August’s hot dry air sucked the life out of many a summer perennial and was even rougher on colorful annuals. Few gardens are looking their best just now, but that is no reason to throw in the trowel and settle in for a fall of indoor activities.

Gardeners with wilting spirits can get recharged at the Rutgers Home Gardeners School’s day-long fall session on Saturday, September 16, at 9 a.m. at Douglass’ College’s Hickman Hall on Lipman Drive in New Brunswick. Cost: $60. Call 732-932-9271 or visit www.-cookcollege.-rutgers.-edu.

There is more to gardening than planting sunflowers or tending the lush summer borders that brighten languid summer days. A winter landscape can be given interest with plants that sport deep purple or bright red berries no matter how frosty the air or how deep the snow drifts. Bruce Crawford, director of Rutgers Gardens, talks about how to select plant materials that provide color and texture in the fall and winter months. He also offers advice on choosing and planting small ornamental trees that provide four seasons of interest.

Steve Kristoph, owner of Steven Kristoph Nurseries, talks about how year-round color can be achieved through flowers, foliage, bark, and berries. He provides suggestions on color combinations, planting location, and wildlife attraction features.

Conifers, of course, are winter staples. But many homeowner don’t look beyond pines, spruce tress, or Douglas firs when they choose an evergreen to add a little green to winter’s gray and brown palette. Kristoph has a list of more unusual conifers to share.

No matter how beautiful the plant, though, it will not add to a home’s winterscape unless its feet land in friendly soil. Stephanie Murphy, director of the Rutgers soil testing lab talks about the fact that problems with soil and subsurface conditions are very common but often overlooked, and offers tips on how to correct them. Dan Kluchinski, department chair and county agricultural agent for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, teaches hands-on techniques of evaluating a garden soil’s physical, biological, and chemical properties.

There will come a time, after all of the winter planting is done, to put away the rototillers and pruning shears and sit by the window watching the cardinals perched on birch branches. Joe Clark, head soils and plants technician, at Cook College’s department of plant science, talks about how preparing garden tools properly for their winter hibernation will pay off in years of reliable service.

But all work with plants does not have to end when all the plants are in the ground and all the tools are carefully stored away. Nikki Graf, research farm supervisor, Cook College Floriculture Greenhouses, talks about how to choose and care for indoor plants and how to incorporate them into gardens during the warmer seasons.

There is even something for the armchair gardener. Ken Karamichael, coordinator of the Home Gardeners School and technology columnist for Gardener News, gives a tutorial on gardening resources on the Internet, talking about the most popular, most useful gardening websites, and providing advice on purchasing plant material and tools online.

Gardening is America’s number one hobby, and for good reason. The reward of watching plants grow sturdy enough to host butterflies and gold finches is enough to make the challenges of drought and deer worthwhile. And it’s generally healthier than watching 11 straight hours of televised football.

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