Arlington, VA

When moving into a small living space, growing crops seems like a faraway possibility.

Local company Love & Carrots wants to prove otherwise.

As a part of Arlington’s “Urban Agriculture Month,” on Friday, October 11, Love & Carrots hosted a public tour of their ordinarily private rooftop garden at the Ten at Clarendon apartment complex, where they taught visitors how to successfully grow vegetables in their own homes or apartment buildings.

During the tour, Carly Mercer, director of garden programming for Love & Carrots, debunked common issues with urban farming, including a perception that it’s difficult to do well.

“A lot of it comes down to frequent watering, pest control, and maintaining a deep enough level of soil,” said Mercer.

Many urban gardeners who grow herbs out of their balcony, she said, plant them in shallow pots that, unbeknownst to most, require watering every one to two hours.

But growing plants on a rooftop also comes with its faults, Mercer added.

“We can’t grow crops on a trellis, so things like grapes are out of the question. And with heavier winds, we had to rule out heavier produce — a butternut squash once went flying off of a rooftop.”

Across the D.C. area, Love & Carrots creates garden spaces for schools, non-profits, residences, restaurants, and residential communities. Every other week, Love & Carrots gardener stops by to help maintain the plants. The company is growing as local interest in urban agriculture blooms.

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Their space at Ten at Clarendon provides apartment residents with a monthly share of the produce, and every other week, a Love & Carrots farmer lays out fresh harvests in the lobby for all residents to enjoy.

Additional urban agriculture activities throughout the month include a screening of the movie “Growing Cities,” and open garden tours through the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

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Got a pesky boxwood that needs a bit of trimming or row of cabbages overdue for planting? Maybe it’s time to visit Arlington Public Library’s tool lending program “The Shed.”

“The Shed houses 157 garden tools and generates close to 700 checkouts each growing season,” APL spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “We have made strides each year to reach more residents as we continue our outreach efforts in the community.”

The Central, Glencarlyn, and Westover branch libraries also care for flower gardens and organic vegetable gardens, with some of the vegetables being donated to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food bank system.

The lending program allows library patrons to check out a variety of tools from the Central Library branch at 1015 N. Quincy Street. All patrons need to do to check out the tools for free is sign a waiver, have a library card, and show proof the patron is 18 or older.

“The idea for a garden tool lending program came as a natural evolution in the library’s continuing efforts to support the county on issues of community sustainability and particularly urban gardening,” Sundqvist said of the 2014 founding of The Shed.

“Library staff participated in the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force and suggested a garden tool lending collection as one way of encouraging and facilitating urban gardening and healthy living,” he said.

Today, The Shed is open three days a week: on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., Fridays from 3-5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Sundqvist said hedge shears, tree pruners, and pruning saws are the garden tools patrons check out most frequently from The Shed.

The tool library is part of APL’s non-book collections, which also includes equipment for testing energy efficiency in your home. APL also opened a free makerspace in April where patrons can access a range of tools for woodworking, sewing, coding, and 3D printing projects.

This unusual collection is part of a bigger movement nationwide building “Libraries of Things” that serve communities by allowing patrons to borrow everything from neck ties to GoPros to musical instruments.

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Arlington County is turning trash into treasure by growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce for a local food bank using compost from residents.

Last February, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau began a pilot program to create compost from residents’ food scraps. Now some of that compost is coming full circle and being used in some of the local gardens that supply fresh produce for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

AFAC is a nonprofit that receives around a million and a half pounds of food donations annually. The goods comes from several sources: grocery stores, private food drives, farmers markets and farms, and gardens around the region, according to spokesman Jeremiah Huston. Part of that comes from its “Plot Against Hunger” program, which cultivates the fresh produce.

AFAC staffer Puwen Lee manages this program, which she helped grow back in 2007 after noticing the food bank distributed frozen vegetables even in the summer months.

“And I thought, ‘This is really strange because I got so many vegetables in my garden,'” she said. After mentioning it to the nonprofit’s leadership, Lee said the director dropped off 600 packs of seeds on her desk and left it up to her.

