Friday, October 13, 2017

Great Pumpkins: Winter Squash and Heirloom Varieties

Pumpkins/Winter squash varieties offer so many possibilities.
1. 'Black Fatsu' 2. 'Musque de Provence' 3. 'Galeaux D'Eysines'
4. 'Tiger' 5. 'Strawberry Crown' 6. 'Jarrahdale'  7. 'Lakota'
8. 'Marina Di Chioggia' 9. 'Cinderella'
By J.S. Corser, Editor
Durham Co. Extension Master Gardener

Great pumpkins, aka. winter squash, grow in a multitude of colors, sizes, skin textures, not to mention edibility and flavors. These ubiquitous members of the Cucubitae family line front porches and always lend their sweet, savory flesh to soups and bakery sweets from October through November. With some research and diligent care, Durham gardeners can also grow a sincere pumpkin patch and expand their fall vegetable bounty.
The term “pumpkin” is a generic term for vine-growing winter squashes like Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita moschata or Cucurbita maxima. What differentiates pumpkins/winter squashes from summer squash is that winter squashes are varieties that are grown to maturity and store well.(1) They have a hard rind, firmer flesh and will keep for months in a cool pantry. Pumpkins are harvested when the foliage dies back and stems begin to toughen. Conversely, summer squashes are harvested when small and tender while vines are still healthy.

Pumpkin History (2)
The word pumpkin derives from the Greek pep├Án for a large melon. The English termed it pumpion or pompion. Use of this term dates to 1547, yet did not appear in print until 1647. Native Americans planted pumpkins with their vegetable crops and introduced the vegetable to English colonists. The colonists quickly embraced Cucurbita pepo cooking it into sidedishes, soups, desserts and even beer. (In keeping with the spirit of our forefathers, several pumpkin ales are available at Triangle alcohol retailers: ) However, pumpkins also enjoy a celebrated, contemporary use for autumn and Halloween decoration. The tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack-o'-lanterns for the celebration of All Hallows Eve was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants who originally carved turnips. They switched to pumpkins given more availability, and since then, pumpkin carving has become a competitive, laser-precision artform for many Americans every October.
Growing Pumpkins (1)
Choosing a Site
Full sun, good air circulation, rich, well-draining soil and appropriate space are all key to growing pumpkins. Eight hours of sun is needed per day. Air circulation is crucial to fend off powdery mildew, which can be a significant problem in late summer. The soil should be enriched with compost and composted manure. Cucurbitae vines are long, so a large garden is non-negotiable unless using smaller varieties that can be trellised.

Growing From Seed
Using seeds is the easiest way to grow pumpkins. For Durham County, sow the seeds between April 15 - June 15. (Seeds can be started indoors under grow lights four weeks, then plant them after the soil has warmed.) Seeds should be planted 1.5 inches deep, spaced 48 inches apart. (Different varieties of pumpkins will require different spacing between plants; read the seed packet for recommendations.)

Growing Organic Pumpkins: Watering and Fertilizing
Vines grow quickly, and they extract nutrients from the soil just as quickly. Using compost-enriched soil at planting is the best way to ensure the proper amount of nutrients, however, granulated organic fertilizer can be substituted, as well as alfalfa meal that can provide an appropriate amount of potassium. After initial planting, feed the plants every month with fish emulsion or kelp meal. Be sure to water regularly; most plants need about an inch of water per week during the summer. Check the soil before watering! If the soil is moist, don't water or the plants will drown and be subject to rot. (Pumpkin leaves frequently wilt during the hottest part of the day, then recover.)

Pests and Diseases
Squash vine borers and powdery mildew are the villains to growing healthy pumpkins. Scout for squash vine borer moths which have bright red abdomens and are likely laying eggs. The eggs will hatch, and the pupa will start tunneling into the stems of vines. Cover the plants with floating row covers (though they must be removed when the plant starts blooming so the pollinators can do their job). Check the stems, especially near the soil, for signs of tunneling and/or frass. Slit the vine and kill the borer, then bury the damaged part of the vine under a couple inches of soil. The plant will often recover, since pumpkins are able to root all along their vines, wherever a node touches the soil. Powdery mildew can spread in areas of poor air circulation. If it's a regular problem, consider spraying vines with a homemade baking soda spray for prevention.

Maturity will occur between 115-120 days. A telltale sign to harvest is when the skin is hard and unpenetrable with a fingernail. Pumpkin skin color stops developing once it is harvested, so wait until it's the shade most desired. Harvesting simply entails cutting the pumpkin from the vine with pruners or a knife, leaving a few inches of stem attached.

