Feed on

by Laura Schumm, Community Kitchen Garden Horticulturist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Red and green lettuce growing in the Community Kitchen Garden

Red and green lettuce growing in the Community Kitchen Garden

I’m so happy to be spending my time in the Community Kitchen Garden again. My role is a bit different this time around. I have transitioned from volunteer, to intern and now to horticulturist. In my new role I manage all aspects of the Community Kitchen Garden and it presenting many exciting new challenges and opportunities each day.
So far this year volunteers and staff have harvested over 5,500 lbs. of fresh vegetables.  Now we are closing out this year with some beautiful fall crops including turnips, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, and more. I am monitoring the night time temperatures awaiting our first frost. Some crops can withstand even a hard frost, like broccoli and cabbage, but others can be damaged and should be harvested or protected with row covers. If the night time temperature is forecast to dip down in to the 30’s I will install row covers to protect the cauliflower and lettuce especially. Carrots can withstand a light frost, and the cold causes the starchy root vegetables to convert any existing starch to sugars making them even sweeter. Yum!

I’m also planting cover crops of crimson clover, winter wheat, and annual rye grass for the winter. After the fall crops are harvested I will have much more time to sit down and plan for next year and my head is full of ideas for potential projects and new trials. I am very interested in trying to utilize more of the vertical space we have in the Community Kitchen Garden, so I would like to try growing more crops on trellises and converting extra tomato cages in to garden towers that we can plant in.  I love the idea of having more space to grow more food for FeedMore, without adding more square footage to the garden.  In an attempt to combat the weeds, I want to plant a trial of living mulch. Living mulches are usually low-growing cover crops planted along with the main crop to smother out weeds, regulate soil temperature, and conserve moisture. I’m also considering planting a wildflower buffer near the Community Kitchen Garden. Not only would it be beautiful, it would also help to bring in more beneficial insects and deter encroaching weeds.


On another note, we updated our tally of all the vegetables that we’ve grown and harvested for Feedmore in the Community Kitchen Garden since its inception in 2009. Any guesses? Would you believe that we’ve have harvested and donated over 52,200 lbs. of vegetables to FeedMore’s Community Kitchen and produced over 45,500 meals for Central Virginia’s hungry children and homebound seniors!

I am looking forward to starting fresh next year and continuing the amazing success of the Community Kitchen Garden. This garden has become the perfect example of how Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden connects people and plants to improve our community and I’m delighted to be a part of it.

Rows of veggies in the Community Kitchen Garden

Swiss chard and lettuce grow in the demonstration area of the Community Kitchen Garden. The main area of production for growing vegetables is beyond the Massey Greenhouse, further to the north.

Editor’s Note:  Children’s Garden Educator, Kristi Orcutt launched the first Lunch & Learn program for Garden volunteers in September – it got great reviews — and the volunteers said it was  fascinating. Kristi’s topic, The Significant Contributions of Bees, is very relevant today, so we thought we’d share Kristi’s recap with you.

by Kristi Orcutt, Children’s Garden Educator,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden  bee

What fascinated participants most was the myriad of ways that beekeepers use their hives as their own backyard medicine chests. While many of us know about honey’s antibacterial and antioxidant properties, some people believe that regular ingestion of local honey relieves their pollen allergy symptoms. Additionally we talked about how beekeepers collect some of the pollen brought back to the hive by foraging bees and use that pollen as a high protein energy supplement and antioxidant.  Another substance, propolis, a resin gathered from tree buds, is used by bees as an antiseptic.  Bees coat the interior surfaces of their hive and use it as as a caulk to seal cracks and spaces throughout. Propolis is also sometimes used by people to ease sore throats and to fight bacterial infections.

Kristi Orcutt talking to volunteers about bees.

Kristi Orcutt talking to volunteers about bees.

(Of course, if you are sick, please check with your doctor).
We talked about royal jelly too, a unique substance fed to queen bees and sometimes used by people as an energy tonic, to enhance endurance, and for healing. Some sufferers of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and other ailments will intentionally sting themselves (apitherapy) and report that the anticoagulants and enzymes result in relief from chronic pain associated with these conditions.

