“Small Wonder Urban Garden” by Eric and Jason Hoover

“Small Wonder Urban Garden” by Eric and Jason Hoover

Garden description: Six 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. Interspersed throughout the garden are tiny pawpaws nursed under shading plants until they can gain a foothold.

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 them 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.

From the very beginning we have done everything we can to provide food for insects with an emphasis on pollinators. The efforts include planting Hyssop, Bee Balm, and Joe Pye Weed for the native bees, Milkweed for monarchs, and Queen Anne’s Lace for swallowtails. However, this year we ramped up our efforts by bringing our insect support inside. We regularly collect caterpillar eggs from the underside of Milkweed and Queen Anne’s Lace and bring them to our indoor nursery. Because there are so many dangers and predators to a wild caterpillar, bringing them inside can increase their chances of survival from 5% to 95%. We meticulously clean the eggs and Milkweed in a 5% bleach solution to rid the plants of pests, parasites, and viruses such as OE. We raise them in cages, being careful not to overcrowd, and keeping similar-age caterpillars together. Once they emerge as a butterfly we take a scale sample, inspect under the microscope, and once they are confirmed to be free of OE we release them. We then catalog our samples for possible future reference. We make this effort for several reasons, the first is that the butterfly population has been in rapid decline over the years because of habitat destruction. The Western Monarch is about to be declared extinct and has reached a population size that is impossible to rebound from. This emphasizes the importance of keeping the Eastern Monarch population strong. Secondly, we believe that the monarch is an incredibly charming insect that makes a perfect ambassador for the importance of supporting native insects. We believe that sharing the joy and wonder of the incredible monarch will open people’s eyes to the concept of planting native, and we have already seen dozens of friends and family take to planting Milkweed and other native plants to attract butterflies of their own. To date we have released 10 monarchs, have 20 chrysalises waiting to finish metamorphosis, 20 more caterpillars munching on Milkweed, and 12 more eggs. We have also set several friends up with caterpillar raising kits so that they can learn proper rearing techniques and spread the joy to their family and friends.

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 99.9% 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. It has since recovered and we haven’t touched chemicals in a year and a half. Our base line of 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. We have also provided the habitat for lacewings and have seen many lacewing eggs on our plants, which look like small white pinheads floating on long wiry hairs. Lacewings east aphids, mites, flies, and thrips, so we welcome them into our garden. 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 helps 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 hit with our “bug blaster”, a garden hose attachment, 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 will intervene if necessary. In order to save a favorite tree, this year I climbed up a ladder and meticulously sprayed the underside of every leaf. The task was repeated every other week until the population was finally under control. I did the same thing last year, but the tree has finally recovered. As you can see, every effort is made to keep the garden as organic as possible.



“Small but Mighty” by Darlene Scott

“Small but Mighty” by Darlene Scott

Flower Gardens – 3rd Place

Garden description: After 27 years of creating gardens on my NJ suburban property I was eager to see what I could create in my Wilmington row house back yard 16′ wide by 40′ deep that had nothing more than weedy grass. Starting six years ago with dozens of divided pieces of plants from my NJ garden I started building my backyard oasis. To the lilies, iris, peonies, astilbe, penstemon, heuchera, yarrow, phlox, hosta, coneflower, tradescantia, cactus, grasses and herbs I brought with me, I added fence climbers such as honeysuckles, clematis, and jasmine. Trees and shrubs were placed strategically to create some privacy and future shade. And then I added my favorite – several varieties of hydrangeas. Now six years later a large variety of plants clustered along the curved gravel walk gives us many months of blooms. A fig tree, raspberry plants, and some vegetables and herbs squeezed in here and there add to the benefits and pleasure from my garden.

Who are the gardeners? My husband Ed and I both work in the garden. I am the planner and designer, although we usually choose plants together. We share in the labor of planting and maintenance but there’s a difference. It’s fun and a joy for me, not so much for Ed!

Why do you garden? I don’t know how NOT to garden! Raised on a farm in a large family, growing fruits and vegetables was essential. But my mother went beyond the essential to the beautiful, adding flowers wherever she could. She was my teacher and model as I learned the process of working the soil, nurturing plants, and creating a palette of colors and textures. Gardening enriches my life. And I have learned from neighbors and passersby that my garden also enriches their lives! It has been a joy to share what I love with others.

How has gardening impacted you during this time? I have been sustained by the reliability of plants. Throughout the months of uncertainty I could count on my flowers to return and bloom again. Even a small garden has added variety to a life that was limited by the pandemic. When I feel confined, working in my garden opens up the world.

What do you have in your garden? In addition to all the plants listed above, my garden features spring bulbs and annuals, shrubs such as Nandina, Pyrocarpus, Perovskia, Caryopteris, and Bloomerang Lilac. Several specialty trees purchased at the Rare Plant Auction have been great additions: Acer Triflorum; Chocolate Fountain Albizia; Nootka “Green Arrow” Cyprus. The cyprus has been the perfect skinny tree for our skinny space.

