Monday, August 18, 2014

He Said, She Said

What Garden Writers Think About Native Plants and Organic Gardening Products

We three amigos are just back from the National Garden Writers Symposium in Pittsburgh. We had a fantastic time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Everyone loved the booth and our groovy giveaways that included; worm castings from Organic Mechanics, compost tea bags from Suståne Natural Fertilizer, a swamp milkweed plant from American Beauties Native Plants and a great reusable cotton bag with our slogan "Together We Can Make a Difference."

We asked garden writers to tell us why native plants and organic gardening products were important to them and their readers. One lucky winner was drawn from from the fish bowl full of answers and they won a Monarch Release from The Liberty School and Butterfly Farm & Garden - thank you so much for the donation Liberty School!

The answers were quite interesting. We'd also love to here from you! Write to us here or on Facebook.

I'm off to the next trade show!
Bringing Life to Your Garden
Have fun out there!
Peggy Anne

In no particular order….

Safety, no harmful pesticides, peace of mind, for edibles and cut flowers.

Sustainable landscapes provide a circle of life relevant to flora and fauna.

We built the finest greenhouses in the world – we love supporting these products.

People are afraid of the health risks on humans from chemicals.

I’ve been gardening organically for many years. When I lecture or publish, I emphasize the importance of using native plants to support wildlife especially for winged creatures.

I work at an organic botanical garden and have adopted that lifestyle at home.

It takes a whole ecosystem to grow a healthy garden.

If you look at a map of where monarchs have been most affected Iowa is one of the hardest hit. We have a group called The Monarchs of Eastern Iowa that’s doing a lot of work. Iowa used to be covered with native plants – we need more!

Sustainability is important because we must be thinking about how this world is affected by our actions.

I am a school instructor. My students are very interested in sustainable living, urban agriculture etc. !!!

First, do no harm!

More awareness for organic sustainability to protect local bees, plants and animals.

Better in every way.

No/less contamination from man’s hand on this land.

We live atop the Edwards Aquifer in Texas. Native plants help us conserve the water supply and organic products help us avoid polluting the aquifer.

We need native plants and organic products to protect our soil.

Better for the environment and future generations.

Promotes healthy soil, healthy, happy people and healthy, vibrant plants.

There are too many pollutants in the environment. We need to be more organic.

Greater success in the garden = greater happiness!

As a teacher I find it important to teach student about biodiversity

Preserve natural heritage.

People like choices. Native plants are gaining interest as more people become aware of them. Earth – diversity – sustainability makes a better planet for us all.

We need to pass information along to everyone on how to sustain our earth!

To feed pollinators!

Because they are part of a system that keeps us and other creatures alive.

Oh, they are SO important. I have grandchildren and pets and I don’t want to risk their health. Also, I LOVE native plants!

Native plants encourage native birds and butterflies.

Contamination of the ground.

Passing along this planet to my kids in a way I want to pass it on…

They are part of helping people to feel they are being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Also, people are very interested in avoiding materials that could make them, their kids or pets unwell.

Birds, bees and butterflies!

Because they sustain the same web of life that sustains us – because without them we might as well -  Pave Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot!

Just one world, we must take care of it.

In general they work better in our climate and soil.

As the head of my town’s conservation council, I am forever promoting milkweed for monarchs. As the owner of a large design / build firm, I try to encourage natives to all my clients. And, as a blogger I try to push natives to all.

I can’t think of any reason why NOT being organic could be acceptable as normal gardening. Everything is connected. We gardeners need to sustain life from the soil to the treetops!

Sustainability is cool stuff  - no to inorganic chemicals.

Because our children need a cleaner planet.

Because they support our ecosystems.

To protect and preserve butterflies and other pollinators.

Sustainable is the new way.

Many people today are concerned about the safety of their children and neighborhoods; they want to be sure their gardens are doing good for the world.

Because we are trying to educate homeowners on the importance of inviting pollinators to our neighborhoods.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

¡Three Amigos! or What Garden Writers Means to Me

Proud to wear the badge!
Next week I get to go to the Garden Writers National Symposium in Pittsburgh.  I‘ve been a member of this organization for about 15 years and to say it changed my life would be an understatement. Each year we meet in a different city. There is a quirky trade show the first two nights with some folks dressed in crazy costumes and visitors sipping cocktails while trying to spot the latest gardening trends. There is a solid line up of educational seminars taught by the best in the business. And, there are tours, tours to the most beautiful public and private gardens in the United States.

The first time I met Dan in person - GWA 2006
Because I lived in Holland for such a long time, I hadn’t seen much of the U.S. Garden Writers opened my mind to all the beauty our country has to offer. It has taken me away from my desk and surrounded me with people that love horticulture as much as I do. I always come home feeling refreshed and excited. Over the years I’ve made the most amazing friendships, not least of which was my husband Dan Benarcik of Chanticleer Gardens. I’m counting the days to hug my old friends and welcome new ones into my life.

