Online Education Opportunities for Gardeners

zinia--Lucy Bradley
Image by Lucy Bradley

NC State University Department of Horticultural Science and Longwood Gardens, one of the premier public gardens in the world, are partnering to provide the general public with three fully-online introductions to plants. These survey courses will introduce people to plants that can be grown throughout the nation.

Participants will have access to the course resources 24/7 for the entire six weeks of the class and for six months after each course ends. There are no required presentations or any set times to meet online. In addition to the course fee you may choose to purchase an optional print copy of the online e-book that is included with the course.

Each course is focused on a different set of plant groupings and includes some favorites MOOCas well as a few introductions from the research and breeding programs at Longwood Gardens and NCSU. Through photo-stories, video presentations, online plant profiles, an e-book, flash-cards, vocabulary games, mystery plants and hundreds of beautiful images students will learn the key identifying characteristics of these plants and how best to use them in the landscape.

Below is a brief overview of each course followed by a link to enroll for that course or to be sent an invitation when offer dates are announced.

Learn to Identify Annuals, Perennials, and Vines – Fee $195 – Register by March 8 !
This course begins March 4th and features 45 plants. Late registration is accepted through March 8th.  To enroll: Learn more:

Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants – generally offered in March and September
Learn about the edible side of the landscape with an exploration of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and herbs. Extend your growing season with bulbs and even houseplants.

Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers: Identification and Use – generally offered in July and September.

You may request an invitation to upcoming offerings.

And more!

Everything about Orchids – Free massive online open course (MOOC) – Open through May 6, 2019
Learn more about Longwood Garden’s orchid collection and how you can grow and enjoy orchids in your own home with Greg Griffis, Orchid Grower, and Peter Zale, Associate Director of Conservation, Plant Breeding and Collections. You will learn about different types of orchids, their cultural needs, and how to use these plants in your home, in floral designs, and even in the landscape. Learn tips and techniques for repotting and propagating orchids as Greg discusses the care and culture of Longwood’s orchid collection. Discover some unique native orchids and learn about how they are breeding and conserving some species.

This course is self-paced and is open for participants to join at any time through May 6, 2019. You will have access to the course resources 24/7 for the entire six weeks of the class and for six months after the course ends.

To enroll:

– A. Laine


Learn With Us, week of September 16

Sept. 18, 2018, 6:30 – 8pm Arboricultural Tree Climbing Demo –
Durham Garden Forum
Sarah P Duke Gardens, Durham, NC
Leaf & Limb Arboriculture Company will present a climbing and roping demonstration and discussion of the value of proper tree care. This session will be both indoors and out to see the tree roping and climbing demonstration.

Free for members, $10 General Public. No charge for parking.


Sept. 23, 2018, 3-4pm Raised Beds – South Regional Library
South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Avenue, Durham, North Carolina 27713
Join EMGV Charles Murphy for a presentation about raised bed gardening.

Class is free. Registration is required.
Register with Pana Jones ( or call 919-560-0521
Register online at the Durham County Library website Click on “Events” to find the full calendar of events. Go to the date of the class and sign up.
You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register: 919-560-7410.

A Winter Woodland Tree

by Andrea Laine
There’s a tree in my Durham County backyard that I hardly notice, except come winter when it’s hard to miss. This native tree is the American beech (Fagus grandifolia). It is widespread across the hardwood forests of eastern North America

backyard beech 2

What makes this deciduous tree so noticeable in February? The presence of leaves. The leaves of younger specimens turn color in autumn and remain on the tree through winter. Papery thin and light bronze, the leaves stand out so well on an overcast day that they seem backlit. When the wind blows the foliage shimmers like a wind chime.


Slow-growing and long-lived, a beech’s grandeur will be enjoyed by generations to come. Of note, “Thin bark and shallow roots make beech trees extremely vulnerable to fire damage. (Spira 2011). Fire suppression over the past century has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of American beech trees.”

Smooth, light gray bark helps distinguish mature American beech from neighboring oak and hickory trees in the forest.
Smooth, light gray bark helps distinguish mature American beech from neighboring oak and hickory trees in the forest.

