Stella Otto: The Backyard Fruit Gardener

Today's Tip: Mow vegetation short around the base of fruit trees and bushes to reduce winter habitat for rodents.

Revolutionary Idea, Revolutionary Gardens

I just choose to spend 3 of the most gor­geous fall weather days.…..inside. Yes, inside. Why on earth would any gar­dener in their right mind want to do that when we all know these per­fect days of the sea­son are num­bered? It was pos­si­bly a rev­o­lu­tion­ary idea, a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Gar­dens con­fer­ence to be precise.

Andrea Wulf and Peter Hatch enjoy a relaxing break during the Revolutionary Gardens conference

Andrea Wulf and Peter Hatch enjoy a relax­ing break dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Gar­dens conference

Our rel­a­tively small, rural envi­rons is finally going to have it’s very own local botanic gar­den! Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Gar­dens was the fund-raiser for phase 2. The pro­gram brought together 3 great gar­den­ers, gar­den author his­to­ri­ans, and land­scape archi­tects — Peter Hatch, Direc­tor of Gar­dens and Grounds Emer­i­tus, of Mon­ti­cello; Andrea Wulf, author of The Brother Gar­den­ers and Found­ing Gar­den­ers; and War­ren Byrd, noted land­scape archi­tect; in one scenic venue to  hear some fab­u­lous pre­sen­ta­tions on the his­tory and future of gar­den­ing. They shared their insights and vision on gar­dens and gar­den­ing as the sus­tain­ing force in our coun­try. Their pre­sen­ta­tions were inspir­ing and ener­giz­ing! If you ever get a chance to hear a pre­sen­ta­tion by these won­der­ful speak­ers, Do It!

On a more detailed level, it was fun to hear Peter Hatch point out that prior to the 1850s gar­den­ing was syn­ony­mous with fruit gar­den­ing. Gar­den­ers grew fruit, to drink it; mainly as cyder and perry. It was a sig­nif­i­cant point when peo­ple actu­ally started eat­ing their fruit.  For me it was encour­age­ment to con­tinue to pro­mote fruit grow­ing as a vital part of gar­den­ing in our cur­rent times.

It was amus­ing to have Andrea Wulf show a slide of a large manure/compost pile and point out that in the days of the found­ing fathers, it was one of their most val­ued pos­ses­sions; to the extend of one-upping each other over who had the best pile. It was com­i­cal to hear her relate that John Adams was reputed to have jumped out of a car­riage as he passed by a road­side pile of a com­pa­triot, pull straw from the pile, and pro­claim his own pile to be far supe­rior to the one in front of him. Keep com­post­ing folks! It’s the life blood of a good garden.

War­ren Byrd’s vision of sus­tain­abil­ity and how he con­sid­ers a site before mold­ing a land­scape plan is impor­tant for all of us to keep in mind. It’s nei­ther nice nor wise to work against “Mother Nature.” We will all ben­e­fit far more in respect­ing and work­ing with her.

This con­fer­ence was as invig­o­rat­ing as the smell of fresh soil after spring’s first good thun­der shower. It pro­vided valu­able take-home lessons and reawak­ened for me some gar­den ideas and per­sonal plans that have been a bit on the back burner. I’m so glad I had the chance to participate!