Gardeners of Somerset Valley

January 2004					Editor: Mitch Greenbaum


			NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, January 21, 7:30 PM,
				At the North Branch Reformed Church

With artic blasts routinely dropping temperatures down into the single digits, January is probably a time best spent day-dreaming of a Florida or Caribbean vacation rather than thinking about outdoor gardening projects for 2004. Since a warm clime is merely a pipe dream for most of us who will be spending the whole winter in New Jersey, next week can be a nice opportunity to get out of the house and warm up to the experiences and challenges facing our scholarship students, Nina Zinn and Gregory Shinn. Instead of a formal program, Nina and Gregory will be attending our meeting to talk about their studies and life in general as horticultural students. We should also have some extra time during the hospitality break to meet with them in small groups, and generally to catch up with our fellow club members after the long holiday break.

According to some of the more than 20 attendees, the 2003 GOSV Christmas Party held at Christine’s home in Green Brook on December 20 was a delectable feast. It’s not a far stretch to predict that avid gardeners are also outstanding in the kitchen, and from appetizers to dessert, no one left disappointed or hungry. As a way of providing a flavor of the evening and to get your mouths watering all over again, below were some of the menu highlights.

Since the end of December, seed catalogues have been piling up in the mailbox seemingly one or two every day. For those of us who do and even for those who don’t buy products through the mail, there seems to be two important trends taking place this year that should be of interest to everyone. The first is that more and more catalogues are providing a greater depth of information about plants. In the past, differentiating annuals from perennials, shade versus sun loving varieties, highlighting award winners and promoting new introductions was the norm. Now some are going far beyond the basics, almost becoming mini horticulture manuals. Catalogues are starting to offer information about heat and drought tolerance, attraction for butterflies/hummingbirds, poison indicators (even including level of toxicity), fragrance, and what should be all of our most looked after critical data, deer and rabbit resistance. Surprisingly only a handful of catalogues are flagging items having deer resistance, but over time this will probably become more commonplace. The other major trend is that for the first time some of the major companies are giving significant discounts for ordering early. Previously if you purchased a minimum dollar amount by the deadline, you could expect free seeds, starter fertilizer or possibly some helpful literature. As an example of the change of strategy, Gurney’s is advertising a $20 gift certificate and if the order happens to be less than $20, it’s yours free. Henry Field’s has a slightly different twist, providing $20 worth of no charge product when you order $20 from the catalogue. Apparently this marketplace has become very saturated and the companies are resorting to promotions to try and build brand loyalty. If you come across any other outstanding deals or have received an exceptionally informative catalogue, please bring them to our attention at the meeting.

Just a reminder, the second annual Flower, Garden and Outdoor Living Show takes place February 19-22 at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison. The theme this year is “A Garden State of Mind”, and though the opinion of members attending last year’s event was generally unfavorable, perhaps the MAC organization will do a better job this time around. For those thinking of attending the Philadelphia Flower Show and don’t want to drive, the Hunterdon County Adult Continuing and Community Education school is sponsoring trips on the Saturdays of March 7 and March 13, and typically they do an outstanding job. For details call 908-768-1405.

In February we return to our normal meeting format with a presentation on herbs. This month, come on out and get to know our scholarship students. Gregory and Nina will certainly appreciate your support, and we can all help each other get through this cold spell with a pleasant evening discussing ‘hot’ gardening topics.