We also discussed  their worrisome decline.  Virginia agriculture,  our economy, and  our food system depend on bees. Honey bees especially are a bio-indicator of the state of our ecosystem. The average rate of hive “loss” over the past several years in the United States and in Virginia is around 35 percent. Basically, over a third of our bees die each year….by any comparison, that is unsustainable as a business model for any farmer.  Also suffering are produce farmers requiring the services of beekeepers to pollinate their crops. For the past 10 years, area farmers have  found it difficult to hire enough hives to effectively pollinate their crops. When Colony Collapse Disorder  (CCD) escalated about 10 years ago, compounded by financial losses due to hive deaths, and an aging beekeeper population, over a third of Virginia’s beekeepers left the industry. Fewer bees = lower produce yields = higher prices for produce and milk (dairy cows eat alfalfa…pollinated by bees). For people already experiencing food insecurity (our poorest Virginians), this will mean even less access to healthy diverse diets of fresh produce.

A honey bee on Rosa 'Topalina' in the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

A honey bee on Rosa ‘Topalina’ in the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

So think of honey bees as canaries in the coalmine.  Our bees are “telling us” something by their disappearance….no one can point a finger at any single factor. Mites, a fungus, a new disease, pesticides, GMO crops are all suspect.

We know that one colony of bees covers an area of about 12,000 acres…bees are touching just about every flower in that area….and what they are “picking up” in the pollen, the nectar, and residues on the plants they visit…they bring home to the hive, secrete into their wax, raise their young surrounded by wax cells containing micro-particles of a myriad of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, air pollutants, etc.) and about 3 generations later….(in bee time….one summer) the bees start to suffer the effects of bio-accumulation…and they succumb to mites and fungi and diseases that, as healthy bees, they should be able to overcome.

But there’s hope. We have some suggestions and The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) does too.

The problem is multipronged….overuse of chemicals in our landscapes and fields (sprayed insecticides, plant grown from seeds treated with insecticides, herbicides, etc.) and simply not enough flowers for the bees are some of the problems. Plants along the roadside are sprayed and mowed, weeds are expunged from yards, weeds and wildflowers are now rounded-up around fields, crops are often designed to be “Roundup Ready”, and sometimes even flowers are toxic if their seeds were treated with insecticides that permeate the entire plant’s system.

So the solution is multi-pronged, too.  

Local bee clubs are part of the solution…each year classes are offered to train new beekeepers.  Keeping  a hive or two of bees opens your eyes to a world of occurrences previously unnoticed….you’ll notice the array of native bees, take notice of what is blooming and when, observe the varieties of pollen colors that bees are gathering (this week it’s white!)  Longer term, it is hoped that some of these new beekeepers will be successful enough to offer pollination services to local farmers.

Other things we can do: plant more plants. Take care that plants and seeds you purchase are grown in nurseries without the use of pesticides. Tolerate a few weeds. Find alternatives to using chemicals. And, rather than spraying our yards, eliminate mosquitoes by carefully monitoring your landscape to eliminate hidden puddles of water that mosquitoes use to breed.

NAPPC  and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also suggest:

The best action the public can take to improve honey bee survival is not to use pesticides indiscriminately. In particular, the public should avoid applying pesticides during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.

In addition, the public can plant pollinator-friendly plants—plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, joe-pye weed, and other native plants.




by Alex Arzt, Exhibit Coordinator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Ginkgo Tree in Grace Arents Garden.

The Garden’s outstanding specimen is a female Ginkgo biloba in Grace Arents Garden believed to be 100 years old. It stands tall next to the historic Bloemendaal house. The garden also has a row of male ginkgos, cultivar ‘Magyar’, along the path between the Asian Valley and West Island Garden.

gold leaves

Gold leaves of the Ginkgo.

ginkgo fossil

Ginkgo leaf fossil.

The ginkgo tree is a living fossil with records dating back 270 million years. It has no living relatives. Buddhist monks in eastern China cultivated stands of ginkgo trees as far back as 1,000 years ago for food and medicine. The first ginkgos in the United States were planted in Philadelphia in 1784.

In your neighborhood, you may have seen (or smelled!) the fruit of the ginkgo tree on the sidewalk this fall. They are pink and fleshy and contain butyric acid; the same acid found in vomit and cheese. The seeds inside are edible. Ginkgos are hardy trees and are resistant to damage from pollution, fungi, and pests, which is why they are a popular tree in urban landscapes. They are so persistent that several ginkgo trees survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
In the next few weeks, the leaves of the female Ginkgo turn a deep yellow. Within a few weeks after several frosts they fall from the tree to form a carpet of gold. It’s a wonderful thing to see, and a great reason to visit the Garden in fall.


