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With spring in the air, people are heading to the garden center to buy some pretty flowers…but that impulse can lead us to make some expensive, non-eco-friendly choices, according to Roger Davis, senior gardener, and Harold Taylor, section gardener. Both men emphasize that doing some planning before that shopping trip is a simple way to conserve natural resources—and money.
“Plants in bloom are very tempting, and often that’s what sells,” Taylor says. “People buy them on a whim and then aren’t quite sure what to do with them when they get home. Or they see something new and interesting that’s stunning in a mass of plants at the nursery, but the one or two plants they purchase look lost and out of place at home.”
“It’s important to pick the right plant for the right spot,” says . “The better the plant suits the location, the less chance that it will be stressed with pest and disease issues. It will need less water and less fertilizer, and you’re more likely to be satisfied with it.”
The experts recommend these steps:
● Analyze your site. Determine whether the spot gets morning or afternoon sun, and which direction it faces. Examine the soil to see if it’s sandy or clay, dry or moist. Take surrounding plants into account; if you plant annuals under a tree, the leaves above may prevent summer rain from reaching the ground.
● Decide what characteristics you want in a plant. Are you looking for a perennial that flowers in spring? Something with winter interest? A plant that attracts hummingbirds? A plant that can tolerate drought?
● Turn to the Internet to help you narrow your search. Type in your planting-site specifics and your plant criteria, and voilà! A list of suitable choices will appear on the screen. Use that list to guide your plant purchases.
Taylor and Davis both advocate using native plants. “They are adapted to our region and don’t need a lot of extra water and input. Once you get them established, they pretty much do what they need to do,” explains. “They support the local ecosystem of insects, birds, and animals. And consider perennials. Have patience and you can divide them in a few years.”
Taylor concurs. “The nice thing about native plants is that they are more adaptable to a region,” he says, “and the success rate is usually better. Like any plants, they need water while they are getting established, but they require relatively little care after that. Gardening with native plants is a great way to support the ecosystem and increase biodiversity. ”
As for his favorites, “I’m a fan of American hollies,” says, “and the whole group of viburnums. Clethra alnifolia (summersweet clethra) is a beautiful shrub that takes part sun, part shade. Fothergilla gardenii (dwarf witch alder) has fragrant white blooms. People should also consider edible plants like raspberries, elderberries, or persimmons for shrub borders or privacy, and to support wildlife.”
Davis has this final observation: “It’s better have a few things that look good than a bunch that don’t.”
To learn about native plants that thrive in this area, visit http://www.iconservepa.org/NativePlants/NativePlantsSearch.aspx
Environmental stewardship at Longwood Gardens means reusing resources whenever possible. This standard applies to everything from plant containers to the stuff that gets flushed down the toilets.
“We treat all of the sewage, including from the village of Hamorton, for the Gardens,” says Dave Jones, operations supervisor. “This is our sixth year. Thankfully, we had the vision to say, ‘We use quite a bit of potable water here,’ which got us thinking about irrigating with effluent.”
The daily amount of treated water depends on the number of visitors. On an average day, 30,000-50,000 gallons are treated, while a busy day might see the facility process over 60,000 gallons.
Creating and implementing the waste treatment process was quite an undertaking. “It was very cutting-edge at that time, in the respect that the Department of Environmental Protection hadn’t seen a lot of those systems,” says Jones. “The permitting process alone took about two years.
“Once we got our permits, we had to do major construction,” he adds. “When we started, there were no pipes connecting the future system to the Gardens. The treatment plant is actually on the south side of the property behind the picnic area. We had to bore under Longwood Road to connect the pipes.”
Water that goes down the drain flows to the treatment plant. First, all solid waste is filtered out. Next, several more filters eliminate additional waste, using small amounts of chlorine and sodium carbonate. Once purified, the water is stored in a 9-million-gallon holding tank or goes directly for processing where it is dechlorinated, polymerized, adjusted for pH, filtered to remove solids and algae, and passed through an ultraviolet light. This renders it suitable for use throughout the Gardens and surrounding meadows.
“In summertime we use everything that comes through the plant,” explains Jones, “and we also draw off the reservoir.” The only area where treated water is not used for irrigation is in the Idea Garden.
“The big environmental savings is that we’re not pulling water out of the aquifer and depleting the groundwater,” Jones says. “I’ve been very happy with the system. It’s certainly a mark for our stewardship.
“We don’t tell people enough about what we’re doing with wastewater,” he adds, “and how clean and safe it is. Sometimes their first reaction is ‘Eww!’ but I personally would drink the water.”
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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