My Secret Garden by “Annie Harris”

Garden description: This is my little garden in my little yard in the back of my little row home in the city of Wilmington. It is very private, surrounded by a tall fence, and the only access is through my house. I am not from the city and even after 40 years living here still consider myself a country girl. Just about everyone knows I hardly ever get rid of anything because I am sure I will find some use for it in the future. My friends know that if they need something, and they come ask me, I will more than likely have it. I also keep things because I LIKE them or I never would have gotten them in the first place! So just about anything you see here I already had, ready o be put into service and given another life: broken furniture and dishes, remnants of my kid’s old wagons and bikes, bricks collected one by one from old ruins in Yorklyn having wrestled them from the stinging nettle and an occasional snake, and a smattering of treasures discovered at Goodwill and yard sales, and (to the eternal embarrassment of my children) a fine assortment of perfectly good and oftentimes very unusual items found “trashpicking” on Thursday nites in my neighborhood. (You wouldn’t believe what some people toss out!) I like to sit back there with my morning coffee, along with my bunnies, box turtles, the squirrels and the birds and enjoy a little bit of country in the middle of the city
Who are the gardeners: It is my garden and I like it just the way it is.
Why do you garden: Downstate folks value land and being close to the earth and growing things more than up this way I believe. All my cousins and uncles are farmers. I love feeling the earth in my hands, snagging weeds, watching things pop up. I have 3 different seating areas and enjoy having friends stop by for refreshments , and just to relax and soak in the smells and views and sounds of my garden. I often will get sleepy in the late afternoon from being outside all day and will curl up and drift to sleep in my little hidden area all the way in the back enclosed with burlap drapes.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: I miss all the visitors I so enjoyed in the past
What do you have in your garden? I honestly don’t know what half the stuff growing back there is, the squirrels are always planting something, and the birds do their part too. In fact, I never plant bulbs anymore, just throw a handful (trashpicked after Easter and Mother’s Day) out back –the squirrels are great at naturalizing. I love cleomes because I think they are beautiful and the birds and bees love them. I have been told they are weeds and invasive but they are one of the few things that don’t mind my clay soil. I also love sunflowers which sprout up near the bird feeders, vines like hyacinth bean and sweet peas. Nature does a pretty good job of sending up plants that are beautiful in my eyes, so I don’t fight her.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? No disease, occasional slug or two.

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7 Flamingos by “Alison Altergott”

Garden description: This is a two-year-old garden, still very much a work in progress. Upon moving three years ago, I started with the front yard, and I’m now filling in the back yard and attempting to grow some vegetables as well.
Who are the gardeners: Myself, with the companionship of my dog.
Why do you garden: I love the colors and textures of plants, and the wildlife they attract.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: My garden has been a wonderful retreat and occupation while I haven’t been working. I’ve also caught up with my neighbors a lot, since we’ve all been out in our yards more.
What do you have in your garden? My focus is primarily on native plants, especially good pollinator attractors. I have at times caught people stopping as they walk down the street, to take pictures of bees, butterflies, and birds in my flowers. Recently I’ve been excited by the appearance of dragonflies as well! The front yard is my mini-meadow study, a collection of vignettes and vibrant color combinations. Among the early flowers are zizia, amsonia, baptisia penstemon and iris, transitioning to the salvia, monarda, rudbeckia, milkweed and phlox currently in full bloom. Asters and solidago will take over and continue the color into November. In the backyard I am working on a rain garden, growing vegetables and flowers for cutting, and a shady retreat, a perfect spot for a hammock.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? I do not use chemicals at all, and water sparingly from two water barrels. The only problem I have, really, is mosquitoes, which I’m hoping the dragonflies will help with!

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My Happy Place by “Lo-Raine”

Garden description: “My Happy Place” has been personally crafted with an array of colorful flowers and greenery that creates an atmosphere of warmth, calm and peacefulness. The breathtaking view of the sunset connects me to a place and time where my spirit is captured by the beauty of nature.
Who are the gardeners: I am the hands-on gardener with a passion to create life and love into each plant and flower so that it may flourish with enrichment and beauty to enhance the environment.
Why do you garden: I garden to connect with the beauty of the universe which allows me to wait for daily visits from my favorite spirit animals Butterflies, Dragonflies and Hummingbirds. I enjoy the scenery of watching the Hummingbirds quench their thirst throughout the day. As I sit in home office, I am mesmerized by the view of flowers blooming. “My Happy Place” affords me the opportunity to unwind and mediate. Sunbathing, watching the sunrise and sunset is one of my greatest treasures. While enjoying all the pleasures of my Happy Place, I indulge in my favorite all-natural hand-crafted Ginger Beverage “Jinjaluv.”
How has gardening impacted you during this time: Gardening has impacted me in a positive way during this unprecedented time. It has allowed me to stop and watch the flowers bloom; provided so many opportunities to slow down and realize the simple things in life. Life has been the Best Ever, not being caught up in the hustle and bustle from the outside world.
What do you have in your garden? “My Happy Place” boast with five colorful variety of Canna Lilies, three vibrant colors of Hibscus, along with a Perennial Hibicus, Palm Trees, Ferns, Caladiums and two Hardy Banana Trees.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Two Latern Flies made it into my My Happy Place. Fortunately, they did not make it out. As fast moving as they are, I was able to quickly stomp them to the ground.