The gingko tree at historic Bloemendaal House.

Just think of all this tree has seen in its years here —  from Bloemendaal farm to the Botanical Garden today.

After you witness the golden canopy in the Grace Arents garden, visit the exhibit Every Tree Tells a Story  to see (not smell…) Robert Llewellyn’s photograph of a female ginkgo branch, and experience this amazing tree anew. The exhibit has been generously brought to the Garden by supporting sponsor The Davey Tree Expert Company.

llewellyn gingko

Robert Llewellyn’s Gingko print on display at Ginter Gallery II in the Kelly Education Center.

Gingko fossil image credit: Wikimedia commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGinkgo_biloba_leaf_01.jpg


Pectinatella magnifica with fall leaves

Pectinatella magnifica

Karin Stretchko, Conservatory Horticulturist, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Look what we found in Sydnor Lake! These are bryozoa — harmless aquatic invertebrate animals. Sometimes they are called moss animals. We believed these were Pectinatella magnifica, and Eugene G. Maurakis, Ph.D., Museum Scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia, confirmed that we were right.

The biology department of the University of Massachusetts has more great info on bryozoans:

Pectinatella magnifica is a member of the animal phylum Ectoprocta (common names: bryozoans, moss animals), a group with a fossil record extending back to the upper Cambrian (500,000,000 years ago!)……The colony is gelatinous, firm and slimy to the touch. The inner gelatinous mass is 99% water. The surface appears divided into rosettes, each with 12-18 zooids. Massive colonies may exceed 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter, although more typical sizes are 1 foot or less. The colonies form on submerged logs, twigs, even wooden docks.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science helped identify  a similar “Alien pod” a few years ago in a lake near Newport News, VA. Marine bryozoans are filter feeders — meaning that they help clean the water they are in. The ones here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden are attached to old tubing that belonged to an aeration system for the water.

VIMS professor Carl Hershner notes that bryozoans consume algae, so the “alien pod” is “actually a good thing to have around, despite its looks.” ”It’s not a sign of bad water quality,” he adds, “and it doesn’t hurt fish.

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

Last week we told you about our butterfly round-up.  At the close of Butterflies LIVE we sent 194 butterflies from the exhibit to Tucson Botanical Gardens. Tucson just sent this note with these pictures, “There were three families in the exhibit when the package arrived so those children (and moms) were able to participate by holding some of the butterflies until the butterflies flew off. Usually we have a no touch policy but in this case we made an exception — and it was a hit with the families….Thank you very much for all the butterflies.”

Entrance to the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion at Tucson Botanical Garden

The box of butterflies arrived safely at the Cox Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion, Tucson Botanical Garden.

girl with long wing butterfly

Families had fun helping the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden butterflies get settled in their new home.

boy with birdwing butterfly

Waiting for the butterfly to be ready to fly after waking up from the trip.

Butterfly charmer

Butterfly charmer

man with butterfly

Holding a butterfly, waiting for it to be ready to fly.

by Lynn Kirk, Public Relations Writer,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, reprinted with permission from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

grasses in the Asian Valley at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Traditional turf is a good choice for high-activity areas, but ornamental grass is a sustainable alternative elsewhere in the landscape. And it also changes throughout the year. Pictured is the seasonal change of eulalia grass. Photo by Don Williamson

non-hardy purple fountain grass

The foreground shows purple fountain grass and in the distance you can see the Conservatory. The Conservatory lawn was recently planted with ornamental grasses: prairie dropseed, purple muhly grass and switchgrass. Photo by Don Williamson

Has your lawn set you up for what seems like a never-ending cycle of watering, mowing, fertilizing, aerating, reseeding, and then watering some more? If so, autumn is a good time to consider eco-friendly alternatives, including countless varieties of ornamental grasses. Unlike traditional turf, ornamental grass typically requires little to no watering once established. Deep roots, typically much longer than that of traditional turf, enable ornamental grass to better tolerate drought conditions. The longer roots also encourage infiltration of rainwater into the local water table, which helps improve water quality and reduces stormwater runoff.