8 Winter Squashes to Grow in Your Garden (3)
Here are eight beautiful, tasty, and unique heirloom winter squash varieties to expand your vegetable garden.
  • 'Musque de Provence':  This beautiful French variety is becoming more popular. Its gorgeous buff color and flat, deeply ribbed shape make this perfect for displaying for fall. The flavor of this squash is amazing: sweet, complex, and absolutely delicious roasted. These are large squashes, weighing in at fifteen to twenty-five pounds at maturity.
  • 'Long Island Cheese':  A classic pumpkin of the 19th century. Skin: Pale cheese colored. Ribbing: Light. Flesh: Deep orange. Shape: Medium; averages 10 pounds. Keeps well. Edible: Sweet Varieties include 'Long Island Cheese' 'Shakertown Field'. 
  • 'Marina di Chioggia':  This Italian heirloom variety has stunning greenish gray, bumpy skin and a sweet flavor that only improves in storage. The fruits typically weigh in at around six to twelve pounds.
  • 'Kikuza':  The somewhat cinnamon-colored rind of this Japanese heirloom variety is definitely unique, as is the flavor. There is a bit of a spicy note to the firm flesh of these small (four to seven pound) squashes. They are excellent baked or roasted.
  • 'Queensland Blue': This Australian variety has a deeply ribbed greenish-blue rind. The bright orange flesh is quite dense and very sweet. This is also an excellent keeper.
  • 'Strawberry Crown': Gorgeous squash is absolutely perfect for fall decorating. The brown rind of these squashes is accented by just a touch of salmon color at the crown. It is tasty as well; excellent baked or roasted.
  • 'Black Futsu': This rare Japanese squash has a black rind that is bumpy and heavily ribbed. The black fruits will eventually turn a chestnut hue in storage. The nutty flavor of this squash is perfect for roasting or even baking.
  • 'Galeaux D'Eysines':  The pinkish rind is covered with buff colored "warts." Good flavor to make "pumpkin" butter and puree with: sweet, deeply orange.
Best Porch Pumpkins (4)
  • Musquee de Provence  (see above Heirloom pumpkin list)
Blue and Green Pumpkins
  • Blue Lakota: An heirloom variety from the Midwest. Color: A mix of blue and green. Ribbing is slight, shape is oblate; top at step comes to a point or cone-shape
  • Kabocha:  Also known as Japanese Pumpkin, Ebisu, Delica, Hoka, Hokkiado Pumpkin. Popular in Japan; grown in other nations for export to Japan. Skin is tough and green, flesh is yellow, stays firm and retains shape after cooking. Shape is rounded, irregular.
  • Kakai: Produced in Japan. Skin: Grey with orange stripes or ribbing. Size: 5 to 8 pounds. Carvability: Good. Edible: Not a first choice for cooking, but Kakai is popular for its blue seeds, which can be roasted.
  • Jarrahdale: An Australian heirloom pumpkin that was developed as a cross between the Cinderella and Blue Hubbard. Shape: Flattened but rounded like Cinderella. Skin: Light blue/gray. Ribbed: Deeply. Flesh: Golden yellow. Edible: Some pumpkin experts believe 'Jarrahdales' are the finest pumpkins for making pumpkin pies.
  • Marina Di Chioggia (see above Heirloom pumpkin list)
Cheese Pumpkins
  • 'Long Island Cheese': So-called because they resemble a wheel of cheese, the pale yellow-orange cheese pumpkins come in a variety of sizes and are striking displayed at different levels on the porch or porch steps by themselves or with bright orange pumpkins and flower pots filled with fall-blooming flowers like chrysanthemums and calendulas.
Ghostly White Pumpkins
  • 'Baby Boo': Bright white skin; tends to turn yellow if exposed to direct sunlight. Size: Miniature. Ribbing: Deep. Edible: No. Carvability: Too small
  • 'Lumina': Skin: Brilliant white. Texture: Smooth. Flesh: Bright yellow and valued for its flavor; good for baking. Carvability: It can be carved or painted; however, it doesn't last long.
  • 'Casper:' Bright white. Shape: More round than squat with only slight ribbing.
  • Edible: Good for pies and baking. Carvability: Better to leave alone or paint than carve
  • 'White Ghost' (also known as 'Valencia'): Skin: Pure white. Flesh: Bright yellow and thick. Shape: Squat. Edible: Good. Carvability: Challenging.
Grayish Green Pumpkins
  • 'Fairytale': An old French heirloom variety. Skin:Dark green with orange/peach blush when young. As it ages, the dark green turns to buff orange. Flesh: Bright orange. Shape: With its flatness and deep ribbing, Fairytale bears a striking resemblance to the Cinderella pumpkin. Size: About 15 inches diameter; 6 inches high and 20 to 30 pounds. Carvability: Not good. Edible: A good choice for cooking or baking pumpkin pies.  
  • 'Baby Boo': See above, Ghostly Whites
  • 'Pump Ke Mon': Also known as 'Lil Pump Ke Mon'. Skin: Variable coloration; usually white or yellow with green or yellow stripes and splotches. Keeps well.
  • 'Tiger':  Skin: Yellow with orange mottling. Ribs: Deep at the top, then fading at the bottom. Shape: Flat with recessed stem. Size: About 5 inches diameter; 3 inches high
Red-Orange Pumpkins
  • 'Cinderella' ('Rouge', 'Rouge Vif d'Estampes'): Cinderella pumpkins have become increasingly popular in recent years for their shape, bright color and fairytale-enchanting name. To add further intrigue, legend has it that this variety inspired the pumpkin carriage in the story of Cinderella. Shape: flattened, yet rounded -- like that carriage. Ribbed: Deeply. Edible: Semi-sweet and good for pies.Display: Attention-getters because of their bright red-orange skin and whimsical shape.
  • 'Lakota': An heirloom variety that hails from the Midwest. Skin: Red with green and black markings that follow light ribbing (lines). Shape: Pear-shaped. Size: Weighs 5 to 7 pounds. Edible: Delicious butternut squash-like flavor.
  • 'Red Warty': Skin: Warty, bumpy, pimply red skin. Flesh: Non-stringy. Size: Can grow up to 20 pounds. Edible: Better for cooking and eating than carving a face. Display: Since it resembles a warty Halloween witch or creature, one or more Red Warties are effective displayed unadorned, maybe next to something slightly spooky.
Pumpkin Storage (5)
Store in a cool, dry place, such as an attic or spare room (root cellars are too damp) at 45 to 60 degrees F. up to a month, or refrigerate for up to three months. For extended storage, wash skins in a solution of about a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water to disinfect the skin and discourage mold or rot. Dry immediately as dampness encourages spoilage. If mold is present, wipe with vegetable oil to remove the mold and seal the spot. Leftover cooked pumpkin can be frozen up to 16 months or canned. (Canned pumpkin puree is actually retentive of vitamins and minerals.) Fresh pumpkin can be pared and cooked in the same manner as most any winter squash, usually by cutting into chunks and simmering for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size and age. Drain. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and puree.

