Small Wonder Urban Garden by “Eric & Jason Hoover”

VGC 2020 Winner!

Flower Gardens – 2nd Place

Garden description: Five years ago, Small Wonder Urban Garden was created under the idea that a large impact can be achieved even in a small urban space. It was built as an oasis for pollinators and humans in the center of a busy city. The garden brings to light the very important connection between insects, nature, and humans. Small Wonder Urban Garden is an example of a no-excuses outcome, as it has overcome a variety of common excuses people give for not having a garden. It was created by tenants who do not own their home, in a very small space in the city, with zero direct access to ground. The raised gardens and containers rest entirely on a tiny 500 square foot concrete area, but nonetheless have shown that a seemingly small and useless space can become the visual feature of a neighborhood and the ecological footing for insects and wildlife to thrive. The core concepts of the garden are: -Creating an oasis for pollinators -Connecting people to nature -Urban beautification -Utilization of space
Who are the gardeners: The gardeners are twins Jason & Eric Hoover, who are also Delaware Natives. The Hoover twins are ever-evolving environmental scholars, who continue to reassess their own values, and share their joys of horticulture with the community.
Why do you garden: We garden because we find an inherent joy in creating life. Our gardening creates life through the plants that grow in it, the insects that thrive in it, and the rippling effects that they have on the rest of the ecosystem. Additionally, we create life by making a beautiful space that brings people together, seeing its beauty from outside the space, and the rippling effects that these positive interactions have on the rest of the community. We also garden because we love teaching people about the wonders of nature. For example: each summer monarch and swallowtail caterpillars grace our garden, and each year we watch them become larger and larger until they turn into beautiful chrysalises, and ultimately in the fall transform into stunning butterflies. Witnessing this process is an experience that can inspire a non-gardener to bring home their first milkweed seeds to start a pollinator garden of their own.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: Gardening has always been a great way to disconnect from the busy world around us and find solace by reconnecting with our natural world. In times of high-stress, uncertainty, and isolation, this reconnection is more important than ever.
What do you have in your garden? Our garden is almost exclusively comprised of native species which benefit insects and pollinators. Because the garden is so tiny, just over 500 square feet, we realized native plants are the best way to maximize the ecological impact of our small space. Upon entering the garden you will see an abundance of high-impact pollinator plants such as Joe Pye-Weed, Milkweed, Bee Balm, Hyssop, and Queen Anne’s Lace, with a fury of pollinators hard at work. These pollinators range from almost microscopic native bees, to bumblebees, and of course, monarch and swallowtail butterflies. The blooms are beautiful, and the support it gives the native pollinators is clear. A variety of native trees and bushes give dimension to the tiny landscape, which include a beautiful volunteer Honey Locust, two Sycamores, planted from seed, a Viburnum Bush, a White Pine, a Serviceberry, and a cluster of River Birch trees. Each tree houses other plants and flowers at its base, including a tiny Fern grove, a small Current bush, a Fig bush, and Foxglove. A large Walnut looms over the garden, from the house next door. The space strives to be as 3-dimensional as possible, from garden bed to tree canopy, and everything in between. Nestled in between these feature plants, you can find several other native, ecologically beneficial plants such as Purple Cone Flower, Butterfly Weed, Lupine, Coreopsis, Sunflowers, and Black Eyed Susan. A small shaded corner houses a Paw-Paw nursery. The remaining plants mostly comprise of house plants which are easy to take cuttings of, split or root, and which have been brought outside to recover from the winter. These plants include Spider Plants, Coleus, Tradescantia Pallida (Wandering Jew), and a variety of succulents. These plants are not native or ecologically beneficial, but they bring people together and expose people to the wonderful world of gardening. These plants are our master indoor specimens, which provided hundreds of cuttings to friends, workplaces, schools, and students over the years. In addition to plants, the garden focuses on people. A feature backyard table sits in the very center of the space, which hosts many backyard meals and late night get-togethers. String lights add a warmth to the space and allow it to be used into the night. A large compost tumbler attempts to blend in with the plants, and reliably processes all kitchen scraps, paper, and garden litter throughout the year. It is the source of all of our supplementary fertilizer and potting soil, and allows us to drastically reduce our contributions to the landfill. A few small logs with holes drilled in them provide shelter for pollinators. A drip system efficiently delivers a few minutes of water three times a day. A home-made bench and a repurposed bench sit perpendicular to each other, tempting the passerby to sit and enjoy the space.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem?
Yes – pests are often a challenge because we strive to be a 99% organic garden.  Our main priorities are to provide a safe home for pollinators and to create a beautiful space to exist and feel good in.  Spraying chemicals and pesticides would only help us accomplish the second of the two goals.  We only use non-organic pesticides as a last resort, and when we do use them we are extremely targeted and use them extremely sparingly.  For example, our River Birch cluster has been plagued by a bronzed birch borer for several years, which has shown major impacts on the tree.  Pruning back dead and damaged branches, fertilizing the soil with compost, and watering regularly was not enough to save the tree, so we used a very small amount of permethrin to save our beloved tree.  