Here are additional identifying features of the statuesque American beech.
Physical Attributes:

  • Graceful, upright oval shape; Provides dense shade.
  • Generally 50 to 80 feet high at maturity; may reach 120 feet. Canopy of mature tree may spread 40 to 60 feet wide.
  • Simple leaves alternately arranged; ovate shape with an acute tip; margins are serrated. Leaves are silvery green in spring, dark green in summer.
  • Sharply pointed buds.
  • Monecious: separate male and female flowers on same tree. Flowers March to April.
  • Fruit is a two- or three-winged nut inside a spiny husk. Fruits September to October. Blue jays cache the nuts and disperse the seeds.


Environmental Conditions:

  • Moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5 to 6.5.
  • Sun to partial shade. Will tolerate shade.
  • Hardiness zones 3 – 9.

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,
or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”
Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862

Professional photo credits

American Beech leaves in winter. Credit: Jim Clark Photography. Retrieved on February 16, 2016 from
American Beech bark. Retrieved on February 16, 2016 from
Opened fruit of American beech showing two nuts. Credit: NM Zitani. Retrieved February 16, 2016 from

Additional Images


Dirr, M.A. (1998). The Manual of woody landscape plants. Stipes Publishing

Spira, T.P. (2011). Wildflowers & plant communities of the southern Appalachian mountains & Piedmont. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.


Franklin and Wake counties join quarantine area for emerald ash borer

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

CONTACT: Phillip Wilson, plant pest administrator
NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division

RALEIGH – Franklin and Wake counties are the latest to come under quarantine rules restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock and other ash materials after emerald ash borers were confirmed in both counties. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler signed an emergency quarantine order allowing the expansion.

An emerald ash borer was found via the capture of a cerceris wasp in Franklin County. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Plant Industry Division had been monitoring sites in Franklin County and throughout the state looking for evidence of EAB. Part of the monitoring included capturing cerceris wasps around baseball fields to see what food sources or insects they were bringing back to their underground nests. The method had been used to find EAB in Connecticut, and North Carolina is only the second state to successfully use this method in the United States.

Evidence of EAB was found by NCDA&CS staff in woods near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
“This brings the total counties in the state under EAB quarantine rules to seven, with detections in Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties in 2013 and Wayne County earlier this year,” Troxler said. “We continue to monitor other counties for this highly destructive pest by trapping areas with ash trees. If you see the purple, triangle-shaped traps, please do not disturb them.”

The beetle was first detected in the United States in Michigan in 2002. It is responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees across the country.

Under the state quarantine, all hardwood firewood and plants and plant parts of the ash tree — including living, dead, cut or fallen, green lumber, stumps, roots, branches and composted and uncomposted chips — cannot be moved outside the county.
The Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service are working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Symptoms of emerald ash borer in ash trees include a general decline in the appearance of the tree, such as thinning from the top down and loss of leaves. Clumps of shoots, also known as epicormic sprouts, emerging from the trunk of the tree and increased woodpecker activity are other symptoms. The emerald ash borer is not the only pest that can cause these.
Emerald ash borers overwinter as larvae. The adult beetle is one-fourth to a half-inch long and is slender and metallic green. When the adults emerge from a tree, they leave behind a D-shaped exit hole. The larvae can also create serpentine tunneling marks, known as feeding galleries, which are found under the bark of the infested trees.
Home and landowners are encouraged to report any symptomatic activity in ash trees to the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333 or by email at The pest can affect any of the four types of ash trees grown in the state.

Trees Across Durham

From the City of Durham Website:

Trees Across Durham

Keepin’ it Shady!

Trees planted as of April 30, 2015 = 2,000.
Trees Across Durham is a broad-based partnership dedicated to making Durham a healthier and greener community now and in the future through the planting and protection of trees, the education of tree care-takers and the general public about how to maintain healthy trees, and the measurement and communication of the benefits trees provide to our environment and community.
You can contribute to the effort by planting your own tree,volunteering, taking a class, or participating in our “Water into Trees” program. Water for Trees lets you donate money to Durham’s Urban Forestry program through your water bill. You can round up each bill, give a one time lump sum, or a flat donation each billing cycle.
Some of the projects we have worked on include planting over 600 trees at public schools, giving away 1,600 tree seedlings to the public, offering a 15-hour Tree Keeper training​, and launching a major effort to control cankerworms​.
Check back to get updates and follow us on Facebook or Twitter​.
If you would like to get involved, fill out this form ​or email​ us.​
Download the Trees Across Durham brochure​.
Trees Across Durham is an effort included in both the City Strategic Plan and the County Strategic Plan​.