Since then, Lee, who grew up gardening in Michigan, estimates the program has received over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and has grown to include gardens from the Arlington Central Library, schools, and senior centers — and now it’s experimenting with using waste from residents themselves.

Trading trash for treasure

The Solid Waste Bureau collects food waste in two green barrels behind a rosebush by its headquarters in the Trades Center in Shirlington. The waste is then dumped into a 10-foot-high, 31-foot-long earth flow composting stem that cooks the materials under a glass roof and generates 33 cubic yards of compost in about two weeks.

When Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky opens the doors to the machine, the heady smell of wine wafts out, revealing a giant auger slowly whirring through the blackened bed, turning the composting food.

Grabowsky said the final mix is cut with wood chips — something not always ideal for most vegetable gardens. But Grabowksy says it’s an “evolving” mixture that the department will tweak over time and which he plans to test in the department’s own garden next to the machine.

After the wood chips, the mix is shifted through a hulking “trammel screen” and distributed to AFAC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

On a recent weekday, workers Travis Haddock and Lee Carrig were busy in Bobcats shuffling dirt off the paved plaza Grabowksy says will host the department’s first open house next Saturday, June 8 to show how the recycling system works. Normally, they manage repairs to the auger and the flow of compost in and out of the machine.

(When asked what their favorite part of the job was, they joked it was when the auger “stops in the middle and you got to climb in there.”)

The department’s free June event, called “Rock-and-Recycle,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s lot in the Trades Center and will feature music and food trucks. Attendees will also be able to check out the compost for themselves, as well as the nearby Rock Crusher and Tub Grinder.

From farm to food bank

AFAC is currently experimenting with using the compost for one of its gardens. The nonprofit also makes its own mix using plant scraps and weeds pulled up from the beds.

Near AFAC’s Shirlington headquarters, volunteers run a garden that donates all its yield to the food bank. Boy Scouts originally built the raised beds that now make up 550 square feet of gardening space, and grow lettuce, beets, spinach, green beans, kale, tomatoes, and radishes, on a plot near a water pump station along S. Walter Reed Drive.

Plot Against Hunger manager Lee said the space was originally planned as a “nomadic garden” in 2013, but thanks to the neighboring Fort Barnard Community and the Department of Water and Sewer, it became a permanent fixture on Walter Reed Drive.

Certified Master Gardener Catherine Connor has managed the organic garden for the last three years. She says she’s helped set up the rain barrels and irrigation system that waters the beds in addition to supervising the planting. Now the beds are thick with greens and bumblebees hum between the flowers of the spinach plants that have gone to seed.

“Last year, we had just an incredible growing season,” Lee said. “From the farmers markets alone we picked up something like 90,000 pounds [of food.]”

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Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

 Tuesday, Feb. 13

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper
St. John’s Episcopal Church (415 S. Lexington Street)
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Join the Shrove Tuesday celebration with the traditional pancake feasting prior to the Lenten fasting. Adults pay $5 each and $3 each for kids 6-12. Younger children are free.

Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
Wilson Boulevard from Barton to Irving Streets
Time: 7-11 p.m.

A family-friendly parade with marchers, bands, and the occasional dressed up dog or pony. Expect lots of costumes and beads thrown from parade floats.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

St. Agnes Ash Wednesday Mass
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Worshipers can attend Ash Wednesday Masses throughout the day, from early morning until mid-evening, to celebrate the beginning of Lent and receive their ashes.

 Thursday, Feb. 15

Archives of American Gardens: Capturing Garden History
Little Falls Presbyterian Church (6025 Little Falls Road)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulture collections manager, Cindy Brown, will discuss American garden history conservation with photographs and documents. An optional lunch is $5.

 Friday, Feb. 16

Creative Coffee: Mark Making
Connection: Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

A casual weekly creative meet-up for artists to experiment and improve their work in a social setting. Bring your own materials to this adult-friendly gathering.

Sound Check: Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.

Test your musical trivia knowledge with an aurally-inspired bingo game. You’ll have 30 seconds to figure out a song and match it to your bingo card. Prizes after every round and happy hour pricing.