Our baseline defense is through garden layout and design.  We keep plenty of airflow in our garden to prevent stagnation of spores and disease – this is a challenge when trying to maximize a garden and fit lots of plants into a very small space.  Additionally, we keep our plants healthy through regular watering via a drip system and hose, through appropriate sunlight exposure, and through bi-annual applications of our home-grown compost soil.  Anything that cannot remain healthy must be cut back so that it does not harbor disease.  Typically though, our first line of defense is to use beneficial nematodes in our soil.  We spread them in our compost pile and our garden beds, which helps eliminate pests such as small flies, grubs, weevils, and borers.  Our next line of defense is manual inspection and removal.  For example: in the spring we often have to combat anthracnose on our Sycamore trees.  Manual inspection and pruning of infected leaves and branches help the tree stay healthy and strong.  Infected foliage never goes in the compost.  Powdery mildew often visits our garden, which is best controlled through pruning.  A quick blast with a garden hose is a surprisingly effective way to organically remove pests.  The third line of defense is through the use of soap water, which we often end up using for aphid and mealybug control.  We like to give ladybugs time to take control of the situation themselves, but this year I needed to intervene in order to save a favorite tree.  My tedious process involved climbing up on a ladder and meticulously spraying the underside of every leaf.  The task was repeated every other week until the population was finally under control. As you can see, every effort is made to keep the garden as organic as possible.

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Newark Wildlife Garden by “Sheila A. Smith”

Garden description: A Backyard Habitat since 2006, this former 1/4 acre of lawn, features over 100 species of native trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, vines, and perennials arranged in large curvy beds that surround a grassy meadow area. The Button Bush, Bee Balm and Elderberry are pollinator hotspots in the spring and summer! The Milkweed, Violets and Oak tree are essential host plants to larva of butterflies and moths. Dogwood, Viburnum and Coneflower provide nutritious seeds and berries. Asters, Goldenrod, and native grasses light up the fall scene with color and pollinator buzz.
Who are the gardeners: Just me. I’ve been gardening with natives for wildlife for 20 years (Or more?) I’m a former Teacher Naturalist for Delaware Nature society, a retired Science teacher, currently a Backyard Habitat Steward for DNS and the National Wildlife Federation, and a volunteer at the Mt Cuba Center.
Why do you garden: I started gardening as a kid with my dad. I had dahlias one year. Even had a “Cottage” style garden at my rented home during my college years. Once I was introduced to the wider concept of ecology and providing for birds and insects it’s been my goal to get the word out.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: With the early mild weather and not much else to do I’d say I have been extremely grateful for my hobby and my garden has never been more well tended!
What do you have in your garden? With only a few exceptions the plants are native trees; White oak, birch, Black Tupelo, Dogwoods, Serviceberry, Basswood, Ironwood, Hop Hornbeam, PawPaw and more. Native shrubs include viburnum ( 5 species) American Beautyberry, Chokeberry, Pussy Willow, Button Bush, Spice Bush, Bottlebrush Buckeye, Winterbery Holly, Fothergilla, Sweetspire, Clethra, Ninebark, Oakleaf Hydrangea and more. Native Perennials include, Blue vervain, Larkspur, Phlox, Coneflower, Cardinal Flower, Great Blue Lobelia, Goldenrod (5 species), Milkweed (3 species), jewelweed, Joe-Pye weed, asters, Anise Hyssop, Helianthus, Heliopsis, Black Eyed Susan, Coreopsis (3 species) and wild natiives that came in on their own, White Avens, Bidens Frodosa, Spotted Spurge, Indian Tobacco, White vervain. Ferns Ferns Ferns, Grasses, Andropogen, Switch Grasses, and Carexes (5 species) and Slender Path Rush.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Native plants in general have fewer pests. Increased biodiversity gives the gardener a built in integrated pest management. There are a wide variety of bird and insects that help with balanced predation.

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Green Grove by “Gigi”

VGC 2020 Winner!Houseplants – 1st Place

Garden description: Growing House plants is the closest way to bring home a feel of living with nature. In my tiny apartment, I’ve tried to make sure I see a little bit of green anywhere I look – from the kitchen to the living room and even my bathroom πŸ˜‡
Who are the gardeners: My husband and I are from India and we have large rice fields and coconut groves along with vegetable patches by our house. We love plants and keep growing and propagating more and more plants.
Why do you garden: There’s no greater joy than watching plants grow and propagate.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It’s been our biggest source of happiness. Every little new succulent baby or ivy leaf makes our day.
What do you have in your garden? Succulents – Echeveria, Sedum, Cacti, Mother of Millions, Jade, Woody Jade, Snake plant, Aloe vera, rattail, Christmas tree plant. Ivy – Pothos and more Pothos Others – 2 varieties of Dracaena
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We had a lot of trouble with spider mites but neem oil spray really helped. One Pothos (Devil’s Ivy) pot also had fungus gnats. But re-potting and spraying ginger water helped and now all is great.