1. Colleen Vanderlinden. (2014).  Grow Your Own Organic Pumpkins.” Retrieved from, Peggy Trowbridge Filippone. (2014). “Pumpkin History: Native Americans wove mats out of dried pumpkin strips”. Retrieved from:  Colleen Vanderlinden. (2014). “Heirloom Pumpkins and Squashes.” Retrieved from,  Lisa Hallett Taylor. (2014). A Guide to Pumpkin Types: The Best Pumpkins to Display on Your Porch. Retrieved from,

5. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone. (2014). “Pumpkin Selection and Storage: Choose smaller pumpkins for eating.” Retrieved from:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017 Sandy Creek Monarch Festival: Oct. 14

From Keep Durham Beautiful...
Join us Saturday, Oct. 14 as we celebrate the amazing journey of the Monarch butterfly!
In celebration of the Monarchs, the third annual Sandy Creek Monarch Festival will feature music, family friendly activities & food. The activities include face painting, balloon animals, story walks, and others. 

Experts will be giving talks about Monarch biology, ecology, and conservation and pollinator friendly plants will be available for purchase.
WHEN: Saturday, October 14 at 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
LOCATION: Sandy Creek Park, 3510 Sandy Creek Drive Durham, NC27705

Ticket Information:

BOOKS: 2017 Winners of AHS "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards

Since 2005, the Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society (AHS) have honored engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children’s literature through the annual “Growing Good Kids–Excellence in Children’s Literature Awards.” 
The awards selection committee includes AHS staff members, Junior Master gardener specialists and coordinators, teachers, youth leaders, and kids. The committee’s goal is to recognize children’s books that are especially effective at promoting an understanding of, and appreciation for, gardening, nature, and the environment.  
The 2017 winners of the growing good Kids Book awards are:
  • Secrets of The Vegetable Garden, by Carron Brown, illustrated by Giordano Poloni;
  • Because of an Acorn, by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer, illustrated by Fran Preston-Gannon;
  • Sleep Tight Farm, by Eugenie Doyle, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander;
  • Good Trick, Walking Stick, by Sheri Mabry Bestor, illustrated by Jonny Lambert; and
  • The Night Gardener, by Terry Fan and Eric Fan. 
This year’s winners received their awards in July during the AHS’s national Children & Youth gardening Symposium in the greater Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, area. 
To learn more about the growing good Kids awards and view previous winners, visit

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DPS Hub Farm Receives Capital Improvements by Croasdaile, Town & Country Garden Clubs

BEFORE:  Dirt floor of the Hub Farm barn.
Photo by Farmer Grant Ruhlman.