Chinese New Year Celebration
Long Branch Nature Center (625 S Carlin Springs Road)
Time: 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the naturalists at Long Branch Nature Center. There will be live animals, dragon crafts, and a short hike holiday-themed hike.

St. Agnes Soup Supper
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Sarah Colonna Live
Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 10 p.m.

Comedian, author, and Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Sarah Colonna performs at the Arlington Drafthouse with three performances over two nights,

 Saturday, Feb. 17

USA-Russia Olympic Hockey Watch Party Brunch
Quinn’s On The Corner (1776 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Courthouse sports bar is opening very early for an Olympic USA versus Russia hockey watch party, with $1 champagne flutes and brunch until 5 p.m.

Hamiltunes: An American Singalong
Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street)
Time: 12 – 4 p.m.

Sing along to the music of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Revolutionary War-era costumes encouraged and appreciated. A costume contest will be held during intermission.

Studio Xfinity’s Lunar New Year
Studio Xfinity (3601 Fairfax Drive)
Time: 1 – 5 p.m.

A free celebration at Studio Xfinity for the Year of the Dog, with dragon dancers, calligraphy, a fortune cookie bar, and more activities.

Conversation: Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey
One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street)
Time: 6 – 7 p.m.

Poets Jodie Hollander and Robert Mezey will read from their works. Hollander will share from her collection, My Dark Horses. Poet and critic Mezey will share from his award-winning body of work.

 Sunday, Feb. 18

President’s Day Celebration at Market Common
The Loop at Market Common (2800 Clarendon Boulevard)
Time: 12:30  – 3:30 p.m.

Don’t want to race yourself? Watch the Washington Nationals’ Presidents race around the Loop. Free Nicecream hot cocoa provided, and there will be a photo booth and prize wheel.

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A homeowner in Arlington’s Forest Glen neighborhood says she plans to fight a county inspector’s order that the abundant plant life in her yard be dramatically trimmed.

Lori Brent says her front yard at 665 S. Harrison Street has been a certified wildlife habitat for well over a decade and is beloved by many of her neighbors.

But it was a complaint from a neighbor earlier this year that prompted a county inspector to pay her a visit.

“I found it really weird because I’ve lived here for 15 years and everyone loves my yard,” she said.

Acknowledging that her garden had become “a little overgrown” after she had been away for three weeks, Brent said a “very adversarial” inspector stopped by, called the yard “a jungle” and said “you’ll be getting a letter from us.”

According to Brent, the letter ordered her to trim all of the plant life, even bushes and trees (the county disputes that), to a height of 12 inches. A follow-up inspection, to ensure her compliance, is scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).

Brent, however, said she has trimmed all that she intends to trim, making the yard — which now include Halloween decorations — look “more like a proper garden,” even if it might not meet the letter of the law.

“I cut more than I’d like to… in good faith, to be a good neighbor,” Brent said. “It kills me to get rid of the food sources for the animals before the winter. We can’t have just grass, that’s horrible for wildlife.”

“I flat out refuse” to do more trimming, said Brent. “Frankly it’s against my religion, I’m Pagan. You can’t get me to rid our animal habits and put in cement or whatever they want.”

Arlington County officials, as you might imagine, have a bit of a different story.

“Although, it is not our practice to discuss the details of active enforcement cases, I’d like to provide clarity regarding the issues generated at this particular property,” said Gary Greene, Code Enforcement Section Chief for the county’s Inspection Services Division, via email.

“In 1988, the Commonwealth enabled localities to adopt an ordinance to deal with nuisance conditions like excessive vegetation overgrowth and vegetation that encroaches upon sidewalks and streets,” he wrote. “Where adopted, the legislation has been effective in reducing the nuisances and public health hazards created by biting, stinging and jumping insects, increased pollen litter and harborage for rodents and the vast number of predators that prey on them.”

“Arlington’s Condition of Private Property Ordinance limits the height of grass or lawn areas to not more than 12 inch height, a limit consistent with international standards used to control vector related pest issues,” Greene added. “Our investigation of the complaint at the address provided, affirmed overgrowth in excess of five feet, vegetation encroaching onto the sidewalk and even extended onto county property immediately adjacent to the private parcel.”

