From Deck to Dock:  Plants for a Northern Neck Home – Fun in the Sun

Monarch caterpillars feasting on a butterfly weed

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) will hold their “From Deck to Dock” plant sale at Dug In Farms, 155 Fleets Bay Road, White Stone. Sale dates are April 30 to May 2, and hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. A large selection of plants, shrubs, and ornamentals will be available for sale. Extension Master Gardeners will be there to assist customers.

“The sale will offer a variety of sun loving plants,” said NNMG President Marge Gibson. “Sun loving plants need a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of full direct sunlight each day, but the sun exposure can be broken into parts such as 4 hours in the morning followed by additional hours in direct sun later in the afternoon.”

“Choosing the right plants for a sunny location can be an overwhelming decision because there are so many varieties,” continued Gibson. “There will be several sun-loving perennial flowers and shrubs available at the sale.”

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), not to be confused with the invasive butterfly bush, is a must for any butterfly garden. Butterfly weed unfurls rounded clusters of orange flowers in late spring to early fall. Stokes’ asters (Stokesia laevis) are prized for their midsummer and fall flower show and a favorite stopping point for pollinators. False indigo (Baptisia) blooms in March, April, or early May depending on the species, for a duration of three to six weeks. They are host plants for the larvae of several butterfly species. Once established they are very drought tolerant due to their deep root system. Coneflowers (Echinacea species) bloom heavily from summer to fall.

“A great way to fill in your landscape and give it structure is to add shrubs,” added Michelle Kramer, Chair of the NNMG Plant Sale. “They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes to meet every need in the landscape.”  

A persistently wet spot may be perfect for buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), a magnet for butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Its fragrant white flowers appear in mid-summer and are unique, pincushion-like shape. Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), another choice for the wetter parts of your landscape, blooms mid-spring to summer and has great wildlife value. The outstanding red winter stems give this plant its name. Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) is a gorgeous deciduous shrub featuring spikes of very fragrant white flowers blooming for four to six weeks in mid to late summer. The flowers literally hum with bees, butterflies, and other native insects at bloom time. Sweet pepperbush grows in full sun to part shade and tolerates both dry and wet soils.

From Deck to Dock:  Plants for a Northern Neck Home — Spring Plant Sale 

Eastern Bumble Bee on a Columbine
Eastern Bumble Bee on a Columbine
Photo credit: Betsy Washington

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners will hold a plant sale at Dug In Farms, 155 Fleets Bay Road, White Stone on April 30 – May 2. The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. A large selection of plants, shrubs, and ornamental will be available for sale.

“It doesn’t matter if your yard is wet, dry, sunny, or shady, we have a plant for you,” said Northern Neck Master Gardener President Marge Gibson. “Representatives from the Northern Neck Master Gardeners and the Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society will be on hand to assist customers as they choose plants best suited for their home’s particular landscape needs.”

“The sale features more than thirty varieties of perennials offering choices for spring, summer, and fall bloom times,” stated Michelle Kramer, Plant Sale Chair. “We’ll also be able to answer questions about living shoreline plants for interested customers.”

“Many of the plants available at the sale are already part of the landscape at the Reedville Living Shoreline Garden, adjacent to the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. They have flourished there for the more than 10 years. The public can visit the Reedville Living Shoreline Garden to see the plants in their mature state,” Kramer continued.

Plan now to take advantage of this opportunity to obtain plants with a proven history of success for our area. For more information, visit www.nnmg.org. Masks or other face coverings are required. Physical distancing will be observed.

Vincent Simeone

 

 

Vincent Simeone, author, lecturer, and teacher at the New York Botanical Garden, will speak on approaches to creating an efficient, sustainable home landscape at the 27th Gardening in the Northern Neck seminar.

 

The seminar, hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) and Virginia Cooperative Extension, will be held Saturday, March 20, from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the seminar will be conducted virtually via Zoom.

 

“The theme of this year’s seminar is Be Intentional: Create Livable, Edible, Sustainable Garden Spaces,” said NNMG president Marge Gibson. “Simeone’s talk will be based on his most recent book Grow More with Less: Sustainable Garden Methods. With detailed, strategic timelines for both short-term and long-term gardening techniques, he will provide a clear approach for creating an efficient, sustainable home landscape.”

