Kicking off the first Landis Arboretum Garden Club gathering, ten enthusiastic gardeners came together on a beautiful autumn day to talk about their “hits and misses” of the 2014 garden season. Member and volunteer Jeanne Post-Sourmail and Board Vice President Wilma Jozwiak had issued an invitation to area gardeners for a lunch and gab-fest, drawing a very outspoken and environmentally conscious group. Before long we were happily eating the best ‘Dump Cake’ ever, washed down with apple cider. Our two-hour session quickly turned into three and a half!
Vegetable gardening was the main topic, with each person eagerly sharing reports of their best and worst crops of the season, corroborated by pictures and specimens. Much advice was shared regarding seed sources, disease resistant varieties, and seed starting techniques. There were long discussions on topics like the importance of beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies, raised beds versus container gardening, and plant protection from animals and insects. Other topics ranged from flower identification to recipes for vegetables such as kale. Seasoned cooks exchanged recipes for kale chips as well as other creative uses of the plant in soups, stews, and scrambled eggs. Concerns were expressed about the high prices of organic produce, which led to conversations on how to cut grocery costs with proper vegetable and fruit storage.
After a second round of cake, we ventured outside to learn the distinction between Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). Some of the gardeners collected seeds of the former, an important larval host for the monarch butterfly, which feeds on the flowers and lays eggs on the plant. The emerging caterpillars then feed on the leaves. A future project proposed for the Garden Club would be an expansion of the Arboretum’s butterfly-attracting plant collection and its consolidation into a Butterfly, Bird, and Honeybee Garden.
The newly formed group decided they would meet again in late winter to discuss seed sources and ordering, and to tour the Arboretum’s propagation room and greenhouse. Several attendees have expressed interest in volunteering to help start seeds and grow plants for the annual Spring Plant Sale. Gardeners of all levels are invited to join the group. For more information email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.