences, scholarships to the MG program, MG University and the Intnl MG Conference. A committee needs to be formed to decide priorities for raising funds and what they should be spent on. If you are interested in chairing this committee or participating contact one of the officers or come to our next Executive Meeting on April 7, at 7am, at About Coffee.

8:00pm – 8:20pm Committee Reports:
Continuing Education – Dana Prom Smith (see schedule)
Community Programs
Home Show update Hattie Braun & Faith Brittain. Meeting was held following our regular business meeting to plan final details. The schedule for talks was circulated among those attending and is now posted on the blog.
Coordination of MG Projects – Linda Guarino
The latest list of MG projects is posted on the blog and includes Jan Busco’s projects at the Grand Canyon.
Volunteer Support/Social – Hattie Braun/Crys Wells
Membership Cards - Crys Wells passed out the new membership cards which include discounts for a variety of nurseries. The details are posted on the back of the cards. Members are encouraged to wear badges to meetings so all can get to know each other.

8:20pm – 8:30pm Garden questions?
Russian Olive seeds – What kind of birds eat? Grosbeaks and maybe others.
Discussion about tree – pros vs. cons, flowers, seeds (sweet), etc.
Okra – Any ideas about growing in Flagstaff? Needs protection at this elevation – longer season – not sure of varieties.
Loppers – Are they useful? Some use, but require good arm strength/vision.Faith willing to loan to try.
Dalhia – When can I move? – Maybe dead from cold winter, if not as soon as the soil an be worked. Ed reports his survive outdoors in a protected area near rock.

Next meeting: April 14, 2011
Shepherd of the Hills Church
1601 N. San Francisco
Therapeutic Horticulture vs. Horticultural Therapy
Loni Shapiro

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flagstaff Home & Garden Show

The Coconino MG Association is participating in this years Home & Garden show which will be from March 25th through the 27th. Because of remodeling at the Snow Dome it will be at the old K-Mart store on 4th street. The Association will have a variety of garden talks over the 3 days. Please check this link for the current schedule.

Come visit our booth or stop by for one of the talks. The talks will qualify for continuing education for yearly certification.

Loni Shapiro
Master Gardener Association