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Pickin’ Petals by “Karen”

Garden description: Full of color throughout the seasons, even winter with February blooms of Arnold’s Promise and Lenten Roses. Spring and Summer I walk around the garden deadheading, clipping a chewed or yellow leaf or two and sometimes cutting back hard to get that second bloom. In the fall, the garden is decorated with pumpkins, mums and Autumn Joy, Rosy Glow and Blue Pearl sedums. It’s been a labor of love over the years. I started with almost a blank slate, a couple of Hosta’s and Daylilies, and a chain-link fence.
Who are the gardeners: Karen and John contribute to the garden in different ways. I design and plant. Everything I love gets planted in this garden. Sometimes it’s trial and error, but I don’t mind. It’s part of the gardening experience. I record in my journal how a plant adapts to certain conditions such as dry, likes wet feet, sun, shade, part shade. I already have a list of plants that need transplanting in the fall. If I had to pick a favorite plant, it would be the coneflower. This is the time of year that the finches perch on top of the cones and pick them clean of seeds. John takes delight in the beauty of the garden and compliments often about it. He waters the garden everyday and spruces up trees and bushes, moves mulch and dirt around…whatever I need. His favorite plant is Achillea Apricot Delight (Yarrow).
Why do you garden: I love the work and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards. I like watching plants come alive and the way they move in the breeze. I check on them everyday. I tour gardens, talk gardens, and I write about gardens in my journal. Gardening is my thing. I have many favorite quotes. Here’s one I like: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”. Audrey Hepburn
How has gardening impacted you during this time: Gardening has impacted me in a very positive way. You can get lost in the garden. It’s very freeing and allows total creativity. Being home more, gave me a calming diversion from work stress because my garden was just steps away. There’s definitely something very therapeutic about watching nature. This year, I happened to see a new bird species in the yard hogging the peanut butter suet, a Northern Flicker woodpecker. If I was at the office, I probably would have missed it. One other time, I saved a newborn bird that fell from the birdhouse above where I was digging. I gently picked it up and placed it back in the nest. It was accepted back into the family and survived. I felt really good about that.
What do you have in your garden? Herbs and flowers are planted in the garden. To name a few…Various Coneflowers, Yarrow, Black and Blue Salvia, Astilbe, Ferns, Hosta, Sunshine Superman (Coreopsis), Agastache for the hummingbirds, several varieties of Coral Bells, Sedums, Shasta Daisy, Evergreens, plenty of trees and shrubs that flower, St. Johns Wort, Geum (Fireball and Mrs. Bradshaw), Lavender, False Indigo, Butterfly Weed. Basil, lemon and chocolate mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives are the herbs. Winners for pots this year are Purple Prince, Angelonia, Picasso in Purple Supertunia. These annuals are nice and hearty.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Occasional insect chews and powdery mildew on a crepe myrtle and winterberry. I just leave it alone. Plan on looking for a natural remedy and add the recipe to my garden journal. Limited rabbits eating flowers off plants thank goodness. Population explosion for squirrels that were destructive on the lawn. dug it up in spots. And how about those carpenter bees buzzing around our wood decks in the Spring. Thank goodness they found other wood to bore like a shovel handle one year. Haha Have seen a couple of lanternflies, which were promptly swatted..

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A City Front Yard Garden by “Marilyn Bromels”

Garden description: This garden is planted with shade-loving plants. The lawn area receives afternoon sun, but the planting bed is shaded for the entire day by the Korean dogwood in the center of the plot and trees from the neighboring lots. The lot front is 20 feet wide and the garden width is about 16 feet.
Who are the gardeners: Marilyn Bromels and Gerald Woodward
Why do you garden: For the joy of creating something alive and beautiful.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: Plants were more difficult to obtain, especially the Bounce impatiens.
What do you have in your garden? Korean dogwood tree, five holly bushes, stand of Astilbe (not blooming at time of photo), 75 Dragon Heart caladiums grown from bulbs ordered online from Caladium World, 16 Bounce impatiens purchased locally, and 6 white browallia purchased locally.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? The holly bushes had a bad infestation of scale this summer. Treatment with Malathion solved the problem.

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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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