Roots and Shoots: Happy First Day of Spring

By Pamela Doan

Signs of spring (Photo by P. Doan)

Signs of spring (Photo by P. Doan)

Daffodils are pushing up through the mud. I saw a purple finch at the bird feeder this week (they migrate through). Constitution Marsh posted a photo of skunk cabbage emerging (one of the earliest bloomers). There’s hope.

I’m frequently asked about how to learn more about gardening and where to buy plants. We’re fortunate to have top-notch resources nearby. Here are some places to look:

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Putnam County
The extension program exists to spread the knowledge from Cornell researchers to home gardeners and industry professionals alike. The best thing about their workshops is that everything is based on tested scientific principles, and they’re forward thinking, dealing with real-life issues about climate change and the ecological impact. Their garden and landscaping workshops are free or low cost. See the schedule at

Stonecrop Gardens
This public garden here in Philipstown covers 12 acres and has diverse plantings, none very formal. You can learn a lot about design just by visiting frequently throughout the season. They offer guided tours and classes, too. The gardens open for the year at the end of March. Check for upcoming classes.

Putnam Valley Grange
Originally a fraternal order of farmers, the Grange is now a nonprofit open to anyone in the community. They offer a Backyard Farming Series that focuses more on livestock. The upcoming series in April includes raising chickens, turkeys and beekeeping. Details and registration are at

New York Botanical Garden
If you’re ready to study horticulture, gardening or landscape design in depth, the NYBG has certificate programs on these and other subjects and is known for the quality of their education.

Hudson Valley Garden Calendar
This site has listings for anything and everything related to gardening, including classes, shows, sales and seed swaps.

Resources for purchasing plants

Plant sales are held by Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District March 25 (order deadline), Native Plant Center April 25, Stonecrop Alpine Plant Sale April 25, Philipstown Garden Club May 9 and Master Gardeners May 16.

All of these are plant sales that you can visit on the date noted except the Soil and Water sale. Their seedling sale is online or you can mail in the order form and then pick up plants in April. Every year they offer a great selection of seedlings and bare root plants, many of them native to our area. It’s affordable (less than $2 a bush for blueberries, for example) and an easy way to add value to your yard for birds and pollinators. Visit

For a better selection of plants than you’ll find at a big box store, I like to visit Sabellico Greenhouses in Hopewell Junction for their wide variety; many are natives, and many are grown onsite in their own greenhouses. Their staff is knowledgeable and helpful, too.

Researching what to plant and where to plant it

The Native Plant Center maintains lists of recommended native plants for our area. has an extensive database of native plants. has resources for vegetables, herbs, perennials, woody plants and trees. Every plant has specific requirements for maximum growth and yield; this website can help make that happen.

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