GWA is better than
I’m especially excited this year because I will be exhibiting with two other companies that I believe in whole heartedly; Organic Mechanics Soil Company and Suståne Natural Fertilizer. We are the ¡Three Amigos! Our tag line will be “Together We can Make a Difference.” We believe that together as a team, together as garden communicators and together as good citizens we can make positive changes to our environment.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have Fun Out There, Peggy Anne

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Have Hundreds of Thousands - We're Rich!

Last weekend the weather was just perfect. There were sunny, blue skies and none of that nasty humidity that so often plagues the Mid-Atlantic in summer. We were drinking our morning coffee and talking about our chores for the day when the birdhouse by our backdoor caught our attention. The chickadees were raising another batch of chicks, the third or fourth, we’ve lost count. In the time it takes to drink one cup of coffee, the parents had flown back and forth at least 10 times with insects for the young. I was wishing I had that much energy.

Last night I started reading the new book from Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy called The Living Landscape. It’s a beautiful book by the way, and there was a story about my little heroes the chickadees. I knew that almost all terrestrial birds rear their young on insects (96% to be exact) and that no insects equals no baby birds. But, I had no idea just how many insects they ate!

Check this out – Chickadees bring somewhere between 390 and 570 caterpillars to their nest each day depending on how many chicks they have. It takes 16 to 18 days for the young to fledge and the parents feed them for a few days after that too. That brings the total number of caterpillars needed to fledge just one clutch of chickadees up to 6,240 to 10,260!!!

So, between our multiple clutches of chickadees, all the other birdhouses and all the nests in the trees and shrubs we must have hundreds of thousands of caterpillars and other insects to feed them.

Yeah for Bugs - We’re Rich!

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have Fun Out There,
Peggy Anne

Shameless Family Promotion - My brother-in-law Peter Benarcik made that birdhouse for us several years ago. They're for sale at Five Ply Design

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A New Environmental Film - Hometown Habitat!

They Need Your Help to Produce This Film
Bee Part of the Action - Make Your Donation Today!

Catherine Zimmerman (The MeadowProject) has teamed up with Doug Tallamy and the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council to produce a new film on native plants called Hometown Habitat! This 90-minute documentary focuses on how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.  Entomologist Doug Tallamy provides the narrative and sounds the alarm about habitat and species loss. The message: “We can change the notion that humans are here and nature is some place else.  It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t be that way.” Each individual has the power to conserve resources, restore habitat for wildlife and bring beauty to their patch of earth.  
I'm so proud of American Beauties Native Plants for being the very first organization to sponsor a minute of this important film!

  Would your company like to sponsor a minute? Make a tax deductible donation today!

“Donating funds to make this documentary film possible was the right thing to do. It’s important work, and what better way to convey the message about native plants, pollinators and larval foods than by seeing the relationship first hand.Surely, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a movie is worth a million.”- Steve Castorani Co-owner of American Beauties Native Plants
“By sponsoring a minute of production, American Beauties becomes the first organization to support the making of Hometown Habitat. We are thrilled!  We can not travel to tell these inspiring habitat hero stories without the financial backing from organizations and individuals, who are dedicated to promoting native plants. Thanks American Beauties for helping us kick this off!”
 - Catherine Zimmerman

About The Author
Catherine Zimmerman, an award-winning director of photography, has over 30 years of experience in documentary filmmaking with an emphasis on education and environmental issues. Environmental videos of hers include global warming documentaries for CNN Presents and New York Times Television; Save Rainforests/Save Lives, Freshfarm Markets, Wildlife Without Borders: Connecting People and Nature in the Americas, and America’s Sustainable Garden: United States Botanic Garden.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!
Have fun out there!
Peggy Anne

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There’s No Place Like Home!

I was sitting at my desk this morning wondering what to write about. I looked through a pile of papers I keep in the ‘Please Read Me’ file and checked my notes online. I thought of writing about Greenhouse Growers June issue that’s dedicated to Protecting Pollinators. The spokes woman from the Xerces Society took issue with some of the facts put forward by Joe Bischoff in his article entitled ‘What’s All the Buzz About’. That could have been a good he said/she piece but then I looked out the window…

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there is a light breeze with spring azures racing about. It’s an all around perfect day but not for debate. Days like this are meant for enjoying our gardens. Time to smell the roses or whatever is flowering. This is what we do it for, the weeding and watering and planting and pruning.  My inspiration was right here all the time. Take a walk with me…

The Quaker Ladies are just going to seed after a spectacularly long season of color. The Eastern Red Columbine was covered with orange-red flowers attracting our season’s first hummingbirds.

Viola ‘Silver Gem’ is finding her way into the cracks and crevasses of the natural stone we have in our back yard.

The Coneflowers are all just beginning to bloom. It didn’t take long for the bees and butterflies to find them. I have some in a vase beside on my desk. They last forever.

