December 2020
Thank You & Happy Holidays from the Master Gardeners!
Thank you so much for joining us on this journey of creating a Garden & Horticulture Newsletter from the Master Gardeners of CCE-Monroe.

We would love to hear your thoughts on what content you would like to see in newsletters next year.

Happy holidays and stay safe!
Highland Park's Lamberton Conservatory Holiday Show
Take advantage of a local treasure and visit the Highland Park Lamberton Conservatory!

The holiday show started on Friday, December 4th. The conservatory is open daily until 4 PM, and with extended hours until 9 PM on Friday and Sunday evenings.

Visitors are limited to 10 at a time and masks are required. Admission fees apply, children under 5 years are free.

Buy Local Christmas Trees
Support local businesses and reduce the transmission of invasive pests from out of state.

Fresh cut Christmas trees look and smell beautiful. But did you ever stop to consider how these and other agricultural products support local businesses and local economies? It’s hard to see the effect directly: you go out, cut your own tree or pick out a tree from a local nursery or garden center. You see other households doing the same, just like selecting produce at the grocery store. But unlike produce at most grocery stores, locally grown Christmas trees are part of a shorter supply chain. Often the garden center has contracted to purchase the trees directly from the grower.

To give an example, Monroe County Christmas tree growers, like Stoke Farm in Scottsville or Woody Acres in Penfield, depend on the sales of Christmas trees and other agricultural product to make a living. This income pays for labor, for the services of local contractors, for groceries, and, well, you get the picture: the dollars we spend purchasing these trees trickle into a local New York State economy. Small farms have been shown to create a 2.12 economic multiplier for their local economies in New York State.1 So for every dollar you spend, the money fans out into paying labor or making purchases that keep others employed.

Buying New York grown trees also helps reduce the possible transmission of pests from outside of New York State. Trees are harvested in late fall after most insects have gone to sleep for the winter. There is a small possibility that insects may come along for a ride. If they are local insects, they are a short-term problem: swat them or put them outside. But trees from out of our area can potentially carry new pests into our area.

Looking for a local tree? Check out the CCE-Monroe Local Christmas Tree Farms webpage where you will find a listing of local growers as well as tips for keeping your tree fresh. You will also find a Christmas tree guide to help you choose the perfect tree.

2020 has been a tough year for all of us, and as we approach the winter months, we may lean into family traditions and familiar comforts. If a fresh cut Christmas tree is one of your traditions, consider cutting or purchasing a tree from a local grower. You will be helping to build local resilience and make your farmer’s winter a little merrier and brighter, too.

Authors: Jen Lerner, CCE Putnam County; Brian Eshenaur and Dr. Elizabeth Lamb, NYSIPM; and Stephanie Radin, NYS Department of Ag & Markets
Photo: Brian A. Pounds/Hearst Connecticut Media
Be Aware of Poisonous Houseplants
Do your pets eat nibble on your houseplants? If so, take a good look at your houseplants to assure poisonous ones are not within reach of children or pets.

Unfortunately, there are a few houseplants that are quite poisonous to humans and/or animals. Remember that there are three routes of exposure for poisoning: through the skin, inhaling through the nose, or eating. The focus here is only on stomach poisons that are a problem if eaten. With stomach poisons it is important to remember "the dose makes the poison." In other words, an amount that won't hurt a large dog might kill a small one.

There are several houseplants that contain calcium oxalate, a chemical that causes severe burning and tongue swelling. Examples of plants with this chemical include dumbcane (Dieffenbachia sp.), heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron cordata) pictured in photo above, anthurium, caladium, Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), spathiphyllum, arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum), and devils ivy or pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Most of these plants cause painful and immediate swelling of the mouth and throat after chewing on plant tissue. Speech impediment can occur, sometimes lasting for several days.

Some plants contain latex type juices. Examples include aloe and poinsettia. Ingestion of the latex can cause a cathartic (purging) reaction by irritating the large intestine. The actual toxins in poinsettia are unknown, although it is no longer classified as extremely toxic. Reactions to poinsettia for humans range from none to dermatitis to nausea and vomiting.
During the holiday season, beware of toxic holiday plants. Holly berries (Ilex species) (pictured in photo) can induce vomiting, diarrhea and stupor. Holly foliage (Hedera helix) berries contain saponins, which can cause a burning sensation in the throat and gastronomical upset with vomiting and diarrhea. Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) fruit or foliage should not be eaten.

Mistletoe (Phoradendron species) berries may result in vomiting, diarrhea and moderate stomach and intestinal pain. In severe cases there may be labored breathing, dramatically lowered blood pressure, and heart failure.

Do not despair, there are many houseplants and decorations that are not toxic. Example of nontoxic houseplants include African violet, baby tears, Boston fern, coleus, Christmas cactus, dracaena, jade, palm, peperomia, prayer plant, sansevieria (Mother-in-Laws Tongue), schefflera, spider plant, Swedish ivy, and zebra plant.

Keep the toxic plants out of the reach of pets and children!

Poison Control (800) 222-1222 (pet toxicity)
Source: University of Illinois Extension
Sustainable Holidays & Gift Ideas For Naturalists
The holiday season with its accompanying buying, wrapping and celebrating substantially increases the amount of waste and electricity we generate. From wasteful purchases to disposable dinnerware and high electricity bills, the holiday season takes a toll on the environment. However, there are many opportunities for the consumer to be more sustainable during the holiday season. See the tips!