 

From composting and mulching to planting trees, Simeone will cover all the eco-friendly essentials. He makes the what, how, and why of sustainable gardening remarkably clear. Simeone’s effective, time-proven recommendations, which are field-tested in a large botanical garden and adapted for home, provide a personal roadmap for green gardening.

 

Other speakers include Brie Arthur, horticulturist and foodscape consultant, and Nancy Lawson, author of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife.”

 

Nancy Lawson

Nancy Lawson, founder of Humane Gardener, author, habitat consultant, national speaker on garden ecology, naturalist, and certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional, will be a featured speaker at the 27th Gardening in the Northern Neck seminar.

 

The seminar, hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) and Virginia Cooperative Extension, will be held from 8:45 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the seminar will be conducted virtually as an online webinar via Zoom.

 

Lawson is author of the book “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing Wildlife Habitats.” Her talk will discuss this approach to gardening that focuses on developing and preserving animal-friendly landscaping methods.

 

Lawson relates an incident that was pivotal in leading her to pioneer creative planting strategies to support wildlife. After cutting down a plant in her garden because she thought it was invasive, she saw it in bloom along a roadside and realized she’d destroyed a stand of milkweed. If left alone, the milkweed would have soon been covered in Monarch caterpillars.

 

Lawson describes her garden as a place where all creatures and plants are welcome. She explains, “Only two things are unwelcome: chemicals and invasive vegetation known to supplant wildlife habitat. Everyone else, from smartweed to milkweed, from ground beetles to groundhogs, has an open invitation.”

 

Her talk will explore a variety of topics such as why some insects are viewed as “beneficial” and others as “pests” or why some plants are considered “desirable” and others are “weeds.”

 

Lawson will discuss practical ways to put humane gardening philosophies into action by protecting nesting sites, and provide insight on nurturing plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife. Her focus is to humanely resolve conflicts with mammals and other commonly misunderstood creatures.

 

Lawson is the also a columnist for “All Animals” magazine and a frequent speaker on garden ecology. More information can be found on her website www.humanegardener.com.

 

The seminar’s theme is “Be Intentional: Create Livable, Edible, Sustainable Garden Spaces,” reported Marge Gibson, NNMG president. “Other speakers will include Brie Arthur, horticulturist and foodscape consultant, and Vincent Simeone, garden writer and horticulturist.”

NNMG Logo

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) Association is pleased to announce that the Gardening in the Northern Neck seminar (GNN) will return on Saturday, March 20, 2021, after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19. This will be the 27th Gardening in the Northern Neck Seminar. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 seminar will be conducted virtually as an online webinar using the Zoom platform.

The theme of the seminar is “Be Intentional: Create Livable, Edible, Sustainable Garden Spaces.” The 2021 seminar speakers are nationally recognized for their innovative approaches to gardening.

Speakers will be Brie Arthur, a celebrated speaker, bestselling author, and known for her leadership with the Foodscape movement; Nancy Lawson, a habitat consultant and national speaker on garden ecology; and Vincent Simeone, horticulturist, lecturer, and garden writer.

“We are excited about the range of topics that will be covered in the seminar and are confident there will be information that will have wide appeal,” said NNMG president Marge Gibson.

 

Brie Arthur in garden

Brie Arthur , a nationally known horticulturist, bestselling author, foodscape consultant, and celebrated speaker, will be the lead presenter at the 27th annual Gardening in the Northern Neck Seminar.

The seminar, hosted by the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG) and Virginia Cooperative Extension, will be held virtually on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s seminar will be conducted as an online webinar hosted via Zoom’s online platform. 

The theme of this year’s seminar is “Be Intentional: Create Livable, Edible, Sustainable Garden Spaces,” said NNMG president Marge Gibson. “As the lead speaker, Brie Arthur’s presentation ‘Foodscaping in the Norther Neck: Brie’s Spring Tricks for Success,’ will reflect the seminar’s theme with her unique approach to gardening.”

