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by Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Children's Garden horticulturist Heather Veneziano  showing off some cousins -- okra, cotton & hibiscus!

Children’s Garden horticulturist Heather Veneziano showing off some cousins — okra, cotton & hibiscus! She’s pointing to an okra flower.

Have I  mentioned before that I love working at the Garden?  My assignment: find out what “Ginter in the Morning: the Garden at Work  is all about.

Sounds like fun.

I scheduled a time to meet with Children’s Garden Horticulturist, Heather Veneziano, to find out. Heather will be leading the “Walk & Talk” on November 5th (the link to register is listed below).  There’s always something interesting around the corner at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and this assignment was no different.  But I definitely should have allowed more time. I had so much fun learning from Heather, that before I knew it I’d spent an hour talking to her.
Heather told me that she’ll take  the group for a tour of the Children’s Farm Garden (where we grow vegetables for the class field trips to explore and taste).  What I learned was a lesson is history, pollination and horticulture.  I also gained a new appreciation for how lucky Richmond-area school children are to have the experience of getting to learn from educators like Heather, who have so much passion for what they do. Plus getting to plant, grow eat fresh vegetables is always fun!
The truth is, with all this beauty around, sometimes I forget that our mission here at the Garden is education – it’s not just all about  looking at pretty flowers.  Of course some people come here just to look at our blooms, but what we aim for is a much richer experience that incorporates learning and curiosity. We want to teach you about the interdependence of humans and plants. We want to teach you what you didn’t even know that you wanted to know! And that’s exactly what Heather did with me.

The bees love the scarlet flowers!

The bees love the scarlet flowers! These heirloom beans use open pollination meaning that nature will take care of the pollination (as opposed to farmers who sometimes use tents to avoid cross pollination.

I learned so much. First, I learned that Heather had planted heirloom ‘Hickory King’ Zea mays corn, a kind of dent corn Native Americans would have planted here in Virginia for drying and for making cornmeal.  I also  learned that she planted the corn in tandem with heirloom scarlet runner beans, that could be eaten like a green bean or allowed to grow large and be dried for later.  She told me about the Three Sisters, and explained that gourd squash, the third sister, would have helped to suppress the weeds in traditional times.

I got really excited about this. After all, the scarlet runner bean was climbing, by design, right up the corn! And it was so lovely. And the bees loved it too.

 

Heirloom scarlet runner bean with corn in the background.

Heirloom scarlet runner bean with corn in the background.

Children's Garden Horticulturist Heather Veneziano showing off the Yardlong Noodle bean 'Chinese Red.'

Children’s Garden Horticulturist Heather Veneziano showing off the Yardlong Noodle bean ‘Chinese Red.’

I should mention that because Ginter in the Morning will happen after the first frost, that many of these plants will have been pulled due to the cold. But don’t worry, Heather will have lots of other botanical treasures to tell you about including swiss chard, mustard and other cool season vegetables.

Register now  for Ginter in the Morning: the Garden at Work
Tuesday, November 5 at 10 am
Enjoy a garden walk and a behind-the-scenes look at how the Garden functions on this adult guided tour. This month, Children’s Garden horticulturist Heather Veneziano discusses the organic gardening methods used in this garden, and points out unusual and interesting plants.
$15 / free for members.

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