Durham Public Schools Hub Farm now has a new cemented barn floor, a new mobile center and a greenhouse on the way in 2018 in large part from over $30K worth of charitable giving from the Croasdaile and Town & Country Garden Clubs of Durham.
In 2016, Town & Country Garden Club gave $18K for Hub Farm entry landscaping and a mobile home center. The mobile center was installed this spring. The greenhouse project, in which T&CGC donated $24K, has been deferred until 2018 after the barn is reroofed and all shingling detritus has ceased (since the greenhouse will be erected next to the barn), according to Martha Pritchett Conner.
AFTER: New cement floor of the barn.
Photo by Croasdaile Garden Club President Susan Antle.
Martha, a T&CGC member and a Hub Farm Board Member, has been a key driver in local garden club support for the teaching facility since 2014. Farmers Grant Ruhlman and Reid Rosemond also continue to share with garden clubs and greater Durham community their annual needs assessments and strategic planning.  

Last summer a new concrete floor was installed and funded by the Croasdaile Garden Club (a $3,000 gift in 2017) and the Durham Merchants Association Charitable Foundation.
At the September Croasdaile Garden Club business meeting, President Susan Antle reported that the new cement barn floor was hugely appreciated, and that the floor will make a serious impact for all future DPS children's programming. She shared a "thank you note" message from Hub Farm:
"The barn is used as an office, gathering space, and packing shed for student-grown produce. Now we can pack and store food in a clean, comfortable and sanitary space. Big impact for the quality of experience that both students and staff have when visiting the farm. The original floor had a hard-packed mud floor that flooded with every heavy rain and was a tripping hazard due to its uneven surface.”
For more information and how to get involved with the DPS Hub Farm see:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pest Spotlight: Cabbage Looper

Cabbage looper (Trichoplasia ni).
Caterpillars in the Greenhouse
Publication date: Jan. 1, 1994
Last updated: Sept. 25, 2017

Cabbage Looper
The adult cabbage looper is a grayish-brown moth with a wingspan up to 33 mm. The forewings have a distinct irregular, white mark.
When first deposited, the eggs are white but darken as they get older. The eggs are hemispherical with fine transverse lines and longitudinal ribs.
Newly hatched larvae are whitish with a black head and shield immediately posterior to the head. As the larvae grow, they become light green with two dorsal white stripes and two wider lateral white stripes (Figure D). The markings become less distinct in the last instar. The body tapers toward the head, and the full grown larva is 35 to 40 mm long.
Easily seen through the webby cocoon, the pupa is light green when first formed and darkens to almost black later.
The cabbage looper is found throughout the United States.
Host Plants:  
The cabbage looper larva IS a general feeder with a wide range of possible food plants. Some hosts are cabbage, carnation, snapdragon, nasturtium, mignonette, celery, tomato, beet, pea, and lettuce.
On some plants the larva has a distinctive feeding habit. The holes it makes are arc-shaped. The area of the hole is determined by the size of the larva that made it. The characteristic pattern is caused by the larva partly cutting the leaf as far as it can reach by holding fast with its hind legs.
Life History:
Because the larva of the cabbage looper lacks 2 pairs of prolegs, it is necessary for the caterpillar to arch its back in a looping fashion to move, hence the common name looper.
Eggs are deposited singly on either side of the leaf by the cabbage looper. Each female is capable of producing 200 or more eggs. Hatching occurs 3 to 10 days after the eggs are laid. There are four or five larval instars that develop in 10 to 50 days. If food is abundant and environmental conditions are favorable, only four instars develop. The larvae are strong crawlers and will travel some distance to reach a new host. If disturbed, the caterpillars characteristically curl into a ball and drop from the plant. Pupae are formed within a thin, white cocoon that may be attached to different objects or under a clod of soil. The pupal stage lasts from 6 days to as long as several months (overwintering stage). The adults are strong fliers and are active about dusk and on cloudy and cool fall days. The moths avoid strong sunlight.
  • A number of parasitic wasps and flies attack cabbage looper caterpillars, and birds and bats feed on the adult moths.
  • Bacterial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis can be applied by home gardeners when caterpillers are small. repeat treatments at weekly intervals if plants become reinfested.
  • Use row covers to keep from laying eggs \. Clean all plant debris from garden to reduce the number of overwintering pupae. 
See more cabbage pests from NC State Extension:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Handbook is Online!

