Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shirley's Christmas Snowball Cookies

She wishes we didn't call them that, saying she got the recipe from a magazine years ago. But that's what we call these cookies at RCGC, remembering them fondly from the many times former Board member Shirley Dumbauld brought them to our Christmas parties. I made them for our recent Christmas soiree and they were a big hit. For those of you who requested the recipe (and even if you didn't, they're really great Christmas cookies):

Christmas Snowball Cookies
1 C butter, softened
1/4 C sifted confectioners sugar
2 tea vanilla
1 T water
2 C sifted flour
1 C chopped pecans

Confectioners' frosting:
4 C sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 C milk (or less)

Coating: 8 oz flaked, sweetened coconut

Thoroughly cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in water. Add flour and mix well. Stir in nuts. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet (they can be placed fairly close as they don't spread very much) and bake for 20 min at 300 deg, or until delicately browned. Cool completely before removing from pan. Dip in confectioners frosting and roll in flaked coconut.

Confectioners' Frosting: mix milk slowly into the sifted sugar, a little at a time, until of dipping consistency.

Yeild: about 30 cookies

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Master Class With Ellen Hornig

Master Class with Ellen Hornig

After Ellen's lectures, I realized that I've probably thrown away a good many viable perennial seeds because I didn't understand the processes they needed to go through to germinate are different than sowing vegetables and annuals. Her lecture and seed sowing demonstration in the hoop house gave me a ton of information I was lacking and inspired me to go home and start more perennials from seed.

She brought a variety of seeds from her own collection and took us through every step she uses to get them to germinate. It was a real treat to have access to so many unusual seeds and to pot them up and take them home. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A rare find

A couple of weeks ago while hiking at Letchworth State Park, I came across a rare find. Nestled between stands of spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) I came across a jewelweed plant the likes of which I had not seen before. 

This plant looked like spotted jewelweed in the shape of the flowers and the leaves but it had white flowers with red spots. I've never in all my stomping about in wild places or perusing through various field guides trying to ID wild plants seen one like this. 

After some investigation, I believe it is one of two very uncommon variants of the spotted jewelweed: Impatiens capensis forma albiflora (white flowers with red spots) or Impatiens capensis forma Pease (white flowers with larger red spots/splotches). These variants are referenced here in a NYFA Newsletter  if you wish to read more.

It was very late in the day and the light was low so these pictures are not my best but hopefully you'll be able to see and enjoy this rare beauty as well!


Thursday, August 26, 2010


I recently discovered a hidden gem of a garden that is open to the public, but that seems to be little-known, even to the gardening community. It's the Memory Garden, and it's located at the back of Monroe Community Hospital at the corner of Westfall Rd. and South Ave. Parking is in the County Health Dept. lot on the left side as you come in.

This beautiful one-and-a-half- acre mini-botanic garden was started by the Alzheimer's Association eleven years ago on the site of a hospital parking lot. It's enclosed by a hedge, which gives it a peaceful, safe feeling, but which also hides it from public view.

I have written an article about the garden for the Upstate Gardeners Journal. Be on the lookout for it, but in the meantime, stop and see it for yourself. As the Michelin Guide says, it's "Worth a trip."

Mary Ruth Smith

RCGC Library Volunteer and Garden Writer

Thursday, July 8, 2010

gardening isn't for wimps

The 90 plus temperatures didn't deter these two master gardeners from showing up to work with our Thursday volunteers to help impose law and order into the perennial borders along the top of the Sunken Gardens. This is such a lovely spot, and it needs a lot of help! Many thanks to Cornell Extension Master Gardener Coordinator Karen Klingenberger for putting out the APB to all the master gardeners. Thank you for taking an interest in this project, we really appreciate your help!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Passionflower is Blooming

I'd love to tell you to come see it in the Library - but each bloom seems to last less than a day. When one opens the news travels fast here and we all go look - they are fascinating, very complex. It's got lots of buds, worth a trip just in case...

Thanks to member and Library volunteer Tina Szostak for donating the plant to the library.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

an evening in the garden

The first soiree of the season was held in this tranquil garden. It was a perfect evening and helped me appreciate even more the role the passage of time plays in a garden. If you missed this one, make sure to come to our next soiree here at the castle on June 24th 6:30-8pm. It's a lovely way to enjoy the magic hours at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bee Swarm Season is Here

From RCGC Professional Member and beekeeper Pat Bono:

During the next several weeks, honey bee colonies will be expanding and sending out swarms - groups of bees with a queen. Swarms can form from colonies in trees, barns, houses or managed hives. Before leaving the parent hive, the bees gorge on honey in preparation for their trip to find a new home. This makes it difficult for them to sting.

Swarms usually collect on a branch or some other spot and stay for a few hours to a few days before moving on. Local beekeepers are looking for swarms to collect, and will do this for free. Captured swarms are used to replace bees lost during the winter.

If you see a bee swarm, please contact a beekeeper right away. Please do not spray the swarm, as it sickens and damages the bees, making them useless for pollination and honey-making.

There are many internet sites with lists of local beekeepers waiting for swarm calls.

