Ecosystem: Through Gaian-Colored Lenses by Leigh Glenn

No matter the season, life always seems to want more life, especially as we observe it in other species. The beautyberry in our front yard outside Annapolis is one example. It appears dormant late into spring, even after a good pruning. By mid to late summer, it’s magenta berries, bright against brilliant green leaves, are a wonder to behold. Through winter, robins and cedar waxwings balance, sometimes precariously, on its stems and devour the dried berries. And then before I know it, it’s time to prune again.

All species cycle through birth-death-rebirth as they work to sustain themselves, reproduce and rest. In contrast, human technologies and cultural artifacts — from language to money — have erected a barrier between us and these cycles and the systems they represent. But the barrier is an illusion. Our lives depend upon the consistent functioning of these systems. What will it take for us to respect these cycles and behave as part of these systems? To appreciate our powers of observation and our creativity, to cultivate our innate biophilia?

I felt relieved last month when Maryland legislators and Gov. Larry Hogan supported the ban on the unconventional gas extraction method known as fracking, short for hydrofracturing. My fellow Marylanders out west, who stood to make money off gas leases, were not wrong for wanting to do so. But like all of us in a variety of ways, they still operate under a dying story — the story of infinite growth, in which we constantly trade the living (the natural world) for the dead (money).

If I have any worldview, it’s a Gaian one. The Gaia Theory, now Gaia Paradigm, was developed by NASA researcher and chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the late microbiologist Lynn Margulis. The science of Gaia demonstrates that Earth is a self-regulating, complex, non-linear, emergent system — emergent in the philosophical definition of the word, describing a property that is more than a sum of its parts. No single entity coordinates the multiple actions required to maintain homeostasis that is conducive to life on this planet. The emergent property of homeostasis cannot be reduced to the aspects that created it and now sustain it. More simply, Gaia reaffirms what many indigenous people have long understood — everything is connected.

Today, humans are the wild card in this system because of the enormous scales at which we operate — from fracking, which is spreading around the globe, to our vast factory farms, from our dams to the huge amounts of waste we all generate. We’re at a crossroads: The story of infinite growth is collapsing under the weight of living realities. It’s time for a new story — one rooted in the principles of earth systems science, Gaian science.

“The motivating story of ‘growth for growth’s sake’ is a losing proposition for humanity,” says Martin Ogle, former chief naturalist for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and founder of Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC, based in Colorado. “We need a completely new underlying story,” says this long-time proponent of the Gaia Paradigm, “[a story] that reflects that we are a seamless continuum of Earth’s living system, not disconnected beings on a rock transforming that rock to our satisfaction.”

But what does this new story require?

For starters, we need to understand the story we’re outgrowing, which portrays each of us as a discrete being, separate from everything else and acting only in our own interest. The idea that we’re separate is what allows us to frack, to decapitate mountains hundreds of millions of years old, to clear-cut communities of trees, to spray herbicides and pesticides without thought.

We also need to vigorously examine our core fears: fear of abandonment, of not having “enough,” of death. In trying to outrun these fears rather than work with them, we often create more of the same — more comparing ourselves with others, questioning whether we are “good enough,” and continuing to live small instead of realizing that each of us, just like snowflakes, clover leaves and redbud blossoms, is unique. We each have something to offer that is beyond ourselves and beyond our wildest dreams — if we permit ourselves to dream and not act according to some old script.

Our converging calamities confirm that we are connected to what brought us to life and sustains us. We share DNA with myriad others and many of the building blocks of our physical selves are the same elements that make up Earth. When we intervene in those systems, modify them to suit our purposes, we deprive ourselves of access to clean air, clean water and healthy soils. But the harms go beyond the physical, whether we want to admit it or not. Our biophilia — our innate love of life, of living things — takes a direct beating and can easily lead to despair. Then we reach for distractions that keep the infinite-growth story in place.

If the Gaia Paradigm is to be read closely, yet metaphorically, then fracking is like drilling a hole in one’s body and injecting chemicals. How long and how much of that could a body sustain before getting sick and dying? Earth is vast, but it’s not immune to our perturbations. We humans need to mature. Our continued existence depends upon our growing up.

Which leads me to this: The new story can be a beautiful one — abundant, fulfilling, allowing us to grow into our best selves. How do we see ourselves in this story? In truly accepting that we are an aspect of Gaia — that there is expansion, not diminishment, in this — and in working with our fears, what great things might we achieve?

We may need look only as far as our front yard for ideas. When pruning the beautyberry recently, I found a welcome oddity: A side stem had broken during the winter, but stayed connected to the shrub. It had coppiced itself, taking root in the narrow mulch path next to the plant. How might we coppice the best of ourselves?

Leigh Glenn is a freelance writer, hooking artist, permaculture practitioner and herbalist based in Annapolis, MD.

CBHS to Hear About New Plants for 2017

Stephanie Wooton of Unity Nursery will present some of the new plants for 2017 at the April 20 meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society.  She will also try to help identify problems for people who bring samples from their gardens.

Ms. Wooton, a CBHS member, currently works at the Church Hill nursery.  She worked at Garden Treasures in Easton for 17 years before moving to Unity.

Wooton was born in Germany and spent her youth in many countries due to her father’s diplomatic career.  She obtained a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin before moving east where she married and raised two sons.  Working at a garden center in Frederick led her to pursue her horticulture degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.  When she gets home from work these days, she says she continues to “play (toil!) in my own garden with two (un)helpful cats.”

The society usually meets the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Christ Church, 111 S. Harrison Street, Easton.  Meetings include an herbal potluck dinner, a short business meeting and a presentation on an herb-related topic.  The theme for the April dinner is herbs associated with the zodiac sign Aries.

CBHS was formed in 2002 to share knowledge of herbs with the local community.  The group maintains the herb garden at Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

For more information, call (410) 827-5434 or visit www.ChesapeakeBayHerbSociety.org.

Adkins Arboretum Announces Spring Open House, Native Plant Sale

Adkins Arboretum, offering the Chesapeake gardener the largest selection of native plants for more than 20 years, announces its Spring Open House & Native Plant Sale weekend, April 28-30. The sale benefits the Arboretum’s education programs and affords the public an opportunity to learn about the Delmarva’s native plants and their connection to a healthy Chesapeake Bay.

Plants for sale include a large variety of native perennials, ferns, vines, grasses and flowering shrubs and trees for spring planting. Native flowers and trees provide food and habitat for wildlife and make colorful additions to home landscapes, whether in a perennial border, a woodland garden or a restoration project. Tall spikes of purplish flowers grace blue wild indigo, while native honeysuckle entices hummingbirds. Cardinal flower, ferns and Joe-pye attract frogs, butterflies and dragonflies, and native azaleas present a veritable rainbow of bloom colors. Presale orders may be placed at adkinsplants.com through April 16. Simply place your order, and your plants will be ready for pick-up during the Open House weekend.

Native trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Photo by Kellen McCluskey.

All are invited on Fri., April 28 from 2 to 7 p.m. to shop in a fun and festive environment with live music, light fare, a silent auction, a cash wine and beer bar beginning at 4 p.m., and drawing of the winning ticket for the Arboretum’s Native Table raffle.

The Open House continues Sat. and Sun., April 29 and 30 with plant sales, music by Driven Women, guided walks, coffee, pastries for sale by Steve Konopelski of Denton’s Turnbridge Point Bed & Breakfast and much more. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Following the Open House, plants will be for sale at the Visitor’s Center throughout the growing season.

The Arboretum is a participating nursery in the Marylanders Plant Trees native tree discount program. For any native tree valued at $50 or more, shoppers will receive a $25 discount. Some of the special larger trees available for this discount include birch, dogwood, redbud and magnolia.

The Arboretum gift shop will be open during the Nursery Opening Day and will offer books and nature-inspired gifts for gardeners. Members receive a 10% discount on plant, gift shop and book purchases. Members at the Contributor level ($100) and above receive a 20% discount on plants.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum is the region’s resource for native plants and education programs about nature, ecology and wildlife conservation gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Learn About Soil Health with Dr. Sara Via at Adkins Arboretum

Microbes in the soil have a huge impact on how plants grow and react to stress situations. It’s a wild world down there, and some of the interactions will surprise you! Learn about the importance of soil health on Wed., March 22 when Dr. Sara Via presents Life Underground: Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy Planet at Adkins Arboretum.

Building and maintaining soil health is essential for food production, the conservation of forest and natural areas, and climate-resistant gardening, agriculture and forestry. Learn what healthy soil is, how to know if you have it, and how to build it if you don’t. A hands-on demonstration will follow Via’s talk.

The program runs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and is $15 for members, $20 for non-members. Advance registration is requested at adkinsarboretum.org.

Via is a professor of biology and entomology at University of Maryland, College Park. She is interested in the effects of climate change on agriculture and home gardening, biodiversity and human health. In association with University of Maryland Extension and Maryland Master Gardeners, she works with community groups, high schools and universities to increase awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and to motivate effective action to curb its rapid progression.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature, conservation and gardening. For more information, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Cambridge Alert – Yard Make-over at No Cost by CBF’s Alan Girard

Residents of Cambridge, this spring you can win an unusual prize: a yard make-over at no cost. And in the process you can help clean up the waters around the city, and the Chesapeake Bay. Oh, and everybody gets a free ‘rain barrel.’

The whole idea is the brainchild of the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee. The group wants to encourage practical, low-cost activities that can improve water quality in the city.

The process is simple. Interested residents must first attend a workshop that’s happening at the Dorchester County Public Library in Cambridge, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 22. You will receive information about what possible changes could be made in your yard that treat polluted runoff.

For instance, “rain gardens” are a type of beautiful garden that also soaks up rain running off your property. This is helpful because this runoff often contains pollution from the air or the landscape. The pollution usually ends up in local creeks. You won’t make any commitments at the workshops, just learn about possibilities for a make-over.

If you’re still interested, next you will receive a free visit after the workshop from a professional landscaper who will look at your yard, talk to you, and come up with ideas such as rain gardens, native plants, pavement removal and other possible modifications best suited for your yard.

You’ll pay nothing for the make-over if you are selected. Only five properties will be chosen in the first year of the two-year program. In the second year, financial support drops from 100 percent to 90 percent as a way to encourage early participation.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible to enroll. Those of limited means are particularly encouraged to step forward as the project is intended, in part, to respond to needs in underserved communities. A community survey accessible online here will further help reveal how much people know about water quality and ways to improve it. All survey respondents are eligible to enter to win a $40 Jimmie & Sooks Raw Bar and Grill gift card.

Pre-registration is required to attend the workshop on March 22nd. Each workshop participant will receive a free rain barrel and instructions on how to install it. For more information and to register, contact Hilary Gibson at 410-543-1999 or hgibson@cbf.org.

Fertilizers, soil, oil, grease and other contaminants run off private property when it rains. Until now, cities such as Cambridge have been left with the responsibility to deal with this problem. It’s difficult and expensive, especially to manage runoff from private property.

The work in Cambridge seeks to treat runoff before it becomes the city’s responsibility. Recognizing the burden of treating runoff once it reaches the city’s drainage system, the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee of private and public partners stepped in to try to demonstrate how runoff volumes and contaminants can be reduced before that point. Funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was awarded to pilot a program that offers homeowners and renters incentives to install native plantings, swales and other practices that naturally filter runoff on private property – minimizing runoff volumes and pollutants for the city to handle later.

Alan Girard is the director of the Maryland Eastern Shore Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Adkins Arboretum’s 2017 Juried Art Show on View through March 31

Playful, beautiful, zesty and often reverent, the artworks in Discovering the Native Landscapes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Adkins Arboretum’s eighteenth annual Juried Art Show, speak about the remarkable variety of ways we look at nature on the Eastern Shore. On view in the Arboretum Visitor’s Center through March 31, this show also brings together a remarkable variety of mediums, including acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, collage, photography, monoprint, etching, ceramics, stained glass, metal sculpture and dried plant materials.

P.BillinFrye.Chives

“Chives,” by Washington, D.C., artist Paige Billin-Frye

The show was juried by Katherine Markoski, Ph.D., Director of the Kohl Gallery and Lecturer in Art History at Washington College. Both she and the artists will be on hand for a reception from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 11 to talk with visitors about the work in the show.

From entries submitted by artists from Maryland, Virginia, New York and Washington, D.C., Markoski chose 31 works for this show.

I was thinking in terms of the strength of the work and how compelling the interpretation of the subject was,” she said. “It was interesting to me to include a range of media that demonstrates the many different ways that you could come at this particular topic.”

Markoski awarded the annual first-prize Leon Andrus Award, named in honor of the Arboretum’s first benefactor, to “Chives,” a large, close-up photograph of a chive blossom printed in soft, subtle shades of brown on Japanese kitikata paper by Washington artist Paige Billin-Frye.

“It’s like a meditation,” Markoski said. “I think it’s compelling how the delicacy of the paper it’s printed on underscores the delicacy of the image. The way it’s presented has an incredible amount to do with its strength. It’s almost a portrait, in a sense, and creates a direct conversation with this single flower that’s part of the natural world.”

Second prize was awarded to Easton artist Diane DuBois Mullaly’s “Sun Stream,” a tiny oil painting of a rising sun spilling its light over meadow flowers.

“There’s something optimistic about it,” Markoski explained. “You feel the sun pulsating. It feels like light, even as it’s definitely paint. I think it packs a strong punch for its size. It feels to me like there’s no way another scale would have been effective.”

Sun Stream

“Sun Stream,” by Easton artist Diane DuBois Mullaly

In keeping with her interest in showcasing a variety of mediums and approaches, Markoski chose a large wall sculpture and a colorful digital photograph to receive Honorable Mention awards.

The sculpture “Eclipse,” by Baltimore artist Marcia Wolfson Ray, is a virtual explosion of charred and broken pieces of pine whose jagged, curving forms are just barely contained within a series of 15 open “boxes” constructed from dried plants and hung in a grid.

Markoski said, “I like the way this rigid framing powerfully underscores the unruliness of the individual units themselves.”

Of the photograph, which Chestertown artist Richard Hall took by zooming in on the swirls of bright blue water and green algae flowing through the grasses in the Arboretum’s wetland, Markoski said, “The painterly quality of it is striking. It’s an interesting metaphor for the intermixing of materials in our waterways. You could read it as a potential source of beauty but also a harbinger of terrible things to come, so it makes you think, what’s the nature of that particular flow? I think this one is conceptually rich in terms of the questions it might elicit.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through March 31 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum is the region’s resource for native plants and education programs about nature, ecology and wildlife conservation gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Become a Master Gardener

master gardenerRegistration is now open for the 2017 Kent and Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener training. For anyone who would like to learn more about the environment, about gardening (both ornamental and vegetable) and who is interested in being involved in their community, this is the class to take.

The 9-week course will be held on Thursday evenings (5:30-8:30pm) and Saturday mornings (9am until noon) at Chesapeake College. Classes start on February 16th and end on April 15th.

The training covers topics such as ecology, botany, soils, propagation, pest and disease management, pruning, composting, growing fruits and vegetables, ornamental plants, weeds, alternatives to turf grass, invasive species, wetlands, wildlife, landscape design for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and much more. All classes are taught by professionals or professors from the University of Maryland. The cost of the program is $200 which includes handouts and the Maryland Master Gardener Handbook.

Upon completion of the course, trainees are asked to fulfil 40 hours of volunteer work in order to become a Master Gardener. “This may seem like a bit of a daunting task,” says Master Gardener Sabine Harvey. “However, we have so many projects lined up, that it is usually pretty easy to gather those 40 hours.” As an example, trainees can help at plant clinics, special event such the annual seed swap or tomato tasting event, they can help maintain demonstration gardens, work with schools or get involved in the Bay-wise program. In addition, current Master Gardeners will happily serve as mentors for the newly minted trainees.

For more information about the Maryland Master Gardener Program in general, please visit: http://extension.umd.edu/mastergardener/about-maryland-master-gardener-program

To register for the upcoming training please visit: http://extension.umd.edu/kent-county/horticulturegardening/become-master-gardener or contact Sabine Harvey, Horticulture Program Assistant, sharvey1@umd.edu, 410-778-1661

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer and Equal Access Programs.

Adkins Arboretum Offers Landscape Design Workshop Feb. 4

Register for Adkins Arboretum’s Landscape Design Workshop on Sat., Feb. 4, and learn how to transform your property into an attractive landscape with year-round interest and beauty.

Offered again by popular demand, this all-day workshop addresses typical challenges of homeowners in the Chesapeake Bay region. Three experienced landscape designers will lead this intensive planning session. Come with your challenges and dreams, and leave with a landscape plan, ideas and confidence to transform your home landscape for your enjoyment and pride.

landscapeWorkshop leaders are Meredith Watters, Jennifer Connoley and Michael Jensen. All three have more than 25 years’ experience in landscape design.

The workshop begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. The fee is $105 for Arboretum members, $130 for non-members and $165 for member couples. Advance registration is required. Register online at adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum is the region’s resource for native plants and education programs about nature, ecology and wildlife conservation gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Garden Club of the Eastern Shore Scholarship Applications

Graduating seniors attending high school in Talbot County and expecting to major in horticulture, landscape architecture or design, botany, environmental science, agriculture or a related field may be eligible for a scholarship of up to $4,500.00 from the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore (GCES). Scholarship applications are available from guidance counselors in all Talbot County high schools. They may also be obtained by calling Dorothy Whitcomb at 410-770-9035. Applications are due back to the guidance counselors’ offices by the close of school on April 3, 2017.

The GCES Scholarship is merit based. Outstanding academic achievement along with volunteer or work experience, which shows a strong work ethic and a commitment to excellence, will be considered when evaluating applications.

GCES President Samantha McCall says: “The Garden Club of the Eastern Shore has awarded 14 scholarships to Talbot County students since 1999. We are commitment to helping talented young people achieve their educational goals and are proud of previous recipients who have gone on to become teachers, researchers, landscape architects and designers, and environmental educators. They are all making important contributions both here on the Shore and in other parts of the country.”

The GCES is focused on promoting environmentally sound landscape practices and providing educational programs for the community that explore conservation practices and environmental issues. In addition to awarding its scholarship for the past 15 years, GCES spearheaded the restoration of Easton’s Thompson Park, which along with the garden at the Academy Art Museum, it also maintains.

For information about GCES programs or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please call Dorothy Whitcomb at 410-770-9035.

Adkins Arboretum Offers 2017 Botanical Art Series

Adkins Arboretum has announced a series of botanical art programs taught by artists Lee D’Zmura and Kelly Sverduk. Ranging from drawing to painting to working with colored pencil, the series engages beginning to experienced artists in capturing the natural world. Programs include:

Botanical Art: Watercolor I
Fri., Jan. 20 and 27, Feb. 3 and 10, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Watercolor is the traditional medium used in creating botanical art. This program taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on introducing basic watercolor techniques and color mixing using a limited palette. Class exercises and projects will provide participants with a fundamental understanding and mastery of those techniques.

Botanical Art: Watercolor II
Fri., March 3, 10, 17 and 24, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Kelly Sverduk will walk students through the process of completing a botanical painting using the techniques introduced in previous classes. Students will prepare a graphite study and then transform the drawing into a watercolor painting. Emphasis will be placed on composition, color mixing and watercolor.

Advanced Graphite
Fri., April 14, 21 and 28, 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Join Lee D’Zmura to improve your drawing skills. Working with your choice of subject, you’ll compete a botanical piece in pencil. Each class with include new techniques and individual critiques.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Paw Paw Flower
Fri., May 19 and 26, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Paint a branch and bloom from one of the Arboretum’s paw paw trees in this workshop taught by Kelly Sverduk. Instruction will focus on drawing, watercolor work and detail work of flower and leaves.

Butterflies and Insects Workshop
Fri., Sept. 8, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
This program taught by Lee D’Zmura introduces the techniques used to document a preserved butterfly or insect specimen. Each participant will receive an insect, draft a detailed drawing of that insect and complete the colored pencil study on Mylar film.

Paw Paw Fruit Workshop
Fri., Sept. 29, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Discover and paint a native fruit found on the Arboretum grounds. Join Kelly Sverduk to create a small botanical watercolor painting of this interesting and little-known fruit.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Host Plant
Fri. and Sat, Oct. 6 and 7, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
This course taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on the relationship between native pollinators and their host plants. Participants will create detailed drawings of their chosen subjects and then bring those drawings to life in watercolor.

D’Zmura is an award-winning botanical artist whose experience as a landscape architect enriches her watercolors. She received her certificate in botanical art from the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. Her work is in collections throughout the country. She maintains a studio in St. Michaels, where she draws inspiration from her neighbors’ gardens and from the Eastern Shore’s native wildflowers.

Sverduk specializes in watercolor and is passionate about making and teaching art. With a background in both art and natural sciences, she finds the field of botanical illustration to be a perfect combination of her interests. She holds a BA in studio art from Messiah College and a certificate in botanical art form the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. She lives with her family in Greenwood, Del.

Program fees vary, and advance registration is required. Register at adkinsarboretum.org or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.