Everyday Gardeners

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edible gardens

Edible Garden Tour Lesson

Buckwheat grows next to asparagus at the Food at First community garden in Ames, Iowa.

Buckwheat possesses a dainty charm, its frothy white blossoms buzzing with bees above its kelly-green leaves. And buckwheat makes an excellent cover crop in the veggie patch once you’ve harvested your early-summer lettuce and peas.  Just a little interesting discovery I learned last weekend during the second annual Edible Garden Tour in Ames, Iowa.  The garden tour involved eight different gardens (both community and residential) scattered across town.

I had gone to reap a few ideas for my own front-yard garden. Along the way I met people passionate about edible gardening, sustainable agriculture and community involvement. I also found pretty, red-stemmed okra and masses of rudbeckia luring beneficial insects into the garden. I found tomato plants heavy with fruit and blueberries just starting to turn red.

Garden tours serve as wonderful motivators to try something different,such as cover crops to add nitrogen to your soil and suppress weeds. Which is exactly what I will do, before it’s too late in the season.

Rudbeckia swarms with beneficial insects in this lush residential edible garden.

Food at First grows, collects and redistributes food items to those in need in Ames, Iowa.

Five fantastic gardens in Asheville

Most people associate Asheville, NC with the Biltmore Estate and gorgeous mountain scenery. But dig a bit deeper into the gardening scene there, and you’ll find much more to appreciate. During a recent visit I saw numerous edible gardens tucked into city rights-of-way, next door to restaurants, such as the Sunny Point Cafe, and in residential areas, including the well-tended garden of Nan Chase, author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Bark House Style. I also saw too many pretty landscapes to mention them all, but I’d like to share images from five of them here.

It’s easy to see how the WhiteGate Inn & Cottage received a Top-10 Romantic Getaway rating from The property, located within walking distance of downtown Asheville, includes a collection of guest suites and a separate cottage surrounded by gardens laced with paths that invite exploration. And, no, I didn’t stay there on this trip. But I’d love to get the full experience during a future trip to the city.

A double waterfall adds alluring sound and motion at the base of a small stream flowing through the property.

Atlas bears an armillary sphere in one of the gardens at WhiteGate Inn and Cottage.

If you appreciate formal display gardens, have a hankering for bonsai, or like to hike woodland trails, the North Carolina Arboretum is the place to go. From the fully-functional rain garden next to the main garden entrance to the 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of trails, you’re sure to find something to love.

The quilt garden had just recently been planted, so the pattern of colors was just beginning to show.

This sculpture, entitled "Oh Great Spirit", is a focal point in one of the formal gardens at the North Carolina Arboretum.

Christopher Mello combines plants with purple foliage, rusted ironwork (including a central stockade of rusted shovels surrounding a collection of Tonka toys), and a twist on on the Southern garden staple bottle tree into an eclectic mix that showcases his unique style.

Purple smoketree limbs display cobalt blue and kelly green bottles.

Succulents and stones combine beautifully with a rusted iron trough on a pedestal in Christopher Mello's West Asheville garden.

Wamboldtopia, the home and garden of Damaris and Ricki Pierce features extensive rock work and surprising details tucked in throughout the garden.

How do you disguise an ugly chain link fence? Damaris and Ricki decided to convert it into a stucco and stone arcade.

Look closely throughout the landscape at Wamboltopia to find whimsical portals with a gothic touch.

In the hills overlooking Asheville, Peter and Jasmin Gentling have carved out a relaxing garden retreat with an amazing history and collection of unique plants.

Natural stone steps carved into the hillside provide a meandering means of reaching the hilltop home.

A simple, rustic gate leads to a moss-covered path through the woods in the Gentling garden.

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