Long story short: Brent’s personal Garden of Eden could be an inviting home for a bunch of bad critters, and that’s why the county is on her case.

“The enforcement is not arbitrary or onerous, but it is equitable to ensure public health; and yes, there are considerations for cultivated areas,” said Greene. (Similar enforcement has taken place elsewhere in the county.)

“The County’s issue is public health, not manicured lawns,” he said.

Brent, for her part, is left to wonder why the enforcement is taking place now, even though her yard has been chock full of vegetation for a decade. As far as wildlife, she said the yard is primarily home to chipmunks, rabbits and birds — critters that aren’t going to harm humans.

“My neighbors are all up in arms, they’re so upset,” Brent said. “The situation has been surreal to say the least.”

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Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Sprout founder Rebecca CarpenterRebecca Carpenter had been cultivating organic vegetables on her Arlington patio for more than a decade before she considered turning her growing hobby into a career.

“In the past few years, I got my Master Gardener certification and I began helping friends and family with their gardens,” Carpenter said. “At some point, people started telling me that I should do this for a living, and at first I just chuckled at the idea, but eventually I allowed the idea to percolate and I decided there was merit to it.”

And so Carpenter founded Sprout, an Arlington startup that helps other Arlingtonians realize their dreams of the perfect backyard garden. But simple gardening isn’t the only purpose on Carpenter’s radar.

“As a business woman who also strives to serve a higher purpose with my life, it was important to me to structure Sprout as a benefit corporation,” Carpenter said. “This means that we’re a for-profit business with a mission to make a positive social impact. We have a triple bottom line — that means that we measure our success not just by profit, but [also] by our impact on people and planet as well.”

Sprout’s most popular offering is its backyard organic vegetable garden service.

“There are so many people who want to grow their own organic veggies and herbs, but they either don’t have the time or the know-how to do it themselves,” Carpenter said. This leads them to Sprout. “We build the beds, amend the soil, create a garden map, and sow the plants. We then come back once a month for six months to make sure the garden is thriving, and to transfer our knowledge to our clients.”

Each garden is custom-made, depending on the size, space and other factors. In addition, Carpenter said Sprout will work with clients to ensure that the services work within their budget. The company also offers coaching for people who want to do the labor themselves.

In fact, the company’s goal is to help customers feel comfortable growing their own produce, with the hope that they eventually become independent in their gardening endeavors, Carpenter said.

“We believe that the more people who grow and eat local organic produce, the healthier our community and the Earth will be,” she added.

Other services that Sprout offers include corporate services and cooking parties for individuals. And even more offerings are on the horizon.

“We’re testing several new revenue streams, which will help Sprout to grow beyond the DC area and to develop a national presence,” Carpenter said. “Our goal is to become the first national garden-to-kitchen consumer brand, so we’re actively and strategically pursuing options to make that happen,” including online education, mobile applications and products. “We’re very excited about the possibilities, and we’re looking forward to talking with potential partners and investors in the near future to help us scale the Sprout brand,” she added.

But as the company grows, Carpenter says it will continue to stay true to its roots.

“Arlington provides the perfect client base for Sprout — there is an intense clustering of people who understand the importance of healthy living, and they want to eat local/organic, but they don’t have a lot of space or time to grow their own organic food,” she said, adding, “This is our ideal audience, so we’ve found a wonderful base of clients here.

“I couldn’t imagine basing Sprout anywhere else, and I intend to keep Sprout headquartered in Arlington even as we grow to become a national brand.”

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A garden in front of a Columbia Forest home is center of a debate between the county’s Department of Environmental Services and a local resident.

Maraea Harris created a Change.org petition to save her garden, which is planted on a hellstrip, the piece of land between a sidewalk and the road. It all started when a county official told Harris to remove the garden because it violated the county’s weed ordinance due to the plants’ heights, she said.

“Rather than work with me to create a workable solution while maintaining the environmental value and beauty of the space, the only option I was given was to make it grass or mulch,” Harris said on the petition.

Harris appealed the county’s decision. Yesterday, someone in the county manager’s office informed her that the county will postpone the removal of the garden until it can discuss the case internally, she said.