If you would like to research all of the plant topics taught through the NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program, (minus the live lectures of foremost NC State horticultural professors), then visit the online EMG handbook.  
(This online handbook is an updated version of the class binders given in years past.) 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Durham's Finest Trees Deadline Oct. 1

Don't forget to nominate your favorite tree(s) in Durham with Trees Across Durham and the Durham County Master Gardeners:
Read about one of the 2017 winners, the osage orange tree at historic Stagville Plantation on the Master Gardener blog.
Photo: Yellowish-green fruit and shiny green leaves of Osage Orange tree. Photo taken by Wendy Diaz September 16, 2016.

Time for Fall Seeding of Tall Fescue & Kentucky Bluegrass

Aeration is an integral part of reseeding a healthy fescue turf in the fall.

By Grady Miller, Professor and Extension Specialist
NC State Extension, updated by Danesha Seth Carley (9/6/2017)

Fall is the best time for renovation and seeding of cool-season lawns. Temperatures are currently above normal for early September, but long range forecast predict they will begin to moderate. Hurricane season has also been active, so consider heavy rainfall in your planning as much as practical. Much of the state has been dry in July and August, so some rain would be appreciated to help make aerification a bit easier. Heavy rainfall can wash seed.

Remember that spring-established tall fescue is more susceptible to drought, heat, fungal diseases, and weed encroachment. With normal summer weather patterns, spring seeding is not likely to result in a year-long stand of healthy tall fescue. So do not delay, seed in the fall!

Young seedlings normally emerge and grow best when air temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees. Soil temperatures need to be greater than 60 degrees for good germination. So, it is generally better to go a bit early than seeding late. If tall fescue is seeded in under less than ideal conditions (too cool or no soil moisture), you may experience a thin turf stand going into the winter. So try to get your seed out in September. If you must wait until October there is an increased likelihood of slow/low germination.

It is best to choose cultivars from the turffiles website. There is a list on TurfFiles of 2017 Top Performing tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass cultivars. For a larger list of good performing cultivars, the 2014 lists are still a good resource: 2014 Recommended Kentucky Bluegrass Cultivars for North Carolina and 2014 Recommended Tall Fescue Cultivars for North Carolina.

If you buy a tall fescue blend, try to find one with at least one of the cultivars from the list of recommended cultivars. These grasses were chosen because they produce a high quality turf in North Carolina and have been shown to be less susceptible to brown patch. Some like to mix in a little Kentucky bluegrass (darker color and finer texture) or fine fescue (for shady areas). I do not suggest adding ryegrass to the mix as it can dominate and reduce the stand of the more heat-tolerant tall fescue. A typical tall fescue seeding rate is 5 to 6 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Germination will normally be in 7 to 14 days with soil moisture and suitable soil temperatures.

Before seeding core aerification is recommended to reduce compacted areas. Getting good soil to seed contact is paramount to maximize available soil moisture. The core aerification holes will capture seed and hold moisture so the tall fescue seedlings often come up as a tuft of turf from the aerification holes.

Follow normal tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass fertilization practices as outlined in Carolina Lawns available on the website. The suggested yearly nitrogen application is about 1.0 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square at seeding. Include phosphorus and potassium fertilizers if soil tests indicate there is a need. In the absence of a soil test, a 16-4-8 or similar N-P-K ratio fertilizer may be used this spring. Before additional fertilizer or lime is added, conduct a soil test (

To apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet: Divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag to determine the amount of product to be used per 1,000 square feet. Example: Using a 16-4-8 fertilizer, 100 divided by 16 equals 6.25, therefore, 6.25 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet will deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

If irrigation is available, set your controller within current water restrictions for your area. Irrigate early in the morning to reduce water loss due to evaporation. In the fall, ¼ to ½ inch water per week of water (via rainfall or irrigation) is generally sufficient to meet the turf’s water needs. Irrigation can usually be discontinued in November without any reduction in turfgrass quality.

Since seeds and seedlings may be damaged by some herbicide applications, fall seeded cool-season grasses should not have any herbicides applied until it is extensively tillered.

It is very important that tall fescue be maintained at the proper mowing height to allow it to mature before winter and to minimize weed incidence. Studies have shown that a 3½ mowing height provides the best growth condition while minimizing disease incidence and weed encroachment. A 3 to 3.5 inch mowing height is also a good height for tall fescue + Kentucky bluegrass.

Note that warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustinegrass can be sodded in the fall, but it is generally not recommended due to the increased chance of winterkill. Warm-season grasses should not be seeded in the fall as there is inadequate time for maturity before the first expected frost.

Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 District 9 Annual Meeting "In My Grandmother's Garden": Oct. 18

Artist and Gay Blades Garden Club member Carolyn Bell's floral oil painting for the
District 9 Annual Meeting will be auctioned.
District 9 of The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. will hold its 2017 Annual Meeting "In My Grandma's Garden" on 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Mebane Arts Council Center (MACC).
The Mebane Council of Garden Clubs is hosting the event. The MACC is located: 633 Corregidor St, Mebane, NC 27302.
Registration is due Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.
Garden Club Presidents of District 9 were mailed letters and registration forms in August.
Make registration checks payable to the "Mebane Garden Council" and please mail registration checks and forms to:
Sandi Bagby, Mebane Council of Garden Clubs, 1268 Woodhaven Drive, Mebane 27302.
The Mebane Garden Council has many treats available for attendees of the District 9 Annual Meeting, "In My Grandmother's Garden" according to Council President Linda Nunemaker.
An art auction of the meeting's floral oil painting by Carolyn Bell will be held. Carolyn Bell is a member of the Gay Blades Garden Club.  Local art collectors can find information of more of her works at
Parked outside of the MACC will be a rare 1930s Willys-Overland Whippet owned by Mebane Council President Linda Nunemaker and her husband who will be greeting attendees. The Nunemaker's Whippet has won 1st prize in several car shows, she said adding the car only cost $599 brand new, and only about 3,000 Whippets were manufactured.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Member Profile: Ruth Yarbrough's 'Service of Joy'

Ruth Evelyn Shipp Yarbrough
By J.S. Corser, Publisher
Durham Co. Master Gardener
Indian poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore contemplated the idea of “service of joy” in his famous quote,
   “I slept and dreamed that life was joy, 
   I woke and saw that life was duty,
   I acted and behold: duty was joy.”

Garden Club business leader Ruth Evelyn Shipp Yarbrough learned about Tagore in her college days at Ole Miss and formed her life’s mission around those words. Ruth is well-known for her 5 decades of exacting business leadership for The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. (GCNC) as President (1983-1985) and in numerous offices and committee chair roles for GCNC, its District 9, the South Atlantic Region (SAR) of National Garden Clubs and its Board, and also several roles for the Durham Council of Garden Clubs including Parliamentarian since 2000. What people may not know about Ruth is that she has been a formidable change agent for various improvements for Durham and North Carolina, including campaigning state and federal government for initiatives in clean air and women’s privacy laws in publishing, and is an award-winning author herself.

Ruth grew up in Red Banks, Mississippi, and earned a Baccalaureate in Science and Commerce, majoring in Auditing and Accounting, in 1946 from Ole Miss University where she met her husband Madison Yarbrough, Jr. They met in September 1945 and married November 24, 1946. The two began their careers in the 1950s in Memphis and Durham, the latter where they settled to help manage the Yarbrough family’s furniture business. Ruth had been employed as the first female, full-time accountant in Durham during that time before she began raising their young family. 

"Every organization I’ve ever been in I’ve been Treasurer. Church, everything else!” she said, adding today she does some accounting work for the Yarbrough’s furniture business.

Ruth enjoyed several media mentions in Durham
during her 50+ years tenure with garden clubs.
This image appeared in the Durham Herald in the 1960s.
In 1961, she joined the Woodlawn Garden Club of Durham that gave her a leadership outlet, with five years as President and decades of service through 2008. (Back in the 1960s she said she was stunned the group welcomed her children to accompany her to meetings and gave them their own play space!) 
Beautifying Durham became a mission for Ruth with so much available downtown and urban space for tree planting and other garden initiatives. Trees, Ruth said, are her favorite element of the garden as they have the largest presence and ability to filter air pollution and provide bird sanctuary.

“I use to lie in the swing on my Grandfather’s front porch and I was mesmerized by the beauty of trees. They had a calming effect on me and I have had a love-affair with trees to this day,” she said.

Through membership in the Durham Council of Garden Clubs, Ruth was able to be a frequent gardening advice guest on “The Peggy Mann Show” which aired midday on Durham’s ABC affiliate WTVD from 1954-1980. Individual Durham garden clubs took turns as guests on the show. Ruth said she enjoyed giving presentations for attracting birds to the garden and even once spoke on tax preparation using her accounting background. 
Receiving the 1969 "Keep America Beautiful" award for Durham.
Pictured L-R: Helen Floyd, Emma Randolph, President William May of
Keep America Beautiful, Durham Mayor Wense Garbarek and Ruth.
Her most high profile project on the Council happened in 1969, when Ruth co-chaired with Helen Floyd the application for the national “Keep America Beautiful” award for Durham. She drove the project to incorporate cleaning up urban spaces in all of Durham. Ruth noted that she enjoyed tremendous Durham media and city support for the project, even getting its own phone line for residents to call in what area they were going to clean. In addition, Ruth and Helen coordinated with Durham’s black women’s garden clubs which had not been a common practice in the 1960s. Durham subsequently won the 1969 national award. Fourteen people from Durham attended the ceremony in New York, including: Helen Floyd, Emma Randolph, President William May of Keep America Beautiful, Durham Mayor Wense Garbarek and Ruth.
Ruth recalls giving more than two decades of joyful service to The Garden Club of NC, Inc. during the 1970s-1980s. 