'Moerheim Beauty' Sneezeweed attracts butterflies and other pollinators and is surprisingly rabbit resistant and I have proof. Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter and their whole damn family live in our garden.

The fire pit area had a tremendous show of Columbine all spring and the Black-eyed Susans will take over in just a week or two along with ‘Major Wheeler' Trumpet Honeysuckle. Threadleaf Bluestar’s golden foliage will be on fire in the autumn sun.

‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac has been a favorite plant of mine since a co-worker and friend selected it at Bailey Nurseries.  Look at that color!

Blueberries with an under planting of Green and Gold – the ultimate ground cover for shady areas.

Short Toothed Mountain Mint is under used and under loved! It blooms for weeks on end and is an extraordinarily good source of nectar for smaller types of butterflies and a host of other insects. I use the silvery foliage in bunches of flowers I pick for the house.

The Fort is a work in progress. We thought of it last summer while we were trying to eat dinner outside and were being eaten alive by mosquitos. Now we can have our dinner and watch the fireflies too. Forts are never not fun!

Bringing life to your garden!

Have fun out there, Peggy Anne

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Magnificent Meadow

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening celebration for Longwood Gardens’ new 86-acre Meadow Garden in Kennett Square, PA. It’s Longwood so; even in the rain it was fantastic! Route 52 had long divided the meadow, but it is now whole again, providing habitat for native flora and fauna. Excited volunteers told me they have documented over 95 different bird species in the meadow. They’ve planted 1,100 native trees and shrubs and over 100,000 native wildflower and native grass plugs. The majority of the plugs were grown locally at our very own North Creek Nurseries.

It’s so exciting to see such prestigious institutions like this one bringing holistic design practices to the main stream. I think Claudia West, MLA, Ecological Sales Manager North Creek Nurseries, summed it up best when she said “Longwood Gardens shows us what it means to be stewards and validates the role of native plants play in built landscapes of a post-wild world. The Meadow Garden hybridizes design principles of the natural world with horticultural strategy – an intentionally designed and managed plant community where population dynamics are encouraged within an aesthetic framework.”

The paths, bridges and pavilions in the meadow were thoughtfully built from trees that had come down and been milled on the 1,077-acre property. Over 3-miles of walking trails wind their way through the bucolic landscape. From the forest’s edge to the wide-open fields and to lush wetlands they demonstrate the complex relationships between plants and animals. “I admire Longwood for their foresight with this project and predict that this revitalized meadow will become a favorite destination for those seeking the peace and hope that comes from connecting with the natural world.” -Douglas W. Tallamy, University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!

Have fun out there – I’m going for a walk!
Peggy Anne

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are We So Different from Our Cuban Neighbors?

Last April, I had the great good fortune to visit Cuba with the Delaware Center for Horticulture. Our trip was a cultural exchange with an emphasis on horticulture. We visited a number of beautiful, botanical gardens, reforestation and organic gardening projects around the island. Each time we received a warm welcome by highly educated staff that accommodated us by speaking English. I could sit here all day and write about all the reasons I fell in love with Cuba. But, for now, I will just highlight our visit to the Jardín Botánico Nacional, Universidad de La Habana - The Cuban National Botanic Garden in Havana. It was during that visit, early on in tour trip, that I realized no matter what our governments might say, we are not so very different from each other.

The garden is an educational, scientific and recreational institution that displays Cuban flora as well as plants from other tropical places around the world. They have a special program called Planta! It’s a conservation initiative focusing on preserving and appreciating native Cuban flora. It warmed my heart to think that native plants were just as important to our Cuban neighbors as it is to us at American Beauties. No matter where you live, preserving our ecosystems is vital. Alejandro Palmarola, a student working on his PhD at the botanic garden gave us a marvelous lecture and tour. Much of his work is centered on native Cuban magnolias.

They say there are 6 degrees of separation between people but in horticulture I think it’s really only three (just one or two in the Brandywine Valley). One of my friends and fellow travelers was Andrew Bunting, Curator of the Scott Arboretum, President of the Board for The DCH and President of the International Magnolia Society. As it turns out, the International Magnolia Society has been funding some of Alejandro’s work and he and Andrew were able to meet for the first time in person. I love to think that horticulture is building bridges over blockades.

Alejandro and Andrew
Many of us pushed our baggage weight limits to bring hand tools and art supplies to show our support of the arboretum. We recently got a thank you note from Alejandro with pictures of the Cuban National Botanic Garden's "Festival del Monte 2014". I think I see some crayons we got at Target and even some of the suckers I couldn’t resist buying. I also see the light in the children’s eyes as they learn about the wonders of nature and the flora of their island. It’s the exact same look our children have when we take the time to teach them.

Muchas gracias DCH y te quiero Cuba!
Trayendo vida a tu jardín!
¡Que te diviertas!

Peggy Anne