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Gardening For Our Future

Leaf at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenLewis Ginter Botanical Garden brings people and plants together. Encompassing more than 80 acres, the Garden is home to a richly abundant and diverse collection of plants and wildlife. A true “living” museum, the Garden provides a multi-sensory experience with hands-on opportunities to engage all ages and interests, especially children – the future stewards of our Earth. At its core, the non-profit Garden is focused on education and for more than 25 years has worked to raise awareness of our interdependence with the natural world. The Garden’s mission underscores its commitment to the future: “We advocate for sustainability and stewardship of our planet.”

 

WHAT WE'RE WORKING ON:

Best Management Techniques and Plant Diversity: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden leaves select perimeter areas unmown to provide important wildlife habitat and used to slow rainwater run-off. The Garden composts and uses best-watering techniques such as watering early in the morning to minimize evaporation and allowing water to drip from the hose right into the root system. The Garden's diverse horticultural collections (220 plant families and more than 276,000 plants!) includes natives especially beneficial to birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

Water Management Plan: The Garden recently had a water management plan designed for the purpose of developing and demonstrating best practices and sustainable strategies for water usage. Some good practices are already in place -- the Garden collects rainwater from the roofs of its buildings and funnels it into an irrigation lake collecting and recycling more than 2 million gallons of rainwater annually. In the Children's Garden, rain barrels are used. Horticulture carefully monitors and controls water usage. Gardens are being designed with water usage in mind, for instance the new Rose Garden uses underground drip irrigation and includes a constructed wetland at its base for filtration. As part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Garden is poised to set an example and be an educational resource.

Ladybug at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenIntegrated Pest Management (IPM): Already practiced in the Children's Garden, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is moving toward Integrated Pest Management or IPM. IPM is an effective, environmentally friendly approach to pest management that relies on a combination of commonsense practices. The goal of IPM is to see a reduction of pests to acceptable numbers with the least environmental impact.

Rose Garden: The new rose collection reflects some of the newest and most genetically superior hybrids, bred for disease resistance, Rose at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardenrebloom and fragrance. The majority of the cultivars are from nurseries in France, Italy, Germany and England, and most are new to the Virginia region. The selections have been carefully made with concern for environmental responsibility to minimize the need for chemicals to control disease and insects. The location of the Garden, on the hillside, should help in providing natural air movement, which will also aid in minimizing fungal diseases.

Conservatory: The Conservatory uses root zone heating to maximize efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Hot water circulates through rubber hoses that heat the soil so air temperatures can be held to moderate levels. The Conservatory is pesticide-free -- the Garden uses Murphy's Oil, alchohol, and predator insects (Intergrated Pest Management) in that building.

Children's GardenChildren's Garden: Staff and young visitors help grow herbs for use in the Café and Tea House. Fruits and vegetables are harvested for theCentral Virginia FoodBank.
The Children's Garden also uses environmentally friendly materials that are long lasting and do not carry preservatives that would be harmful to children who come in contact with them. For example, the rampway to the Tree House is constructed of a WeatherBest, a recycled plastic product. The shingles on the Tree House are made of recycled rubber.

GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical GardenGardenFest of Lights: Staff are replacing incandescent lights with LED holiday lights that are slightly more expensive, yet pay for themselves in the first year through electricity savings. For example, the electrical cost to light a holiday tree with LEDs is 13 to 17 cents per season compared to $6 to $10 for incandescent lights. Already, more than 25 percent of theGardenFest lights have been converted – totaling more than nine miles of LED strands in a 500,000-light display.

Meriwether Godsey (the Garden's caterer): For group events, the Garden's caterer has substituted reusable tumblers for disposable plastic cups and uses fully compostable hot cups and napkins made of 100% recycled material. Food containers are made of a corn-based product.

Garden Shop: "Green" merchandise includes Rich Earth and Eco Pots, reusable tote bags and helpful gardening resources.

Lora M. Robins Library: Environmental stewardship is covered by a bounty of resources, including books for children.

Future Plans: Include an expanded campus-wide surface water management plan, LEED certified buildings in our Children's Garden, and ever growing education programming.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • In many cities, nearly a third of the volume hauled to the landfill is landscape refuse, such as lawn clippings, leaves, branches and wood chips. Homeowners who compost at home remove some burden off our landfills. The clippings are "free fertilizer"!
  • Identify bugs before you spray, squash or stomp – most bugs are good bugs, not pests. 
  • Consider planting native trees and plants, especially ones with berries, fruits and flowers to invite birds, butterflies, and other wildlife into your yard.
  • Practice best-watering techniques (see below)

BEST WATERING TECHNIQUES

  • When you are watering, focus on trees and shrubs – especially newly planted ones. Newly planted trees and shrubs are vulnerable to extremes in heat and moisture and can be expensive to replace if roots are damaged by drought.
  • It's good to water established lawns and shrubs about one inch per week, but you can cut that to one quarter of an inch per week during times of extreme drought. (Use a rain gauge to track how much water you are using.)
  • For newly established plants, water when the root systems are dry.
    The best way to tell is to put your finger in the soil about two to three inches deep around the young roots – if the ground feels dry, it is time to water.
  • Be sure to also look around your yard for signs of stress. If you see wilted leaves or leaves turning yellow, pay attention to these plants. Azaleas, which are shallow-rooted plants, show signs of stress quickly and are a great "indicator" plant.
  • It is better to water deeply and less frequently. For instance watering once a week, allowing water to drip slowly into the root systems for three to four hours, is more helpful than frequent shallow waterings. Watering deeply helps establish deeper root systems. Be sure to monitor weekly.
  • The best time to water is early in the morning just before dawn. It's important to get the soil thoroughly wet. The morning sun will dry off the foliage, which lessens conditions for fungal diseases. Watering in the morning is also good because evaporation loss is minimal – the humidity is higher and the winds are calmer.
  • The best way to water is to allow water to drip through the hose right into the root system. Gushing water is not good because it washes the soil away and the water often runs into other areas instead of soaking in around the plant's roots. One easy tip is to build a dam of soil around the base of the newly established plant. The dam holds the water in around the plant, allowing it to seep into the root system.