As Treasurer she established a permanent set of books/finance records from the yellow legal pads she inherited from previous treasurers, a monumental task in of itself. As a member of the GCNC Scholarship Committee, Ruth worked to help raise and award dozens of scholarships to Durham students. She once spoke on behalf of the GCNC at the commencement celebration of the School of Design, Landscape Architecture Department of North Carolina State University.

Ruth served as the 30th President of GCNC from 1983-85. Building upon her work for the Keep America Beautiful award, Ruth and the garden clubs traveled to Washington, D.C. during her presidency and lobbied Congress for national clean air programs and provided tree workshops in 1983 and 1985. 

Ruth (L) greeting HRH Princess Anne (R) at the "400th Anniversary of America" reception held
at the Elizabethan Gardens, Manteo, NC, in 1984.
One of the many highlights she enjoyed during her tenure as President of GCNC, was in 1984 hosting the “400th Anniversary of America” celebration for the first landing by Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition to Roanoke. The event was held at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC and attended by North Carolina dignitaries like Governor Jim Hunt and British dignitaries including Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. Before Ruth could receive HRH, she said the secret service had to run their customary sweep of the property. (Frogmen were in the Roanoke Sound protecting as she passed over the bridge, Ruth recalled.) Given Ruth’s family background with the furniture industry, she said she was able to help open secret compartments on a desk that they were having much trouble inspecting. One of the foreign guests, Lord Mayor of Plymouth remarked the North Carolina Elizabethan Gardens property “had better gardens than Buckingham Palace.” Another lively attendee, Sir Jeffery Gilbert who was a 9th generation from a brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, casually invited her to visit his home some time—his dwelling, unbeknown to her, was Compton Castle, the “dramatic fortified manor” in Marldon, Devon. 

Preparation for a reception of British Royalty, however, was less work than the convention planning she did as a Co-Chair for the National Garden Club’s 1993 Annual Meeting, held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. Ruth sat on the NGC Board and worked a total of five years organizing this particular national meeting. The keynote speaker was CBS broadcast journalist Charles Kuralt who at the time was producing his travelogue show “On the Road with Charles Kuralt.” 

Other Passions 

Ever civic-minded and an advocate for women, Ruth also stepped outside of her regular gardening organization role to lead North Carolina legislation protecting women’s privacy in publishing. The 1978 Durham Herald news story that brought her to action was a crime article involving a serial rapist attacking women and girls in the Trinity Park neighborhood. The accused attacker and the names of his victims were both published for public consumption by the newspaper. Outraged, Ruth worked with the Durham Women’s Club (of which she was a member) to lobby the NC legislature in prohibiting this practice by North Carolina media. While she has not been aware of any state statute actually passed, the names of sexual assault victims have since been absent in Durham reporting. 

Ruth’s service of joy outside gardening organizations also extends to her family legacy in the form of genealogy. She won the 2007 North Carolina Genealogical Award for her book “Remember Who You Are” which chronicled 21 families of the Yarbrough and Shipp ancestry. Ruth wrote the book from 1999-2006, long before genealogy search websites, and researched using public records from County Courthouses, libraries, graveyards, and historical archives. The index cites 3,000 references. Genealogy is a passion inherited from her mother who liked to keep as much memorabilia of family history as possible. “Remember Who You Are” is in the historical archives of in many national university libraries. Librarians and others have purchased the book from Alaska down the West Coast, through the southern Midwest, the South, up the East Coast, and at least one copy for English libraries, she said. 

Ruth also taught Sunday School in Durham consecutively for 41 years. 

Flipping through the pages of a scrapbook
made by her granddaughter.

Garden Club Organization Professional Service Highlights*

Garden Clubs
  • Ruth was a member of the Durham Woodland Garden Club beginning in 1961, serving as President five years)
  • 1960s - Concurrently member of Margaret Brawley Garden Club after the Woodlawn Garden Club dropped state affiliation to GCNC
  • Present member of the Daylily Garden Club since 2008.
Durham Council of Garden Clubs
  • Ruth served as President (1990-1992), also served terms as Treasurer, Chair of Publicity; Chair of Hands Committee; Chair of Beautification Committee, and Parliamentarian from 2000-2017. 
  • Projects: Durham Rescue Mission Garden (1987-88).
District 9 of GCNC
  • Ruth Served as District Director; Chairman of Nominating Committee; and Civic Development Committee.
The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc.
  • 30th President (1983-85); Executive Committee Chair; Treasurer; Finance Chair, Board of Governors; Chairman of Trustees eight years; Chairman of Advisory Committee; Chair of Investment Committee; Scholarship Committee member, Chair of Legislation, and Parliamentarian for six years. She is also a Life Member of the organization.
  • Winner of the Maslin Award for service in 1987.
South Atlantic Region (SAR) of National Garden Club
  • Ruth served as Treasurer, Secretary, and is a Life Member.
National Garden Club
  • Ruth was Executive Board Member, 1993 Annual Meeting Co-Chair and is a Life Member.
* The specific dates of some offices held are not available and many were concurrent.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Native Perennials with Pharmaceutical Pasts