DEC Now Accepting Photos and Artwork for Annual Arbor Day Artwork Contest
DEC recently announced the start of the annual Arbor Day Original Artwork poster contest. Each year, DEC's Urban and Community Forestry Program commemorates Arbor Day with a contest that invites the public to submit original photos and artwork that celebrate the immeasurable value of trees.

The winning artist's artwork will be replicated as the 2021 New York State Original Artwork Arbor Day Poster.
DEC is accepting photograph and artwork submissions through December 31, 2020.

Photos and artwork must feature trees within New York State. Participants will be limited to five submissions, and each submission should include a completed artist information form. Find more information, including how to submit an entry and necessary forms.

Photo: The 2020 Arbor Day poster winning image, taken by Paul Bergwall
Road Salt and Trees
What is the problem?
Rock salt (sodium chloride) is commonly used to control slippery conditions on roads and sidewalks due to snow and ice. Many trees and shrubs can be injured when roots and foliage are exposed to salt water runoff or salt spray on foliage, branches and buds. The worst damage occurs to sensitive species planted near heavily salted roads with high traffic, especially when the plants are downhill from the road or have poor drainage.

How can salt damage be recognized?
Damage from salt spray will be worse on the side facing the road or walkway. In winter look for yellow tips on evergreen needles. On deciduous trees, repeated damage over several winters may cause “witch’s brooms” (cluster of twigs growing out of branch ends). In spring leaf buds facing the road may be killed or very slow to break dormancy. Flower buds facing salt exposure may fail, while the other side of the plant blossoms normally. In early summer look for marginal leaf scorch on deciduous trees. On evergreens, look for yellow, brown or fallen needles especially on the side toward the road.

Other problems can produce similar symptoms, so examine the whole plant and site before determining that road salt caused the damage.

How does the damage occur?
When rock salt dissolves in water, it separates into sodium and chloride ions. The sodium ions replace other nutrients (potassium, magnesium and phosphorus) in the soil that the plant needs, making these nutrients unavailable to the plant. Sodium chloride holds tightly to water molecules in the soil making it harder for the roots to take up the moisture. As the plant dehydrates, plant tissues dry out and die. Salt spray can dry out the bud scales, reducing winter protection for leaf and flower buds. Severe damage on evergreens comes primarily from salt spray taken up by the needles. Roots can absorb the extra chloride ions from the soil and transport them to the leaves. In the leaves the accumulation of chloride interferes with chlorophyll production and photosynthesis.
What can I do about it?
Salt contamination can be reduced by
  • removing excess snow before applying salt to pavement.
  • applying deicing material carefully to paved surfaces only.
  • reducing salt application rates.
  • applying salt before roads or sidewalks freeze.
  • using salt in combination with inert materials such as sand to produce grittiness for traction.
  • using a less harmful product such as calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) instead of rock salt. These products are generally more expensive than rock salt, but can reduce injury to plants.

Protect trees and shrubs from the road salt spray with a physical barrier such as burlap, plastic, wood or snow fencing. Improve drainage by raising the planting site or adjusting adjacent grade to create an alternate pathway for salt laden runoff. If the soil is well drained, flushing the plants and soil at the end of the winter will reduce salt damage. When planting near roads and sidewalks, choose salt-tolerant species. If a desired plant is sensitive to salt damage, choose a planting site away from roads and salt spray.

Salt sensitivity of common trees and shrubs
The following trees and shrubs are usually severely damaged by road salt:
  • Red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • Sugar maple (A. saccharum)
  • Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
  • Norway spruce (Picea abies)
  • White pine (Pinus strobus)
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
  • Littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata)
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier)
  • Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

When choosing a tree or shrub for a location where salt damage is likely, Woody Plants Database by Cornell University is a helpful resource.

Author: Master Gardener Marcia Erwin
December is National Root Vegetables & Exotic Fruits Month
Upcoming Zoom Events
Registration Required
Be on the lookout for your confirmation email with the Zoom link to access the class!
Olmsted and Rochester Parks
Wednesday, December 9, 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Hosted by Chili Public Library
Register Here (FREE)
This talk will be an introduction to the life and accomplishments of Frederick Law Olmsted, a pioneer of the modern urban park. We will explore Olmsted’s early life, the history of urban parks, and the major projects of Olmsted’s firm such as Central Park and the Rochester (now Monroe County) park system. 

Presented by MG, Bob Beabout.
Mighty Monday: Microgreens & Super Sprouts
Monday, December 14, 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Hosted by CCE-Monroe
Register Here (FREE)
Grow greens in winter? Yes, it is possible! Join the 4-H Team to learn two methods of growing greens inside all year long.

Presented by CCE-Monroe 4-H Educator, Jessica Reid.
Speakers Bureau - Book a Master Gardener Presentation
Master Gardeners are able to present horticultural lectures for your club or organization. We are also willing to present in nursing home facilities and will format the presentation to abilities.

Presentations are 45 minutes in length and conclude with an additional 15 minute question and answer period.Please note – some presentations have limited availability throughout the year. All presentations have a speaking charge of $50, payable to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County.

Gardening Helpline at Your Service
When plant, insect and wildlife problems happen in the garden, who can home gardeners call? A team of trained Master Gardeners are available to help answer gardening and pest questions, and solve problems using current research-based information.

By calling the helpline, you’ll find yourself in contact with someone who will help identify the cause of your problem, or give an answer to your question using Cornell’s experience and research knowledge. If the issue is addressed in one of our many factsheets, it will be sent to you for your reference.

Contact us: (585) 753-2555 or

Gardening Helpline Hours:
November – March: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9 AM - 12 PM
April – October: Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 12 PM       
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