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The 1401 Secret Garden by “The 1401 Condo Garden Volunteers”

Garden description: The 1401 Secret Garden was named by its designer, Jack Severyn, who lived at The 1401. The walled garden at the back of the 1960 high-rise is a city-block long with a depth ranging from about 12 feet at the eastern end to about 30 feet at the west end. As Severyn found it, it was an overgrown flat flood plain with bamboo, shrubs, ground-cover, with the main feature being neglect. Severyn, a Longwood Gardens-certified Master Gardener created a space with varying levels and eight distinct garden themes. The private garden is for the enjoyment of the residents of the 180 or so units. With everything from a Fernery to a Marshland to River Flats, the garden space was transformed from a mess to a calming respite within the city. The distinct spaces provide vibrant color in the spring with the bulbs in bloom and the weeping cherry putting on a show. There are nooks for sitting and reading, or sharing cocktails with a few friends at the end of the workday. Even on the hottest summer days, there seems to be a magical western breeze and plenty of shade. In pre-covid days, the patio adjoining the garden for its full length was the place for building-wide gatherings and cook-outs to welcome the spring and say farewell to summer. Even now, small gatherings occur at the spur of the moment, with plenty of space for multiple parties to safely sit adhering to social distancing guidelines and enjoy their drinks, snacks and conversation. Some even take advantage of the 200-foot length to enjoy a daily walk or work-out with the view of a gorgeous secret garden, safe from traffic or uneven sidewalks. A plaque on the eastern wall memorializes Severyn, who passed away in 2017. The Secret Garden is tended by a dedicated group of Jack’s friends whom he guided in the proper care of his beautiful design.
Who are the gardeners: Our small group of gardening volunteers are retirees with experience in keeping gardens of their own. Many of us still maintain our own gardens on other properties and tend to plants, flowers and even vegetables on our balconies.
Why do you garden: Most of the volunteers have a love of gardening from earlier days in previous residences. Working together to maintain the Secret Garden is a cooperative effort to add beauty to be enjoyed by all who live in the 1401 Condominium. This was coincidentally Jack Severyn’s vision for the Secret Garden.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: The uncertainty of the pandemic and being sequestered initially slowed our volunteers’ springtime efforts. Hence, shopping for new plantings was delayed. When we were more sure of what sorts and amounts of socializing we could engage in, and spring growth demanded attention, we resumed enjoying the Secret Garden and the work we put into it.
What do you have in your garden? A wide variety of strategically placed hostas and astilbe punctuate the eight separate gardens, unifying the landscape from the east-end Fernery to the west-end Romanesque Garden and the Marshlands. Arborvitae and potted petunias grace the corner Romanesque garden, which has several chairs tucked away for reading or contemplative moments. Stands of swaying grasses add motion to the Marshlands. The expansive River Flats is home to azaleas, hydrangea, yarrow, rose of sharon, euonymus, grasses and and elegant weeping cherry. A river of stone travels the length and is graded to direct rainwater to a drain. The Green Garden is populated with rhododendron, liriope, arborvitae and mondo grass. Features include two bronze statues of Madagascar cranes that occasionally catch the light and trick the viewer into thinking they might be about to wander off to the nearby English Rose Garden, a closely planted explosion of color with red roses, Japanese andromeda and bee balm. A planter brimming with red annuals sits at the top of the Tibetan Steps. This feature is flanked by pediments from Bellevue, and has treads of pebbles on the lower steps and leads up to a level of lush, velvety moss. The Asian Royal Garden is alive with color from hostas, potted petunias. impatiens and astilbe.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Fortunately there have been no pests, with only two exceptions: a mid-July storm that took down a revered white birch at the west end of the garden; and occasionally a stray cigarette butt finds its way over the fence–hopefully not off a 1401 balcony.

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Pots to Pollinators by “Pots to Pollinators”

Garden description: I garden a typical 1/4 acre suburban development lot where I have lived for over 30 years. I have a vegetable garden, flower beds, a lot of potted flowers, and a new pollinator garden in the curbside lawn “hell strip” between the street and the sidewalk.
Who are the gardeners: I am the gardener for the property as my 84 year old mother lives with me and is unable to do anything outside. My interest in gardening began as a child in my mother’s vegetable garden. Besides my home garden for several years (not this year) I had a big garden in a community garden in Glasgow and several years ago at a local church garden. I can and freeze a lot of my produce by making my own marinara sauce for pasta and hot sauce for chili. I make pickles and relish and freeze peas, corn, black-eye peas, etc. I work for the local soil and water conservation district office.
Why do you garden: Gardening for me is a time to relax, be outside and enjoy growing plants. I actually enjoy weeding on occasion!
How has gardening impacted you during this time: I had more time to spend in my home garden since I did not plant in the community garden this year. I am using the extra time to develop and plant my pollinator beds. A second bed is going in this month.
What do you have in your garden? I have a lot of phlox, mountain mint, toad lily, daylilies, coneflower, rudbeckia, and various native plants (milkweed, joe pye weed, new York ironweed, vervain, etc. I plant a lot of pots using summer annuals for color and variety like petunias, begonias, etc.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? I garden organically so if I have pest issues I use BT or soap sprays or pick off the bugs. This year has not been too bad. I live with slug damage.

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