Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ward 8, Giant Food and Bright Farms............YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!!

Once again this week, I was delighted to read an article that was focused on something positive happening Washington, DC - particularly Ward 8.  I am a native Washingtonian and grew up in Riggs Park, Eastern Avenue to be exact.  It was a different Washington, DC back then.  We walked to school, we went outside and played in our yard and my Mom was a homemaker.  My siblings and I grew up eating food from the local Giant Food Store.  Summer morning's we were awakened by the smell of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon waiting for us in the kitchen as a preamble to a hearty hot breakfast.  Yes, those were the days when there were not a lot of chemicals to concern ourselves with as we devoured fresh food prepared daily from my stay at home mom.

OK - REALITY CHECK.  Those days are for the most part over.  With daily talk of knowing where your food is coming from, GMO's, glysophosphate and other nasty chemicals permeating the soil, tainting our food and causing rare illnesses, I long for those days once again.  When my daughters were growing up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I either grew our produce or went to the market.  I was also a founding farmer for one of the transitionally organic CSA's in Stafford County at the Eitt Farm.  We ate good, we ate fresh and we knew where our food came from, how it was grown....usually knew or became friends with the farmers at the market and I felt good about what was I was feeding my family.  We tried different vegetables that we had never tried before and my daughters loved the experience.  My daughters know the hard work that goes into growing and harvesting good, healthy, organic food.  Quite honestly, every child should experience growing and harvesting their own food or at least know how it is done in today's world........especially the under served people in Ward 8 in Washington, DC.

I grew up knowing Ward 8 as that area of DC that you just did not go into.  It just was not safe and was always on the news.  This time however, I am ecstatic to report that something great and positive and wonderful is about to happen in Ward 8 and should make the news as well.  The Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, Bright Farms and Giant Food have entered into an agreement for Giant Food to be the exclusive resource of year round local produce grown locally.  According to Mr Paul Lightfoot,  Bright Farms is in the process of Crowdfunding  the World's most Productive and Largest Urban our very own Ward 8....imagine that???

Bright Farms is not new to this type of adventure.  As we focus more and more on the renewal energy industry, Bright Farms business model has been proven to be successful.  Currently many grocery stores in Bucks County, Pennsylvania are enjoying the benefits of year round fresh produce grown locally due to the efforts and vision of Mr. Lightfoot and the Bright Farms Team.   I listened to Mr Lightfoot recently on a Ted Talk where he spoke about his mission of growing and delivering the freshest food possible.  Simple mission of growing it as locally as possible and delivering it as fresh as possible within hours of harvesting, all while watching his environmental footprint. This is just a good idea  on so many levels. Bringing such a facility to Ward 8 will aid in permanent green jobs with benefits, including health care, will educate the surrounding community on the benefits of knowing where your food comes from, will connect the food producers to the community and give this under served community a sense that someone Uplifting or Revival of Spirit, so to speak.

With 55 days left, Indiegogo and Bright Farms has a crowd funding event happening right now that you can participate in - even if you do not live in the DMV.  If you visit, you will find more  information and the options on how to donate to this  more than worthwhile effort. This 100,000 square foot facility will do such great things for the community that surrounds it.  All of the ground work is taking place now, permits are being issued, final architectural plans and last but not least - the financing needs to be secured.

From $5.00 on up, Indiegogo has a great selection of items in return for your donation to make this a reality. I personally am donating to receive not just a warm fuzzy feeling that I am helping to build a better Ward 8, but for the invitation to the party (there will be a party for sure) a complete supporter kit including a tote, a water bottle, tee shirt, and hydroponic starter kit.

I want to say THANK YOU AEDC, Bright Farms and Giant Food for realizing that giving back to the community can help build a community and there is nothing better than a healthy community.  I would  love to just shake your hand Mr. Lightfoot for having the vision and the experience of what it takes to bring fresh ideas as well as jobs and produce to this under served community.....perhaps on opening day for a tour or at the party???

Please visit, search under FOOD and look for Help build a hydroponic greenhouse farm in our Nations Capital.

As Washingtonians have heard many times over the years.....


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Brookgreen Gardens.....................I do so miss you............

For those of you who know me, I am all about all things beautiful and I seek the beauty in all things.  On a recent visit to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I did not have to go far to find one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited.....Brookgreen Gardens.

Located in the Low Country of South Carolina, across the street from Atalaya, which is on the grounds of Huntington Beach State Park, Brookgreen Gardens should be on every gardeners bucket list or vision board.  My journey to Brookgreen took me a mere thirty minutes from Myrtle Beach.  I had hoped to also visit Atalaya on the same trip, but had no idea of what was in store for me at Brookgreen Gardens.

Archer M. and Anna Hyatt Huntington created this naturalistic oasis of beauty out of their love for each other and their love of nature..  Mr. Archer Huntington was a man who never really had to worry about money, a wealthy industrialist/philanthropist and a scholar.  Mrs. Anna Huntington was a respected artist and sculptor. One of the most awesome things about this couple is that they did not have a formal college education.  Both of these fine people were either privately tutored or self taught.....simply amazing.  To see what they have created should inspire anyone to just DO what you are inspired to do.