The county reached out to Harris after receiving a complaint that the garden made the sidewalk — located along a dead end portion of S. Buchanan Street — inaccessible for handicapped people, said Luis Araya, a county official with the Department of Environmental Services.

“A DES inspector contacted the owner of the residence and asked them to remove these items from the public street right-of-way as they created a hazard to public safety and were unauthorized use of the public right-of-way,” Araya said. “The county does not allow such uses to the public.”

According to the Arlington County Garbage, Refuse and Weed Ordinance, weeds and grass have to be one foot tall or less. The ordinance does not specifically mention whether flowers can be planted in the public right of way.

“The purpose of grass strips that exist between the curb and sidewalk on public streets are to accommodate street lights, water meters, street signs and other infrastructure-associated items maintained by the County and private utility companies,” Araya said.

Residents must also keep all vegetation off of sidewalk and the road in order to prevent safety hazards. Harris’ garden was becoming dangerous, Araya said.

“There are many potential safety hazards that the public can encounter in unauthorized landscaped areas in the public right-of-way such as tripping hazards, visibility issues for vehicles, narrower sidewalks limiting the width of ADA clearances for wheelchairs and, in this particular location, bee stings,” he said.

Harris said that she had no problem adjusting her garden to make the sidewalk more handicap accessible. However, she did not want to completely remove the garden, which brings butterflies and other insects to the neighborhood.

“It is a small space but there is more life in the 4 x 20 ft. space than all the neighborhood grass lawns combined,” she said on the petition.

Despite the one complaint from a neighbor, Harris said most people on S. Buchanan Street enjoy the garden. As of today, 53 people had signed the petition for the garden, including some of Harris’ neighbors.

“They like to have it because their kids walk by it to what’s in it and what’s growing,” she said.

As a gardener, Harris said it is frustrating that the county has many pollination and environmental efforts, but they want to mow over her garden hellstrip garden and others like it. Helping residents understand the guidelines and working toward a compromise over the hellstrips would be more beneficial, she said.

“Instead of coming after them, why not support them?” Harris said.

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Morning Notes

Planes at Reagan National Airport (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Pasha Cafe Changes Name — Pasha Cafe, at 3911 Lee Highway, has changed its name to Bistro 29. Owner Bill Hamrock tells ARLnow.com that “75% of the menu is the same,” but there have been some changes. “Some of our new items include: Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp ‘Tempura,’ Shrimp and Crab Potstickers, Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Balsamic Glazed Chicken and a Grilled Chicken Salad with Fried Brie and Mango Buttermilk Vinaigrette.” [Bistro 29]

Cigar Connection Closes — The Cigar Connection store across from the Ballston Metro station has closed after 12 years in business. [Facebook]

Garden Tool Lending Starts Wednesday — Arlington Public Library will restart its garden tool lending program for the season tomorrow, March 11. The program allows Arlington County residents with a library card to borrow gardening tools from Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street). The library says it’s the only such program in the D.C. region. [Arlington Public Library]

Celebrity Spotting in Ballston — Dancing With the Stars champion Julianne Hough and her boyfriend, Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich, were spotted grabbing a bite to eat at A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston over the weekend. We’re told the couple arrived after the Caps beat the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night.

Arlington Startup Gets Acquired — Veenome, an Arlington-based tech startup, has been acquired by New York-based Integral Ad Science. Veenome’s software analyzes video content on web sites on behalf of advertisers. [Washington Business Journal]

Police Pose for Breakfast Club Scene — Five Arlington County school resource officers recreated an iconic scene from the movie The Breakfast Club, as part of a recruiting campaign for the police department. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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The community garden on S. Four Mile Run Drive will grow by almost 10,000 square feet, giving space for 40 new gardeners to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the garden’s expansion, entering into agreements with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — which owns the land — and Dominion Power, which runs power lines above where the garden expansion will be.

“What a great example of thinking outside the box to find solutions,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “This is a win-win for everyone. Not only will the County be able to provide more garden plots, the space is currently overrun with invasive plants, which will be removed when the garden is built by Parks and Recreation staff.”