Image result for cone flowers and bee balm
Many common perennials grown today for their ornamental value, such as
magenta-flowered  beebalm and purple coneflower (foreground), have rich medicinal histories.
By Rita Pelczar
The American Gardener, AHS
July/August 2017

For centuries, Native Americans used a wide variety of indigenous plants to treat whatever ailed them. Early European settlers followed suit, learning medicinal uses for the unfamiliar flora they encountered either by trial and error—a risky business—or from the locals. This herbal lore passed from generation to generation until the advent of modern medicine about a century ago. 

Before then, many native plants were grown in home gardens more for their medicinal usefulness than their ornamental qualities. Several of these species still grace gardens across the country today, though many people don’t realize the significant role they played in health and healing before alternative pharmaceutical options existed.

Certain ornamental North American trees and shrubs have medicinal uses, but this article will focus on herbaceous perennials. The following are some of the most garden-worthy, widely available, and historically interesting among them (see the chart on page 31 for additional selections). Please note that how to use them as herbal remedies and their medicinal efficacy are not the focus of this article; it is intended to be informational rather than instructional. 

Commercially Marketed Herbal Natives
Among the most well known and well researched medicinal native perennials are coneflowers (Echinacea spp.). Ethnobotanical studies have revealed that numerous Native American tribes used coneflowers in a variety of herbal remedies for hundreds of years. Today, millions of people around the world use echinacea-based products to bolster their immune system or to diminish the duration and severity of a cold.
The species most commonly used for these purposes are purple coneflower (E. purpurea, USDA Hardiness Zones 3–9, AHS Heat Zones 9–1), pale purple coneflower (E. pallida, Zones 3–10, 10–1), and narrow-leaf coneflower (E. angustifolia, Zones 4–9, 9–1). Health products labeled with “echinacea” often contain extracts from at least two of these species. Studies have found that each of these plants produces various chemicals with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and immune-boosting properties.
Native across eastern and central North America, these coneflowers are easy to grow, drought-tolerant, and make lovely additions to sunny spaces. Their showy flower heads, composed of pink-purple rays surrounding distinctly raised cones, attract butterflies, bees, and seed-eating birds.
They reach between two and four feet tall, and bloom all summer long.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Zones 4–9, 8–4) is another widely used and well known medicinal native perennial. Historically it has been used for ailments involving mucus membranes. For example, Iroquois healers used a decoction of the root to treat whooping cough, diarrhea, stomach ailments, earache, and eye irritation. Its thick yellow rhizomes also have been used to make a dye. After early explorers exported the plant to Europe, it became popular there for medicinal purposes, too.
Because of overharvesting and habitat loss, the plant is now an endangered species across its native range from New Hampshire and Minnesota, south to Alabama and Georgia. Fortunately, many reputable nurseries now propagate and sell goldenseal for both home gardens and commercial production. It’s one of my favorite plants for a woodland garden, forming a groundcover of large, palmately lobed leaves on short stems that reach six to 12 inches tall. Small, white, tufted flowers appear in spring, followed by a showy raspberrylike fruit that appears to sit atop the leaf. Best growth occurs in a moist, moderately shady spot with slightly acidic soil.

Mint-Family Medicinals
Many native plants with herbal properties belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae). They share traits such as square stems, opposite leaves that may be aromatic, and small two-lipped flowers arranged in whorls or clusters. Those that spread with rhizomes may need a firm hand to keep them within bounds. The genus Salvia boasts quite a few North American species that are both medicinally significant and highly ornamental. From the West Coast, hummingbird or pitcher sage (S. spathacea, Zones 8–11, 10-7) inhabits the coastal hills of central and southern California.

Indigenous peoples in that region used it to treat colds and sore throats, and scientific analysis has revealed that it contains antimicrobial compounds. This plant grows about two feet tall and spreads to about three feet across. Its spikes of fruity-scented, magenta blooms begin appearing in winter in warmer regions, and continue through summer. As the common name implies, they attract hummingbirds. It prefers dappled shade, but also will adapt to full sun. Though quite drought-tolerant, a bit of irrigation helps extend the flowering season and keep the plant evergreen where winters are mild.
For more medicinal species, see full article from The American Gardener: