by Judy Funderburk, Certified Master Gardener
AutumnFest was celebrated in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, a Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia/Virginia Cooperative Extension (MGNV/VCE) demonstration garden in Arlington Virginia, with a feast of pumpkins, people, and plants. On Sunday, September 17th, a beautiful late-summer/fall day, Master Gardeners and Interns were delighted to welcome over 225 visitors.
The Patio Garden filled with folks trying new herbal tastes. Master Gardeners outdid themselves serving delicious drinks and tongue-tickling treats―lemongrass ginger tea, fennel crackers, sage-scented shortbread cookies, chocolate mint brownies―all created from seeds, leaves and bulbous stems grown in the Library Garden. “How-to” recipes were provided to encourage visitors to try adding more herbs to their own cooking and baking repertoires.
Everyone was smiling as they left the face painting table. A steady flow of children, and some adults, proudly showed off brightly-colored butterflies, flowers, hearts, and Star Wars figures on faces, arms, and hands.
Children and adults also gathered around the “Make an Herbal Sachet” table in the gazebo. Visitors chose brightly-colored fabrics and filled them with lavender, rose, lemon verbena, sweet Annie, or mixed herbs, picked and dried from the garden. Sachets were tied with colorful ribbon, all ready for taking scents from the garden home.
Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Bobbi Farley entertained all who gathered around her table with stories of Stumpy the box turtle, a very long and active black rat snake, and a hairy tarantula. Two black swallowtail caterpillars, gathered from the Library Garden’s fennel plants, were also on display.
Three hour-long mini-workshops were offered: Native Specimens in the Garden, Tool Time, and Dealing with Invasives. Master Gardener Henry Staples led participants through the Library Garden, sharing stories about the specific attributes of the native shrubs, trees, and perennials growing there. The “tool guy,” Joe Youcha, gave his listeners hands-on lessons on sharpening the tools they had brought. Examples of tools important to gardeners were shown, together with suggestions for their upkeep and safe use. Sarah Archer, Arlington County Invasive Species specialist, shared invasive plant specimens, helping visitors identify invasives growing throughout Arlington County. She gave tips on removal (different methods for different plants) and spoke about the plants the County is removing from our parks, inviting us to join other volunteers for Remove Invasive Plant (RIP) pulls to support removal.
Exotic pumpkins of all sizes, and hundreds of plants―small trees, shrubs, ferns, herbs, vegetables, and perennials―were available for purchase, just in time for fall planting and decorating. Specimens from Rhonda Stevenson’s nursery, Country Gardens, in Toms Brook, Virginia, filled the library parking lot. Master Gardeners were available all day to consult and answer questions for visitors in search of “right plant, right place.” The Master Gardener information tent provided soil sample kits and other information on gardening and planting in the mid-Atlantic region. Tree Stewards had a wealth of handouts related to best practices of tree cultivation and maintenance.
Your Library Demonstration Garden Coordinators were delighted with the turnout at AutumnFest, our once-a-year celebration of the fruits of the season! The strong presence of many neighbors and visitors, plus Master Gardeners and Interns, made it a very special day. We are grateful. This is indeed the season of thanksgiving.