The expansion will tack on 9,900 square feet to the garden, which is directly adjacent to the W&OD Trail, and across the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The garden will be on the NVRPA’s land, and as part of the agreement, if the park authority deems it needs the space, or the garden is encroaching too much on trail users, it can terminate the agreement with 60 days’ notice. The county is responsible for maintaining the garden, and the gardens are each run by a community association and an appointed “chief gardener.”

The expansion will add space to help whittle down the ever-expanding waiting list of gardeners hoping to use county space to grow their plants, a recommendation of the Urban Agriculture Task Force. According to the county, there are about 350 people on waiting lists for plots and half-plots of space at one of Arlington’s seven community gardens.

One plot costs $60 a year with water and $50 without water. The expansion will bring the total number of plots in county gardens to 265. Full 20-foot-by-20-foot plots are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and those interested in joining the waiting list can apply online.

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Morning Notes

Aerial view of Arlington from a Delta flight (Photo courtesy @dcaman)

Election Day in Arlington — Voting started at 6:00 a.m. this morning and will continue through 7:00 p.m. There are 52 voting precincts in Arlington. Virginia voters must provide a photo ID when they go to the polls. [Arlington County]

State Honors for Pike Affordable Housing — Arlington County has won two state awards for its plan to preserve affordable housing along Columbia Pike. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe lauded the county’s affordable housing and transit plan for the Pike. “Arlington’s Columbia Pike Planning Initiative provides a vision for transforming the Pike by improving transit, preserving affordable housing and creating great public spaces,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “At the heart of this plan is a modern streetcar that will spur high-quality development along this vital corridor and generate new tax revenues for Arlington, Fairfax and the Commonwealth.” [Arlington County]

Local Singer Wins ‘Arlington’s Got Talent’Teague del la Plaine, a local singer, won the annual Arlington’s Got Talent competition last week. Travis Tucker, a pop-funk and R&B singer, placed second and Euphonism, an a cappella group, placed third. [Leadership Arlington, InsideNova]

Growing Season Is Over — There will be no more frost advisories and freeze warnings this year. The National Weather Service has officially declared the growing season over for the D.C. area. [National Weather Service]

Photo courtesy @dcaman

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The three winners out of 16 entries to Rock Spring Garden Club’s  2014″Garden of the Year” were announced last week. The winners, pictured above, mix natural beauty with sustainability in their backyard gardens.

“We are so thrilled to win!” first place gardener Mary Jennings told ARLnow.com. “I love that the garden gets some exposure and might encourage others to think of big ways to transform our Arlington outdoor living spaces to be enjoyable and conservation-minded.”

Jennings, a gardener for 20 years and art teacher at Salamander Resort in Middleburg, has an underground rain water collector in her garden. She said her husband installed the rain garden because it catches overflow from their koi pond and keeps water away from their home with a series of buried downspouts.

Susan Murnane, the second place winner and director of training for the AIG’s environmental division, also re-purposed items to create a greener garden. Murnane said she reused bulbs and stone slabs found in the lot undergoing construction behind her house.

“I remember as a little kid making clover tiaras or crowns and now we live in a world where you can’t step in the grass,” said Murnane, who plans to certify her garden as a monarch waystation.

Although none of the three winners are official Rock Spring Garden Club members, each said they appreciated the recognition and camaraderie.

“I might take one Thursday off a month and go to a meeting for people whose finger nails look like mine,” joked Murnane.

Judy and Raoul Wientzen, the third place winners, utilize rain water in their garden as well. The rain water collects in a re-purposed barrel from when Raoul made his own wine, and they use it to water their plants and vegetables, according to Judy.

“We were delighted to win third place,” Judy Wientzen told ARLnow.com in an email. Wientzen, an interior designer for Bevacqua/Wientzen Associates, said she enjoys the seclusion of her garden created by the mature azaleas and oak trees. But she has more avant-garde plant life in mind for future competitions.

“All the plantings, while pretty, are pretty standard items,” said Wientzen of her garden. “We hope to add in some specimens that are a bit more unusual in the future.”

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