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We have few problems with pests. Squirrels like to dig in the beds but don’t do any real damage. In a small garden the insect pests we have can be managed with hand removal.





“Tom’s Hidden Garden” by Tom Williamson

“Tom’s Hidden Garden” by Tom Williamson

Garden description: Our garden has been developed not planned, over the last twelve years, it’s not a big garden 15ft wide by 80ft long, divided into three rooms. Traditional front garden, lawn with border all around showcasing a range of herbaceous and rhododendrons, leading to garden at rear door this is a gravel area but covered with a range of pots, containers and hanging baskets showing what can be grown in pots, Rose’s, herbaceous, shrubs then the hidden garden as you venture up the side of the shed you enter the hidden garden, trees, and our interpretation of a cottage style garden, herbaceous borders, rhododendrons, and the last small section greenhouse and most important compost heaps The garden demonstrates the range of hardy plants that can be grown in our area, with over 600 different plants, over 200 pots and containers, 30 hanging baskets it’s an oasis for wildlife, from hedgehogs, deer and foxes, birds nesting and visiting, bees including a hive in an old nest box and thousands of bees visiting every day during the summer

Who are the gardeners? Tom Williamson, Tom has sight problems with ongoing glaucoma but does not stop him enjoying his garden, he has stayed in the house for over 34 years but spent last 12 creating the garden

Why do you garden? To promote and encourage others with similar small gardens to try growing different plants in different styles

How has gardening impacted you during this time? We created a facebook page now with over 3000 member with half from outwith the UK. Many from America Canada and Australia, during lockdown many were new and we posted hints, tips, guides to plants, etc, members question members pictures a friendly page for gardeners of all levels, helping us get through but helping 3000 others who have a love for plants

What do you have in your garden? It’s mostly herbaceous perennials with hundreds on show, roses climbing, half standards and shrub roses, range of rhododendrons, trees and shrubs sadly we only grow tomatoes and rhubarb

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We encourage wildlife birds, bees wasps and companion planting we are lucky that the area beyond the garden is a nature reserve so many wildflowers native to our area grow and we find they attract the pest and diseases helping keep garden free without the use chemicals





“City Bees” by Tova Rein

“City Bees” by Tova Rein

Garden description: Our little green space brings natives back into the city. Bees and birds, hammocks and a fire pit, sunshine and rain showers- our outside space is our getaway. Bringing nature between the bricks and plants to replace the grass is our way to give the bees and finches a happy place to dwell.

Who are the gardeners? My wife and I created this garden so we could have a green space away from our kids’ play area. We are from Philly and Lancaster and have two little garden helpers.

Why do you garden? I love being outside and having a little oasis to go to. Having plants and veggies to teach our kids about the ecosystems, composting, growth, animals, and how life is sustained has been invaluable. From feeding our friends and families from our garden, to having a place for retreat and relaxation- we love all the positive energy the space has created for us.

How has gardening impacted you during this time? Our family has been on full lockdown this entire pandemic. I work at a grocery store and my wife is a medical provider. We have two young children who are not eligible for the vaccine yet. Our outdoor space has been a saving grace to our sanity. Creating a place for not only nature to enjoy, but for us to escape to has been so wonderful. Being able to spend our free time ripping out the turf and planting natives has been so transformative for us and the land. I am truly appreciative for everything the garden has given us in these unprecedented times.

What do you have in your garden? rudbeckia, joe pye, hibiscus, amsonia, echinacea, sambucus, phlox, vernonia, cornus, asclepius tuberosa, symphydrichum, hydrangea

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem?Our pests are our kids picking the flowers and our dogs chasing birds.





“City Courtyard” by Loretta Moniz

“City Courtyard” by Loretta Moniz

Flower Gardens – 2nd Place (Tie)

Garden description: The 25 x 20 ft paved courtyard behind our twin home in Wilmington incorporates a fertile 3 ft wide border backed by a weather-beaten picket fence on two sides and a contrasting brick wall on the third. They provide a backdrop for 50 varieties of shrubs and flowers that I have planted and care for individually. The space is also a welcoming stop for birds, butterflies and bees to eat, bathe and drink.

Who are the gardeners? I am the main gardener, my husband looks after the front and side beds street side. I’ve been gardening for about 30 years. We downsized from the suburbs to a home in the city about 9 years ago to a much smaller plot. When we found this house, we were excited by the opportunities that the courtyard behind the house offered. Volunteering at two city gardens has helped my work significantly.

Why do you garden? For our allotted space I wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing, neither overwhelming nor underwhelming. A private courtyard, not a stark backyard. I’m very particular getting things right (ask my husband), arranging and rearranging, and ensuring different species peak at different times during the seasons to sustain the glory of spring, summer and fall. Having spent part of my life in England I admire how they use space and I tried to emulate the features of a country garden. Above all I value relationships and regularly exchange cuttings with kindred spirits. I estimate 30% of the plants in my garden have the added feature of having belonged to somebody in the community we’ve built. Plants and people, new friends and old friends.

