News from the UVM Extension

Community Horticulture Program

APRIL 2022



How Accurate is Your Plant ID App?

Have you ever used your cell phone to identify a plant? If so, you know that “there’s an app for that”! Because many gardeners use phone apps to identify plants, Dr. Erin Hill of Michigan State University Extension and her students have been assessing the accuracy of 14 plant ID apps since 2018.

As part of a weed science course, Hill’s students were required to photograph 10 plants representing a flowering broadleaf ornamental, a broadleaf weed (vegetative and flowering), a grass or grass-like weed (vegetative and flowering), a seedling winter annual weed, and four other plants of their choice. In 2021, students tested 8 popular plant ID apps by submitting their photos into selected apps and evaluating their level of accuracy to identify the plants, using three categories: correct (100% accurate), partially correct (correct genus by not species), and incorrect. Each app was tested 90 to 140 times.

As a result of these assessments, Hill said, “The top performing app in the 2021 evaluation... was PictureThis, with 67% of the suggested identifications being correct. Following this lead, there was a cluster of three apps with about 50% accuracy: PlantNet, Plant Story and LeafSnap…[displaying] 50% or greater accuracy for flowering broadleaf ornamentals and broadleaf weeds. Surprisingly, the 2020-second runner-up, iNaturalist, came in fifth place with about 30% accuracy.”

For more information on the project, visit: Please note that the assessments were conducted for educational purposes only and references to commercial products or trade names do not imply endorsement by MSU or UVM Extension or bias against those not mentioned.


Deb Heleba, State Coordinator


Winter Desiccation

As the snow disappears, gardeners are noticing a lot of winter desiccation in trees and shrubs. This damage is most obvious in broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons. When the ground freezes, the roots of the shrubs cannot take up moisture despite continuing to lose water from their leaves, especially a problem on bright sunny days. Add wind to the mixture, and the damage becomes worse.

In my own backyard, I am seeing this damage on PJM rhododendrons, broadleaf rhododendrons, and two young Alaskan cedars. In the broadleaved rhododendrons, the foliage above the snow line has died back so the leaf edges are brown and curled. These will not recover, but the new foliage should look fine. In some cases, the winter injury may be severe enough to cause branch dieback or death to flower buds. This will not become obvious until the plants begin growing in the spring. If you lightly scrape the outer layer of bark and see green tissue underneath, the branch is alive and healthy and will recover. Branches that do not show any signs of life once growth resumes in the spring can be pruned out. Next fall, make sure plants are mulched and have adequate soil moisture going into the winter to help reduce winter desiccation. Also, using a windbreak to protect exposed plants will help minimize damage. 

Ann Hazelrigg, UVM Extension Plant Pathologist



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Celebrating June Jones

Congratulations to June Jones, Extension Master Gardener Class of 1999 and member of the Northwest Chapter. Since she started her EMG volunteerism, June has earned 2,039 volunteer hours! Her contributions have included leading the Plant a Row for the Hungry project at the Williston Community Garden and much more.

Thank you, June! Read more about June here.


EMG Intern Barbara Ball Volunteers at Springfield Based Projects


To earn her 40 hours of volunteering on approved Extension Master Gardener projects, EMG Intern Barbara Ball helped out at the Howard Dean Educational Center, working with Michelle Delhaye, and at the Springfield Recycling Center with Carol Bacon, both long-time Master Gardeners.

Barbara reports, “I LOVE the two Master Gardener sites that I volunteered at. The Howard Dean Education Center gardens are beautiful and it's fun to see and interact with the students. Likewise, the Springfield Recycling Center is such a beautiful garden and it's so interesting, especially, to volunteer on Saturday mornings with all the comings and goings of folks dropping off recycling and admiring the garden.”

And Carol Bacon is looking forward to working with Barbara again. “Barbara is an enthusiastic gardener. I hope she will return to work in the recycling center garden this year!”

Barbara educated students and visitors to both projects about leaving perennials at the end of the season as a place for pollinators to over-winter, different kinds of invasive plants, and how to garden with native plants. She also helped install plant labels with botanical and common names at both locations to enhance the educational aspects of the demo gardens.

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In addition, the two rain barrels in use at Springfield Recycling collect 50-60 gallons of rainwater, reducing stormwater runoff and improving water quality of the nearby Black River.

Barbara estimates that almost 70 people were reached through her volunteer efforts. 

Hats off to Barbara as well as to Michelle and Carol for their efforts to provide science-based education for home gardeners!

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2022 Winter Film & Speaker Series Concludes This Week

Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, we were able to once again offer a series of horticulture-related films and speakers. The last video lecture will be offered on Friday.

Video Lecture: Finding Inspiration and Information in Contemporary Public Gardens of the Northeast - Judith Irven

Friday, April 8, 9 a.m. 

In this beautifully illustrated talk, Judith Irven describes her favorite public gardens of the Northeast, each of which offers a wealth of ideas—from evocative designs to new plant selections—that can inspire us all as we seek to create lovely gardens for ourselves and others. Judith is an Extension Master Gardener, Instructor for the UVM Extension Master Gardener Course, Landscape Designer, and Certified Vermont Horticulturist. Register here!

*Exception of March 18th is at 6:30pm



Planning & Shopping Safety Tips at Plant Sales

Are you planning to purchase some plants this spring from a local Plant Sale? Are you offering a Plant Sale? Here are two important resources to read before buying or selling plants.

Plant Sale Guidelines to Minimize the Chance of Jumping Worm Spread

Written by UVM's Ann Hazelrigg and Josef Gorres and Extension Master Gardener Robilee Smith, this fact sheet provides some guidelines to consider as you plan your next plant sale.

Safe Practices for Plant Sales

Extension Master Gardener Nadie VanZandt outlines some hygiene practices to keep in mind while you are plant shopping.

New Name for Lymantria Dispar

"Spongy Moth" has been adopted as the new common name for Lymantria dispar. The pest's previous name, "gypsy moth," was removed due to its use of a derogatory term for the Romani people. Read more here.


Lisa Chouinard, Office & Program Support

Ann Hazelrigg, Plant Pathologist

Cindy Heath, Volunteer Coordinator

Deb Heleba, State Coordinator

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University of Vermont Extension

Community Horticulture Program

206 Jeffords Hall

Burlington, VT 05405

(802) 656-9562

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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. University of Vermont Extension, Burlington, Vermont. University of Vermont Extension, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.  Any reference to commercial products, trade names, or brand names is for information only, and no endorsement or approval is intended.