How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

OSUE Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer


I love receiving books as presents. I love to read and turn the pages and ponder over the photographs (can you guess that I don’t have a Kindle?). One such gift was a gardening book written by Sydney Eddison. I have to admit that I had mixed feelings when I read the title, Gardening for a Lifetime – How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older. No one wants to admit that they have turned the corner as far as age goes – plain and simple. My friend has been asking what I thought about the book, and I finally explained that I just hadn’t had time to start reading a book since I had just finished the last items on my garden list. Now that I have started the book, I can’t put it down!

The author explains that over the years she had extended her perennial border by a few feet every year until it measured a hundred feet in length and twenty feet in width! “Gardens and Gardeners age and change”, states Eddison, “and I realized suddenly that my garden and I needed help. I had created a garden that was impossible to maintain without assistance.”

Step #1 of Eddison’s plan became “Re-thinking the Perennial Border.” She developed a standard of good garden behavior for each perennial that included: (a.) It must truly be a perennial and return faithfully every year. (b.) It must be healthy and exhibit fortitude to endure dry summers and cold winters. (c.) It must have superior foliage. (d.) It must maintain a tidy habit-no flopping or sprawling and must remain within reasonable bounds. (e.) It must not offer an invitation to predators, pests, or diseases.

A list of Eddison’s perennials with highest marks: sedums, ornamental grasses, blue star (Amsonia), anise hyssop (Agastache), calamint, lily turf (Liriope), false aster (Kalimeris pinnatifida), and blue false indigo (Baptisia australis).

The author then suggests substituting shrubs for perennials. The bonus? Shrubs need pruning only once or twice a year, instead of the regular deadheading and frequent division required by daylilies and many other perennials. Shrubs afford more value for less work and supply strong structural forms to break up the softness of blossom.

Eddison then gives her readers a word of warning. “Do your research – it is more difficult to move a shrub than a perennial, so you need to be more careful in your selections. Be especially suspicious of sizes given in nursery catalogs. Beware of dwarf varieties, especially those that are smaller versions of shrubs and trees that eventually become large plants. Try to find out at least approximate sizes in five years, ten years, and fifteen years.” I laughed out loud when I read this warning since a “dwarf” that I purchased 20 some years ago now looms at about 20 feet!

Have you noticed that your flowerbeds are looking “tired” and need some rejuvenation? Are there areas that you never quite get weeded during the growing season? Maybe it’s time to take a walk with a notepad and pen (dodging the raindrops) and re-think your landscape. One of the best moves I made a few years ago was to move my Herbs from the garden to large pots on the deck so that I just had to walk a few steps from a cutting of sage or basil. Next year I hope to transform part of my perennial bed into a small prairie. Is it time to make some changes in your gardens?

It’s always fun to take the long way to the mailbox and see what’s still trying to bloom. I discovered some Autumn Crocus blooming, which was a complete surprise since they had just been planted a few weeks ago!

Upcoming Highland County Extension Programs

Brooke Beam, PhD

Ohio State University Extension, Highland County

Agriculture and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator


As the fall harvest season ends, the Highland County Extension Office will begin to hold Monthly Extension Programming again. The next Monthly Extension Program will be held on December 10, 2018, at 10 am at Ponderosa Steakhouse. Gary Ludwig, from the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, will be the guest speaker. Mr. Ludwig’s presentation will be Managing Black Vulture Predation. He will cover information on:

  • Black Vulture Identification and Habits
  • Fact and fiction regarding the Black Vulture’s Protected Status
  • Applying the Integrated Wildlife Damage Management (IWDM) Process to Black Vulture Problems
  • Obtaining and effectively utilizing a Federal Depredation Permit
  • The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) as Administered by the FSA

RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918 to reserve your seat. The cost to attend this program is free; however, attendees are strongly encouraged to purchase lunch on their own at Ponderosa.

The next Beef Quality Assurance Training will be held at Union Stockyards on Tuesday, January 22, 2018. The program will start at 6:30 pm. This will be the fifth in a series of BQAs held in Hillsboro within a span of six months to certify beef producers in the safe handling and treatment of cattle. Companies, like Tyson and Wendy’s, will be requiring beef producers they are sourcing their beef products from to be BQA certified in 2019. At this point in time, BQA certification is not mandatory for beef producers, but it is strongly encouraged if you are hoping to market your beef to a company that is requiring the certification. If you were not able to attend one of the previous BQAs, consider attending this upcoming training. RSVP to the Highland County Extension Office to reserve your seat.

Dates have been announced for the 2019 Highland County fertilizer and pesticide recertifications. In 2019, there are several thousand individuals who need to recertify their fertilizer and pesticide applicator licenses. Over 100 Highland County residents will need to renew their licenses. There will be two recertifications held in Hillsboro in 2019, so all Highland County residents needing to recertify will be able to do so in Highland County. The dates for these recertifications are:

February 19, 2019

Ponderosa Banquet Center, 545 S. High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

5:00 pm to 6:00 pm Fertilizer Recertification – Private and Commercial

6:30 pm Pesticide Recertification (Core, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Private Applicators Only

March 4, 2018

Ponderosa Banquet Center, 545 S. High Street, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

10:00 am to 11:00 am Fertilizer Recertification – Private and Commercial

11:30 am Pesticide Recertification (Core, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Private Applicators Only

Registration details will come in the mail from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Registration for OSU Extension Pesticide and Fertilizer and your renewal application for ODA Pesticide/Fertilizer must both be completed. Meals will be included at each recertification training at Ponderosa, the cost to attend both a fertilizer and pesticide training will be $40.00.

For more information about any of the upcoming programs, contact the Highland County Extension Office at 937-393-1918.