In the introduction of her book “The Foodscape Revolution,” Arthur defines foodscaping as “…the logical integration of edibles in a traditional ornamental landscape. In other words, to foodscape is to grow food alongside your flowers, within the landscape the already exists.” 

Arthur’s approach to gardening is realistic, flexible, scalable, and meant to be both fun and beautiful. Her journey into foodscaping began when she was a horticulture student who could not afford farmers market organic vegetables but wanted to eat pesticide-free, healthy food. Her solution was to plant lettuce on her windowsill, which evolved into her current comprehensive strategy of gardening. Arthur’s presentation will provide a guide on how to develop and nurture a successful foodscape for any level of gardener.

Other speakers include Nancy Lawson, author of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife,” and Vincent Simeone, whose presentation will be “Grow More with Less: Sustainable Garden Methods.”

“The annual Gardening in the Northern Neck seminar has gained a strong following due largely to the high quality of the speakers,” reported NNMG vice-president Lynn Osborn. “This year is no exception with nationally recognized speakers addressing a range of topics. While the format will be different this year to reflect the times we are in, the high quality this seminar is known for will remain unchanged.”

 

The Shoreline Evaluation Program (SEP) is an educational outreach effort of the Northern Neck Master Gardeners. Since 2012, the program has provided property owners with recommendations for improving upland stormwater management, controlling pollutant and sediment runoff, and addressing shoreline erosion.

SEP Evaluation Team
        SEP Evaluation Team members performing a site visit.

The SEP program had a waiting list of homeowners requesting shoreline evaluations at the end of 2019. The first few months of 2020 brought more applications. Then, COVID-19 restrictions brought activities to a halt.

“We start visiting properties in April and continue until the end of October,” said Ian Cheyne, leader of the SEP group. “We try to respond to all the applications we receive by the end of the season, but in 2019 demand exceeded our capacity. It was especially frustrating that COVID-19 kept us from catching up or accepting new applications during the spring months this year.”

“We took advantage of the forced downtime to restructure our evaluation process to make it more comprehensive while reducing the turn-around time,” Cheyne continued. “We updated and expanded our ‘SEP Homeowners Shoreline Management Guide’ and trained additional team members which will enable us to undertake more activities in the post-COVID-19 era.”

In July, some of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. The SEP team was back in full operation by September, and the backlog of applications was eliminated by the end of November.

“Sediment from wave erosion and stormwater runoff carries nutrients and toxins and is the major pollutant affecting the water quality of Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries,” Cheyne said. “The Shoreline Evaluation Program is focused on helping Northern Neck homeowner reduce sedimentation from eroding soils.”

Climate change in eastern North America is bringing increased rainfall and heavier storms making property stormwater management more important. Coupled with gradual sea-level rise, both effects add new challenges to waterfront property management.

SEP Team Member Gail Cooper Measuring Water Depth at Dock
SEP Team Member Gail Cooper measures water depth at dock

When a request is received from a homeowner for an evaluation, a team of SEP members is assigned to visit the property and conduct a comprehensive evaluation. The team develops a detailed report identifying concerns and recommending strategies to address identified vulnerabilities and issues.

The homeowner receives the report along with a copy of the “SEP Homeowner’s Guide to Shoreline Management.” The Homeowner’s Guide includes information about shoreline protection, creating and managing an effective shoreline buffer, dealing with stormwater management, lists of native plants, and other useful information. The SEP team also follows up with the homeowner after the evaluation.

 

Homeowners looking for assistance with shoreline problems are encouraged to apply now for evaluations in 2021. Available slots go quickly. To apply, go to www.nnmg.org/sep and download and complete the evaluation application form. Mail the completed application following the instruction on the form. There is a $60 fee for the evaluation. Homeowners may also call the Lancaster County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at (804) 462-5780 for information.

Master Gardeners working in Stratford Hall vegetable garden

 

The Northern Neck Master Gardeners are assisting with on-going maintenance of the historical vegetable garden at Stratford Hall. The work is part of Northern Neck Master Gardeners’ ongoing efforts to support historical gardens on the Northern Neck including gardens at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Historic Christ Church and Museum.

Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall is a National Historic Landmark that sits on nearly 2,000 acres along the Potomac River. It was home to four generations of the Lee family and birthplace of General Robert E. Lee. Today it is a showcase of 18th century plantation life and features interpretative displays of the social and cultural life of colonial times.

Master Gardeners working in Stratford Hall vegetable garden

In 2018, after three years of archaeological investigation and research by Stratford Hall and The Garden Club of Virginia, a mid-18th century plantation garden was added to the upper tier of the East Garden. The garden features ornamental flowering plants, evergreen hedges, vegetables, and espalier-trained fruit trees.

Although a gardener was hired to develop and tend this addition of plantation life, it was a significant undertaking. Extension Master Gardener Diane Smith, who was already volunteering in the research library at Stratford Hall, offered to help with the garden. Soon a group of Northern Neck Master Gardeners living in the area joined in the effort. The group rapidly became involved in the ongoing demands of maintaining the garden including working the soil, pruning, weeding, and attempting to keep the groundhogs at bay.

For the Northern Neck Master Gardeners, most volunteer activities and programs have traditionally been located in Northumberland and Lancaster counties. “Those of us who live in Westmoreland and Richmond counties welcome any additional projects closer to home such as the Stratford Hall vegetable garden,” said Diane Smith, who spearheaded the NNMG involvement.

“We can spend more time working and less time driving! Unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented us from working a good part of this year,” Smith continued. “We are looking forward to returning to the Stratford Hall garden as soon as possible.”

Master Gardeners working in Stratford Hall vegetable garden

The ornamental plants in the garden are types that were commonly available at the end of the 18th century. The vegetables are mostly chosen from Richard Henry Lee’s memorandum of the same time period. According to the Stratford Hall website, the East Garden is now “…one of the most visually stunning and accurate displays of 18th century landscape in the country. The East Garden showcases juxtaposed authentic 18th century and colonial revival garden designs.”

For more information on Stratford Hall, visit their website at www.stratfordhall.org.

Northern Neck Master Gardeners working Washington Birthplace garden

 

 

Many people enjoy visiting the important historical sites in the Northern Neck and several of these sites include gardens that represent the historical period.

Over the last few years, several partnerships have developed between organizations that manage historical gardens and volunteers from the Northern Neck Master Gardeners (NNMG). The George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County and Historic Christ Church and Museum in Lancaster County are all benefiting from new or enhanced connections which allow for on-going care of these beloved gardens.

The relationship between the NNMG and the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, run by the National Park Service, is not new. There is a long and rich history of cooperation going back 20 years. Over that time Extension Master Gardener volunteers have helped to refurbish and maintain the large Colonial Kitchen Garden near the Memorial House in the historic area.Northern Neck Master Gardeners working Washington Birthplace garden

“This garden, which was established in 1932 in the Colonial Revival or Williamsburg style, contains some 650 linear feet of beds. From its creation, it was a jumble of flowers and herbs in borders, with four squares (surrounded by English boxwood) on the north side intended for vegetables. The entire garden is surrounded by a picket fence and crisscrossed by brick walkways,” said Betsy Hardy, leader of the NNMG team. “It is a challenge to keep up as is with the demands of the changing seasons.”

More recently, the NNMG volunteers expanded the educational impact of the garden area. On the south end of the Kitchen Garden, they established a Teaching Garden of eight herb beds.  The Teaching Garden demonstrates what the Washington family would have needed and grown around 1732, the year of George’s birth.

“We have provided a rack card at the site to identify the different herbs used by the household for cooking, potpourri, medicines, and fabric dyes. The Washingtons relied on these essential plants for their health and comfort,” explained Wayne Condrey, a core member of the NNMG team. “Children are often fascinated by this glimpse into the past which, for them, is an introduction to a very strange world.”

Even though winter will soon be with us, the Birth Place is always a lovely location for a walk. Stroll along the paths that border Pope’s Creek, admire the layout of the beds and the borders in the Herb Garden, and study the information that brings the domestic realities of colonial times to life. Enjoy the tranquil ambiance of one of Virginia’s hidden treasures.

While the Visitor Center and Memorial House remain closed due to COVID-19, the gardens and many outbuildings are open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. For more details, visit www.nps.gov/gewa or call (804) 224-1732 x227.