Sunday, June 22, 2014

Downtown Cultivate Charlottesville Garden Tour

Casa Alma veggie garden, one of many
Yesterday the Cultivate Cville Urban Farm and Garden Tour was held to bring awareness to the many community gardens operating in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The five gardens on the tour ranged from children's educational gardens to open citizen volunteer gardens. There is a true back to the earth movement in Cville and I was happy to see it in full swing. All gardens operate on organic principles with sharing and caring a top priority.

Wall mural a vibrant backdrop to the Buford School garden
I was impressed with the Buford Elementary School garden and the commitment by the Principal and staff to incorporate school curriculum with hands on garden experiments. This garden develops more and more with each passing year.

rustic garden shed Buford Elementary garden
Physical Education classes provide the option for students to work in the garden. Being that I have now gardened for over 25 years, I can attest to the physical requirements necessary to work a garden. Science classes conduct growth experiments with plants growing inside their new hoop house verses outside. It's a darling garden with flowers, herbs, and vegetables.  A handmade shed, sitting ring of logs, and cute garden features make this a joyful garden. All six of the Charlottesville City Schools are now involved with the City Schoolyard Garden program.

Flags representing each garden bed in the 5th Street garden
We headed over to the 5th Street Community garden which was just started this year. It is mainly an immigrant garden with each, of the many, planting beds representing an individual country. Speaking with one of the proud gardeners, it made me think of my move from my family home to Charlottesville and how I tried to bring as many of my plants with me as possible. I couldn't move the house, but I could move my plants! Our gardening friend on the tour showed us his huge squash plants that he was growing on 10' tall bamboo poles. Explaining the seed was from his home in Mexico and that in that country, "this is what people do", meaning GARDEN. He obviously knew what he was doing as his beds were clear of weeds and plants were thriving. I know his garden often reminds him of his homeland and was proud to tell us about his crops and how to prepare them once harvested.

Now you know where the term Goatee comes from
Hopping over to Casa Alma on Nassau Street one finds a little farmstead in a off the beaten track mixed use neighborhood. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlottesville seems to operate in harmony mainly due to the ability of it to do its own thing. This is my second visit to Casa Alma as two years ago I visited it while biking on the Tour de Coop Chicken Tour. It has really come along. The houses have been rehabbed and the grounds continue to be worked to provide food for those in need. Darling little goats and chickens greeted us and bee hives a plenty were thriving. Fruit and vegetable plants surround the two residential homes which house low-income and formerly homeless families for 2 years.  

Volunteer at the UACC and u can get a token for Cabbage!
An interesting garden is the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC). Anyone can garden here and for every 30 minutes of time, you get a token that you can use to buy crops harvested in the garden. It's a very large garden located in a large residential area in Charlottesville near the busy downtown Mall on 6th Street.

Black Giant Chicken at Casa Alma
Our last stop was to the International Refugee Committee New Roots Garden hidden in a quiet residential section just steps away from the busy intersection of Main and Ridge. A small garden but one that has every bed full of beans and tomatoes ready to harvest. My friend, Cindy, that was with me volunteers with the IRC and sponsors a local family. Charlottesville opens its doors each year to hundreds of refugees that can not return to their homeland due to religious or ethnic division. Refugees often have lived in camps for many years and are relocated to other countries all over the world where they must find employment and housing often without ever living their adult life with a real roof over their head. Can you imagine being in a tent camp for 15 years since the age of 10 and not ever using an air conditioner, stove, washing machine, light switch, or even operating a window! Upon arrival to Charlottesville some refugees can not speak English, drive a car, use a cell phone, or computer. Can you imagine trying to find a place to live without a computer!

IRC chat among the Beans and Tomatoes
The purpose of the IRC is to aid new arrivals in finding a place to live and employment, and help with daily activities... transportation, medical, and the like. Refugees can be dealing with personal sadness from leaving family, friends, and a homeland along with the daily struggle to adjust to a new community, language, and culture. One thing many refugees are familiar with is gardening. In their chaotic new situation, a refugee can touch something familiar, and feel accomplished in their little garden plot.

Purple Echinacea at Buford Elementary School garden
The gardens on this tour offer so much benefit to so many in our community. I can imagine Charlottesville without them and their generous supporters. All of the gardens mentioned in this article are always looking for volunteers and a little financial support and the pay off is BIG in my opinion.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Monticello Wine and Roses Open House

Charles de Mills, quarter rose, petals open quartered so many
Yesterday I went to the annual Monticello Wine and Roses Open House. It was PEAK rose bloom time at Tufton Farm, the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, and if you like roses this is an event not to miss. My friend Sue who has been gardening since the age of 4 met me there and it was fun trying to jointly identify the plants at Tufton. She has collected roses for years and acquired another shrub at the event.

Rose Garden at Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
I was late for the lecture on antique roses held by Rosarian Connie Hilker of Hartwood Roses but I did get to smell the many rose cuttings she had on display. Sue and I agreed that the Portland from Glendora Rose was our favorite. Roses vary in scent from Spicy to Musk to Deeply Floral. I tend to like the deeply floral because I am on the hunt for the best rose to add to my tea. The stronger the scent, the stronger the flavor. Connie has a wonderful website and I was especially interested in the proper way to grow your own roses from cuttings. Many historic roses have been lost but it was interesting to know that Rose Rustlers are on the hunt for interesting and rare plants. I wanna be one of them!

HATS, a required gardening implement
What I like most about Tufton is their commitment to historic plants. Curator, Peggy Cornett is a walking encyclopedia on plants and she took a group of hardcore gardeners (I have no idea why they say we all look alike) on a tour of the gardens.

Curator Peggy Cornett with a Double Swamp Rose
This was my second tour with Peggy and it's amazing to hear her rattle off plant names and share their history. Rare rose cuttings have been rooted and plants preserved at Tufton. Several roses came from the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. A place I must, must, must visit.

Bee Apiary at Tufton Farm
Monticello Beekeeper Paul Legrand shared his hands on experience giving many great tips. Did you know there are 2400 different bee species and the bees you buy are not native. In the winter the hive is 91 degrees because of the wing beating from the bees. A queen lays around 15,000 eggs A DAY.

For some time I have wanted a few hives but it's not as easy as it sounds and you must be committed to protecting the hive year around from disease and predators. Bears, skunks, and mites all love bees. Paul gave some great tips as to how to best do this and have long lasting hives. Animals under your care require attention and time so not unlike Chickens you need to have time to look out for their welfare. There is a wonderful local group, Central Virginia Beekeepers that is a must to join if you are going to keep bees. They meet monthly just down the road from Forsythia Hill at Ivy Creek Nature Center.

Blue Morning Glory Vine
Fushia Clematis

Old Fashioned Banshee Rose like my Grandmothers
I don't believe I've smelled so many roses in one place. It was "the thing" to do. There were a few other plant highlights, the Sweet Shrub was intoxicating, permeating the air, even stronger than the roses. A large blue Morning Glory and a Fushia Clematis were trying terribly hard to invade the roses.

Get out and about and smell the roses!


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