Horticulture ... or could it be called Aesthetic Agronomy? It is as challenging and uses the same concepts and lingo as field crop agronomy, but it also has a creative and artistic lure. Horticulture Day at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture-University of Nebraska (NCTA) attracted gardeners, flower arrangers and landscape enthusiasts to the campus at Curtis, Neb., for a day of workshops on June 11, 2011.
Presenters for the workshops were primarily professors from NCTA as well as educators from the West Central Research and Extension Center and local business owners. The workshops covered topics such as Container Gardening with Herbs, Lawn irrigation, Proper Tree Pruning Techniques, Small Business Challenges, Shade Garden Plants, and Floral Design.
Drew Anderson, Asst. Professor of Horticulture, NCTA, gave advice on selection of lawn sprinkler systems. Since underground sprinklers are a long term investment, it is best to look for a quality system that is less affected by the hard water or sand residue issues common to this area. It is also important to make sure that your system size does not exceed the capacity of the water supply line. Proper use of the timer on the system can make a big difference in sensible watering and conservation of water.
"Water is the next commodity. We've got to treat it responsibly. If we do that, it saves money in the long run," said Anderson. "Don't water in the spring until you see signs of stress. Early morning waterings that are deep and infrequent are better. You'd like to match the precipitation to the evapo-transporation, which would probably be watering 1.5-2" per week."
David Lott, WCREC Extension Horticulture Educator, presented the session on Tree Care and Pruning. Proper planning when planting trees and wise pruning and care of those trees can enhance the value and curb appeal of your landscaping and property.
"Nice looking trees sell homes," said Lott. "It can add 15-20% to the value of your property."
Some "must have" information when planning where to plant trees is the height and width of the full grown tree you are planning to plant. Use that to decide how to space or position trees in relationship to each other and the buildings nearby. Trees do need air circulation, so extra space between them will be beneficial. Lott also recommends establishing a mulch ring around the base of trees. It serves as a buffer zone to reduce damage from weed eaters or lawn mowers, and for pine trees, the needle bed actually is a way for the tree to feed itself.
Young trees need to be pruned to establish a single main trunk on the tree. Cuts should be made at a slant outside of the branch collar, which is the thickened ridge of bark tissue where the branch is attached to the main tree or a larger branch. Branches that compete with each other need to be trimmed out, as well as sucker sprouts and dead branches. Proper pruning should balance the tree and give it a natural shape. Consulting a certified arborist or trained horticulturist is helpful in making decisions about tree pruning. Workshops are occasionally offered through extension education.
Participants could choose between a session on Soils by Brad Ramsdale, NCTA Agronomy Asst. Professor, or Plants Toxic to Domestic Animals by Dr. Ricky Barnes, DVM, NCTA Professor of Vet.Technology.
There were three last sessions offered in the afternoon. Jeremy Sievers, NCTA Asst. Professor, presented information on Small Business Challenges. Tee Applegarth, NCTA Horticulture Asst. Professor, did a talk on Plants for Shade Gardens, and Sandy Stencel, owner of Curtis Floral, provided a demonstration and instruction on Floral Design.
For many gardeners, the ultimate goal for their efforts is that manicured lawn, exquisite landscape, bounty of vegetables, or fragrant flower garden. A way to capture flowers in artistry is through floral arrangements. Just as many other forms of art, floral design is subject to popular trends. The present trend is a minimum of extra foliage or greenery in arrangements.
Sandy Stencel, past NCTA instructor, has run Curtis Floral for 19 years. Much of her demonstration and instruction focused on achieving balance in creating a floral arrangement. She modeled a triad approach to selecting flower colors, sizes or textures, and filling in the arrangement proportionally. Participants were introduced to several ideas for modifying the base for flower placement. She advised that the flower height above the vase should be equal to the vase height to give it good proportion. Everyone had their chance at making an arrangement using a variety of flowers and foliage.
A day in the field for Horticulture doesn't take you to the same place as a day in the field for Agronomy, but the challenges are very much the same. When dealing with soils, plant types and selection, irrigation techniques, pesticides, herbicides, and harvesting the crop, a day of workshops in the Horticulture field can plant ideas that produce results.