The 2022 garden contest is on!
Native gardens are blossoming across Towson. We know so because of the Green Towson Alliance's wildly popular native garden contest. Last year's first effort drew many entries and connected gardeners across Towson. I had the chance to visit several of the gardens, here, here and here, so much fun and inspiration galore!
A couple of things connected these very different gardens together. Each, whether in the back of row home on a narrower lot or a single family home on a wider lot, had a comfy space for sitting in and amongst the garden. One of the fun things about gardening with native plants is your garden comes more alive the more native plants you add. Having a place to sit and immerse yourself in it is one of the true pleasures of this endeavor.
A plant in common? All grow rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida), the Maryland state flower. Yes, it is common but what a powerhouse! Early to green up, blooms July through September and then, those seed heads feed birds through the winter. It spreads on its own. It really needs no care. Grows in sun or part shade. It's a great place to start. Why a contest? This was all a seed of an idea by Patty Mochel, a savvy media specialist by profession, and now a Doug Tallamy convert to native plants. Patty has always gardened. In her twenties she grew vegetables. She became a master gardener and added many trees, shrubs and flowers to her garden, always immensely enjoying it.
It was in 2019, it hit her. All of her favorites were ornamental plants. Listening to a talk by author Doug Tallamy prompted her aha moment,. She realized her garden could be so much more. With one and a half acres, she knew she had to do it -- repopulate her garden with natives. She started the way Doug Tallamy would want us all to, by planting native trees and shrubs.
Her favorites? The violets (Viola sororia) that have persistently grown in her lawn and now create a carpet of purple and white each April. Cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), which creates an impressive wall of yellow daisy-like flowers in late summer - last year, she spotted goldfinches clinging to the tops of the plants, swinging in the breeze and snacking on seeds. Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) - such a lovely shade of lavender, and it can re-bloom if it's deadheaded. Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), a favorite of hummingbirds, which continues to send up flower stalks into late summer. As Patty gardened, the ideas just kept coming. Doug Tallamy, with the University of Delaware's Entomology and Wildlife Ecology Department, urges us to think of our gardens as part of a larger, critical web of habitat. He thinks big. His dream is to knit together a series of our backyards where half of the lawn is converted to a garden with native plants. If we do that, he says we can create a habitat larger than all of our National Parks put together - 20 million acres. Patty was motivated. She quickly found enthusiasts through the Green Towson Alliance. The first year of the garden contest was successful beyond their wildest dreams. Gardeners, new and veteran, collaborated, shared ideas and participated. Check out photos of participant's gardens here.
This year's contest opens June 13th. If you live in Towson, you can participate with a garden, a single garden bed or even an aspiration! If you live outside of Towson, prepare to be inspired. Also on tap -- a line of Tik Tok videos and trading cards for native plants. Go Patty go!