How has gardening impacted you during this time? Having one’s own space benefits one’s physical and mental health, and for me it has been essential during a pandemic. The garden invokes an exhilaration that only nature gifts, especially when the birds sing their hearts out. I like to think it is good for their physical and mental health, too. To transform the long haul of covid into a magical journey, my husband concocted an unusual birthday present (it was a significant milestone, but never ask a lady her age). He asked local artist and poet e.jean lanyon, herself an ardent lover of gardens, to create a painting that features every plant and flower in the garden at its peak. She is developing the work from sketches made in the garden and photographs I’ve taken when each plant was in full bloom. This will be a work of fantasy and befits the name we gave our courtyard: Eden.

What do you have in your garden? Seven species of hostas in the shade garden. A couple of heucheras which the bees love. Various salvias, echinaceas, Shasta daisies, upright phlox, a dwarf yarrow, purple sage, a couple varieties of clematis climbing the fence, lambs ear, dwarf coreopsis, heavenly bamboo, turkey plant or chelone, bee balm, dinner plate dahlias, euonymus, redtwig dogwood, winterberry, azalea varieties, Japanese forest grass, white hydrangea, 3 pink hydrangeas, cherry tomatoes, Iris, dianthus, pink astilbe, white astilbe, hens n’ chicks. Variegated English Ivy, liatris, sedum, coreopsis, foxgloves. I’m trying to achieve the look of an English cottage garden.

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? The biggest problem in our courtyard garden have been slugs. They seem to favor beer, I believe it’s the yeast that they are attracted to. I leave beer out in a flat dish overnight, the next morning I see many dead slugs. I also crush eggshells and put it at the base of the plants. We’ve also had some baby rabbits come through the slats in the spring. They devour all the tender shoots that come up. We put an end to that by installing short length of bamboo between the recurring gaps in the picket fence just high enough to prevent them leaping through so that they do not disturb the aesthetics.





“Joy Fox’s Garden” by Jennifer Joy Fox

“Joy Fox’s Garden” by Jennifer Joy Fox

Garden description: My property is certified Bay-Wise. This means that I practice healthy environmental gardening that is good for the environment, specifically the Chesapeake Bay.

Who are the gardeners? I am the gardener and also a Maryland Master Gardener too. I have learned a lot through trial and error as well as in classes and workshops. However, the base was already here. The prior owners were DCH members. I have tried to maintain all their plants which had the proper name in a plaque for each of them, but have replaced a lot. Some beautiful plants that did not make it: a few rose bushes, a smoke bush, and Jacob’s latter did not last, mostly due to over crowding by tree roots, compaction, or other plants. I have added many natives and perennials as well as seed grape hyacinth vine and zinnias yearly. I took three days to weed the two 8″ x 8″ garden beds when I first moved here. There was a basil and tomato plant that was within the weeds that were higher than me. They helped me see the potential of a garden left unloved. I then added a third bed. I relish planting herbs and veggies every year as well as the flowers.

Why do you garden? It is satisfying to plant a seed or seedling and watch it change and grow. I love to make a beautiful place outside to just be and to share this space with friends and family.

How has gardening impacted you during this time? I was at the Cecil County Fair this evening, volunteering as a Maryland Master Gardener. It was most satisfying to talk with new gardeners. Gardening has been an extension of my already well developed practice of creating. Waking every morning to see the beauty of my yard has been great. I am so grateful for my home and yard and maintaining it. I have come to appreciate what I have even more during this time.

What do you have in your garden? My garden has something in bloom or adding some color almost year round. The front beds include: echinacea daisy, black eyed Susan’s, lilacs, crocus, zinnias, pink tea roses, red floribunda roses, anthurium, shasta daisies, African sun flowers, pink hybrid dogwood, Arizona sunflowers, tulips, bee balm, bearded irises, two Japanese maples, five times of daffodils, cosmos, Asiatic Lillies, orange and maroon day lilies, paper whites, strawberries, lavender, pink and burgundy pansies, creeping Jennie, bleeding hearts, chrysanthemums, sedum, allium, mountain bluet, pink and yellow yarrow, clematis, gladiolas, corral bells, and blue ice Amsonia. The one side has three types of pampas grass. The other side has rose of sharon, 2 types of ferns, three types of hostas, violets, a white hybrid hydrangea, and a large variety of trees that go around the back. The back has beauty bush, a pink and a white hibiscus, 5 blue hydrangea, a white hybrid hydrangea, wild violets, columbine, red poppies, white, yellow, and purple irises, azaleas, orange Scotch broom, 2 types of hostas, marigolds, 8 kinds of tomatoes, purple and green asparagus, mint, basil, dill, thyme, oregano, parsley, green, red, and yellow peppers, pickling and regular cucumbers, red and white potatoes, pumpkins, gourds, green beans, jalapenos, peperoncino, spinach, and Swiss chard.

Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? This was the first year that I saw spotted lantern flies. They do not like Sevin or a water hydrogen peroxide mixture sprayed on them. I had some Japanese beetles on roses and green beans, which I took care of with sevin.