The Huntington's bought four rice plantations in what is now known as Murrells Inlet, Georgetown County, South Carolina, bordering the banks of the Waccamaw River.  The thought process was to settle in an area that would help Anna's Tuberculosis, a warmer winter climate during the winter months (they lived in New York and Connecticut), provide a place where she could work as an artist and exhibit her art as well.  They built Atalaya, which they considered their Winter home.  Across the road they developed Brookgreen Gardens.  In doing so, they were responsible for opening America's first public outdoor sculpture garden.  Oh what a garden it is!!!  You can find out more about the Huntington's and their vision at ...however...I need to share a little about the gardens.........those glorious gardens.....the gardens that pop up in my mind at random times throughout the day.

If you are an art lover, then imagine seeing a life size statue of Homer....

Diana of the Chase.....................


The Fountain of The Muses.........................

all in one place,each  surrounded by amazing floral combinations, water features and dragonfly's.  Oh the dragonflies were in such abundance.  Each time I paused....this garden does make one pause often and repeatedly....a dragon fly would make it's presence known. Resting on my shoulder, my shoes, my camera, as well as the art in the garden.  This garden with all of it's sculptures and vignettes was truly a garden filled with love and life.

I will not spoil it for you, as this is a garden that must be seen and appreciated individually, but a few things jumped out at me, causing me to anticipate my next visit.  I love texture. I love to see textures mixed and in abundance.  There are a few spaces where the textural tapestry of green just makes you gasp in amazement.

There were some vignettes that spoke to texture with minimal bright colors.  The cool greens allowed your eye to rest, even though the sculptures within the garden, would catch your eye and allow one to mentally look at the vignette as a picture within a bigger picture.  The dappled light of certain areas would make something so ordinary, like a little bloom, moss  hanging from the branches above or hydrangeas embracing a borrowed view "POP" right before your eyes. 

The sounds..................oh the sounds of nature - not cars, buses or emergency vehicles....just nature.  The buzzing in my ear from the wings of the dragon flies, the sounds of baby birds, the many fountains/water features and on this particular day, the sound of rain.  The rain steadily, but gently dancing on the leaves, in the ponds, on the sculptures and on the pathways was like an outdoor symphony, quietly in 3D.  I almost got soaked, but I did not care, because I was mentally immersed in all that Brookgreen had to offer me at that moment.  Entering this garden was like entering a dream on a hot summers day in the south, complete with mature alleys of Live Oaks that once led to the Big House (as the slaves would call it) which Mrs. Huntington used as a central point of the garden design, which on paper resembled the shape of a butterfly, with opened wings. I know...simply amazing.  The Huntington's were on a mission to surround themselves with all things beautiful, while appreciating and preserving nature, yet capturing and exhibiting the essence of Mrs. Huntington's work.  I get emotional when I think of the discussions they might have had as they walked among the naturalistic landscape at various times of the year to really create their version of beauty. 

The garden rooms.  Oh the different garden rooms with an abundance of horticultural delights. from the Climbing Lillies to the Cleome, from the Hosta's to the Heuchera, from the Native Pines to the Crepe Myrtles....and of course, I always have a favorite.   The Poetry Room.....

There is no way to enjoy all  of Brookgreen Gardens in one day,  Far too much is offered not just for the gardener, but for children ( the Low Country Zoo Discover Room and Enchanted Storybook Forest), butterfly enthusiasts, Cypress Aviary, Plantation History and Nature Tour,  boat cruises, a beautiful collection of Long Needle Pines, a fantabulous gift shop and The Poetry Garden Room.... and there is so much more!!!  For the cost of the ticket, a mere $14.00, one can visit and re-visit for 7 consecutive days.  No wonder Brookgreen Gardens is considered a National Historic Landmark and one of the top 10 public gardens in the United States..  Now to wait til Christmas, when I hope to return and spend more time and perhaps visit Atalaya and Huntington beach as well....

I wish horses could fly....


so I could be strolling through Brookgreen Gardens right now.........

Friday, July 4, 2014

A few thoughts on the mid-summer garden....

It is already July and while most gardens are in full swing, some gardens are still underway.  As a perennial lover, I am used to having periods of quiet in my garden.  By quiet, I mean periods where the color is  minimal or right after a sudden burst of color.  Consistent bloom is not always necessary, especially when you have a garden made up of perennials.

While I have an abundance of bloom now, as the season continues, I will have yet another quiet period as the Dahlias come into full bloom and as some of the existing perennials regain their strength after deadheading.   I also have some annual zinnias and cosmos that are hidden amongst my madness that will show their faces as the heat of the summer makes an appearance.   It is always good to have a balance of plant material.  During the winter months, this bed is barren above ground with an exception of the structure of the tree peonies and a few Winter Gem Boxwood's.  The explosion starts with bulbs and will end with late season Dahlia blooms and a second flush of Echinacea blooms.  I find it helpful to think about a few things early in the planting season.