Pat Bono
Seaway Trail Honey, PO Box 25291, Rochester, NY 14625, 585-820-6619

Friday, May 21, 2010

a bulletproof boxwood

The front of my house is a cottage garden and for years I've been fantasizing about putting boxwoods in it, but haven't because of the site-a hot sunny western exposure and frigid winds from the lake almost guarantee winter burn and that awful orangey yellow color they get from too much exposure.

But, I think there's hope in sight. This fall I planted 'north star'; a boxwood introduced by Proven Winners that is reported to withstand tough conditions. As an experiment, I planted one in a container and four out in the front garden. At the end of winter, there was a very slight yellowing on the new growth that quickly grew out, and the foliage was rich and dark green. 'North Star' has a mature height of 3'-a good size for a small garden. If you're looking around for a bulletproof boxwood, this one is a winner!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Go Native!

In planning your gardens and plantings for the season, please consider some of the wonderful native plants that you may find at your local nurseries. There are ones for every garden location and type. Whether you like flowers, butterfly attracting plants, or interesting foliage, there is a native plant perfect for you.

And if you are already a native plant devotee, you might be interested in an article I wrote for another blog. It is my own answer to a "native plant smackdown." I hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County recently awarded Jerry Kral the 2010 Excellence in Horticulture Award for the Greater Rochester Region. Jerry was honored for his volunteer work with The Eastman House, Rochester Civic Garden Center, Cornell Cooperative Extension and his work with many plant societies. It is certainly a well deserved award, Congratulations Jerry!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Watch Out For Lily Leaf Beetles

Adult beetle and feeding damage


I found these awful creatures on my fritillarias yesterday; the adults must have just emerged. They showed up in our area a year or two ago, and can completely decimate lilies and fritillarias, and possibly some other plants such as Soloman's seal and solanums. For now I am going to try to control them by squishing the adults and the eggs by hand. They are easy to spot, being bright red, but the adults drop to the ground and hide when you disturb them. Keep a close eye on your plants, because once they get going they are voracious, and the larvae that hatch from the eggs are even worse than the adults. Cornell recommends this fact sheet for further information:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good sharp tools make gardening so much easier! If you’re afraid to look at yours and need some tips on how to care for them and choose between the good, the bad and the ugly - make sure to tune in to Rochester public television RCTV-15 Tuesday April 6, 6:30pm-7pm for a special program: “The Sharpest Tool in the Shed” with RCGC executive director Christine Froehlich and instructor Nellie Gardner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gardenscape Thanks

Gardenscape is an event all of us enjoy escaping to at this time of year. For organizations like ours, its a terrific way to let folks in the community know about who we are and what we do. With the help of many hardworking members,RCGC won the best educational non profit award for our exhibit. We couldn't have done it without the help of Bob and Carolyn McKee,who spent countless hours unearthing pots, plants and furniture from their home and schlepping them to our booth. We can't thank them enough for their help and great ideas. Additional thanks to Nellie Gardner, Amy Semple, Pat McCandlish and Milli Piccione for helping us to tweak it all up. Bristol’s Garden Center and Palmiter’s Nursery generously provided us withe some terrific plants- a special thank you to them and to the many other volunteers for manning the exhibit over the weekend. Many hands make light work-we couldn't have done this without you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Visit the library

This is the time of year when you can cozy up with a good book-guilt free. The RCGC library is open all year Tuesday-Thursday, 9am-4pm. During the months of January, February and March it is also open on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays from 9:30am-12:30pm (in the fall we will have Saturday hours again). Everyone may visit and use the library. RCGC members may check out books, or you can get a library-only membership for $5 a year which will allow you to check out books. Our catalogue can be viewed on our website,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Restoring the Ceiling

They are putting up the finished pieces now, almost done. We will miss them - what a treat to watch these craftsmen at work! The restored ceiling is beautiful.

Molding the Pieces

First they applied a liquid rubber compound to pieces of the original moldings.

Then the rubber molds were imbedded into more plaster inside a wooden frame and new pieces were cast.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mike and Fritz are at it again

Many of you might remember Mike and Fritz-they are the masons who repointed the castle's limestone walls this summer. We are blessed with their presence once more as they repair the ceiling in the Great Room. It is a fascinating process to watch as they remove the old damaged plaster and cast new molds in their basement work room. Soon, they'll be fitting them back together and the ceiling will be restored to its' former elegance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is it spring yet?

Iris reticulata is one of my favorite early spring bulbs, but as I'm looking out at the snow and lusting for color I'm appreciating them even more in my kitchen window. They are easy to force, requiring a cooling period of about 8 weeks. I potted these up after teaching a class on forcing bulbs class last fall, put them in the garage to cool and promptly forgot all about them. I found them a couple of weeks ago and brought them inside-there are rewards to being forgetful. Next year I plan to have lots more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who says you can't have flowers in the winter? Forcing branches from your flowering trees and shrubs is a cheap and easy way to get a flower fix. I started these just before Christmas and I'm about to be rewarded with lilac and rhododendron blooms. Come learn how to do it next Saturday January 30th at our 3rd annual Seed and Houseplant Swap 9:45am-12:30pm.