Flowering perennials provide a nice complement to ornamental grasses, including this hardy dwarf fountain grass.  Photo by  Don Williamson

Flowering perennials provide a nice complement to ornamental grasses, including this hardy dwarf fountain grass. Don Williamson

“Ornamental grasses may be a better choice than trees and shrubs in several conditions,” said Grace Chapman, director of horticulture at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. “The grasses like poor soils, such as our area’s clay-heavy soil, and they typically don’t need fertilizer.” Many varieties rated for zone 7 are hardy perennials, reducing or even eliminating the need for annual plantings. For property owners, this can equate to less maintenance and expense. Since mature grasses can be divided for propagation of more plants, gardens also can be expanded without additional costs. Wildlife welcomes the switch from turf to ornamental grass. While birds rely on the grasses for food, thick clumps of growth provide cover, shelter and nesting sites, encouraging a more robust local ecosystem. Beyond practical reasons, there are aesthetic bonuses for incorporating ornamental grasses in the landscape: Their beauty provides ever-changing visual interest through all four seasons. With warm-season grasses, new growth appears in spring, stalks and plumes serve as focal points in summer and changing colors announce autumn. And unlike turf, at the end of the year, their texture and form provide structure in winter’s bare-bones landscape. Even with Richmond’s formal architecture and landscapes, ornamental grasses can find a home.
“They can be very structured and classic or more naturalistic for a meadow effect,” Chapman said. “There are so many varieties to choose from, so do your homework to achieve the effect you want.”

yellow grass

Many ornamental grasses, like this sedge, acknowledge autumn with eye-catching hues. Photo by
Don Williamson

Selections can range from cool- to warm-season growth habits, sunny to shade loving, dry to wet preferences, solid hued to variegated foliages, and upright to arching forms. Design flexibility also stems from varying heights at maturity, ranging from low-growing grasses for groundcovers to tall grasses for screens and backdrops. Most ornamental grasses are striking additions, whether planted in large expanses or mixed with annuals and other perennials.
“They can even be prominently positioned as an exclamation point in the landscape,” Chapman said. “Ornamental grasses add a completely different element to the environment, and they’re enchanting as they blow in the breeze.”

Ornamental grasses grow near the water at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, with the Tree House reflected in the background. Photo by Lucky Ginger Studio

Ornamental grasses grow near the water at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, with the Tree House reflected in the background. Photo by Lucky Ginger Studio

Sampling of Zone 7 Ornamental Grasses

Low height: Flame grass, prairie dropseed, ribbon grass, sedge

Dwarf varieties, medium height: Blue oatgrass, blue fescue, feather reedgrass, little bluestem, muhly grass, purple love grass, switchgrass, zebragrass

Tall height: big bluestem, fountain grass, maiden grass, pampas grass, ravennagrass,


Editor’s Note: This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in October 2014.  

blue fescue

In terms of color, form and texture, even container plantings benefit from the addition of ornamental grasses like this blue fescue. Photo by Don Williamson.

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

red azalea

Fall blooming azalea with raindrops.

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

Did you know that the Japanese windflower is part of the same family as the common buttercup? If you look at the form of the flower and the leaves you can see the similarities! The family is Ranunculaceae and also includes ranunculus a bloom often found in bridal bouquets. Ranuculas and anemone are some of my favorite flowers. Which reminds me of this quote:

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s. ~Author Unknown

Anemone hupehensis Pamina cropped logo

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica ‘Pamina’ in Flagler Garden.

Anemone x hybrida 'Whirlwind'

Anemone x hybrida ‘Whirlwind’


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

We’ve had many fall blooms popping up like crazy in the past few weeks, but these are a few of my favorites! Enjoy.

camellia sasanqua polar ice bloom

Camellia sasanqua ‘Polar Ice’

Camellia sasanqua 'Setsugekka'

Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’

Sunflowers & the Conservatory photo by Cathy Hoyt

Sunflowers & the Conservatory photo by Cathy Hoyt

Cathy Hoyt, Guest Blogger & Member, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

September was my first anniversary as a Member of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. I was a bit hesitant at first. Should I join? Should I wait a bit longer?? Will I use it?? I just wanted to post that my membership has been of the best gifts I have ever given myself. The Garden has been a classroom of sorts where I have learned so much about about the cycles of nature, wildlife and of course the never ending variety of flowers, trees and foliage that is ever present and ever changing. It has presented me with so many beautiful moments to capture with my camera…and offered me a “learning ground” for photography. Most of all it is my No. 1 stress reducer!! Ahh, tough day? I just drive over for an hour and relax. Thank you Lewis Ginter and to all the wonderful staff that makes this Garden the best!

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