Think about whether or not you can appreciate a quiet time in your garden.  Do you need to add something that flowers at a specific time of the year???  Something to get you through until the summer blooming season takes place??  Pansies can take you from Fall to late Spring.  However after Mother's Day, those cool season annuals tend to start getting leggy and generally cannot take the heat.Consider what plants you might install as a bridge to take you from one season to the next.  Bulbs, Peonies and spring flowering shrubs can start the season.  Camellias, Mums and Pansies can help end the season.

Consider the financial aspects of a full on colorful summer garden.  Utilizing seeds can help defray costs or if you prefer, buying annuals and inserting them in the midst of the perennial garden will ensure spots of  color for most of the summer.  Shop at the local farmers markets to get heirloom or specialty annuals.

Consider your watering requirements and your time.  Are you planting things that need consistent water?? Do you have irrigation or are you willing to commit to being the water bearer for your garden??? I have not watered the garden above in six/seven years....even when the drought of two years ago caused me to worry about perhaps losing some prized plant material.  The following season, I had more prolific bloom than ever before.  I plant closely, use only organic fertilizer (kelp/fish emulsion) at the beginning of the season and have confidence that my garden will do it's thing.  Letting go and letting nature be, is sometimes a good thing....not always, but sometimes allowing a plant to do as it would in its natural habitat can be amazing!

Weed control and familiarizing yourself with your garden can be a workout.  I love to cultivate between the plants in my garden. Getting up close and personal with your plants can help you understand them better.   Early in the season when weeds can blow in, I cultivate so that they do not embed themselves and cause problems later on.  By planting closely (my personal preference), I avoid the weeds having any room to take up residence.  If it is a newly planted area, Corn Gluten is known to retard the growth of weeds and not harm surrounding plant material.  Carefully scattering it throughout the bed and cultivating it in should  ward off blown in weeds from taking root.  I am very organic, so I do not use ANY chemicals in my garden at all.  I am certain that there are some other methods out there.  Cultivating between plants can also help loosen the soil and mulch, so that when it rains, the rain can be more beneficial to the plant material at the roots, where it counts!  While visiting Giverny last year, I noticed that most of the beds were planted closely and I actually noticed no weeds. 

Take great photos of what is blooming now in your garden and particularly where there are gaps or where you feel you need to insert color or movement.  Over the winter months, as the catalogs roll in, you can decide what new additions you need or what you might want to change/reorganize to accommodate a new purchase - whether it is a plant, a shrub or a new garden accessory (water feature or garden art).

Finally, visit local gardens - whether they are public spaces, historic homes or simply walking through your neighborhood.  You would be surprised at how this not only invigorates your mind, but also gives you an idea of what is blooming when, what does well in your area, what you might want to try and what others are trying as well.  Public spaces usually have plants that stand up to less than perfect conditions,provide long lasting color and can be easily found.  I also explore the smaller, local garden centers for something new.

These are just a few things that I consider this time of the year in my garden.  What things are you considering as you enjoy your existing garden this year???

Hydrangeas Queen of the Summer Garden - You Can Grow That!

Hydrangeas are one of the delights of the summer garden.  I like to think of them as the Queen of the garden because they seem to reign over other summer shrubs with their blooms.  With an array of bloom types, heights and colors, from the traditional Mophead, Lacecaps, Oakleaf to the Ever blooming series, you an count on an outstanding statement for mid to late summer splash of color.

Most hydrangeas tolerate medium/bright shade and some cultivars can withstand full sun.  Therefore it is important to know what cultivar you purchase, what zone you are in and what your growing conditions are.  Averaging in height from 2/3 feet to 6/10 feet, knowing what type you need for that special spot is very important.

Hydrangea's are best planted in early summer or fall.  If you are not sure of the bloom color/size/plant habit, plant it where pruning will not be a necessity.  If you are transplanting an existing hydrangea, this should be done when it is dormant.  Watering deeply rather than often, usually ensures that the roots are getting the moisture that they need.  Also, well draining soil is a necessity to ensure the health and well being of your hydrangea. If you notice that the leaves wilt mid day and/or get brown along the edges, this usually means that it is getting too much sun.

Soil neutrality or acidity can affect the color of your hydrangea.  Turning a pink hydrangea to a shade of blue can be done by adding aluminum to the soil.  In order to change a blue hydrangea to pink you would do the reverse and subtract the aluminum from the soil.  Sometimes this is harder than one would think and some hydrangeas will not change color no matter what you do. Purchasing hydrangeas in bloom definitely allows you to know what color and size your typical bloom will be.

Sometimes the large leaf hydrangea is susceptible to powdery mildew.  As with most plants, this happens when there is high humidity and improper growing conditions (like too much shade).  If grown in too damp conditions, fungal spots might prove to be a problem on the leaves and will eventually cause certain death tot he plant, unless it is relocated.  Oakleaf hydrangeas are very sensitive to soil conditions that are too damp and will surely die if not moved to soil that drains better.  Mites can also become an issue if hydrangeas are not adequately watered  during the dry times of the summer months.  As with most plants, paying attention to small issues and addressing them quickly, will result in a happy shrub and a happy hydrangea owner.  Hydrangea................You Can Grow That!