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Go native! That’s the advice from Tom Brightman, Land Steward Specialist, who recommends choosing native plants for your garden as a simple, cost-effective way to help the environment.
“The term ‘native’ can be defined in several ways, but for our geographic area in Kennett Square, selecting species from the ‘Southeastern Pennsylvania Piedmont’ is a good starting place,” says Brightman. “These plants provide habitat for beneficial insects that are the primary diet of young birds in the spring and summer, nectar for pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds, and fruits for fall migrating birds. In snowy weather, native plants may be the only source of food for birds. One day this winter, our winterberry and holly (Ilex verticullata) bank here at Longwood had over five hundred robbins feeding on it.”
Install native plants in approriate conditions, and the plants will need little, if any, supplemental watering once established—saving money and time for homeowners. Since the plants are well-suited to local conditions, they thrive and are resistant to disease. In addition to their practical assets, native plants often provide lovely flowers and fall color. “You can select cultivars for their flowers and foliage,” says Brightman, “although the species are often better for wildlife use.”
Many native plants, including trees such as white oak (Quercus alba) and red oak (Quercus rubra); shrubs like Maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) and Swamphaw viburnum (Viburnum nudum); and herbaceous plants like Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) are good options for local garden and landscape plantings.
Brightman recommends these resources for anyone interested in native plants:
“What goes around, comes around,” might well be the motto for recycling at Longwood Gardens’ restaurant. From efficient energy consumption to the use of compostable materials to food waste recycling, the restaurant is committed to moving in the direction of zero waste.
One visible manifestation of this effort can be seen at the restaurant entrance. Last year the wonderful plant display containers outside the restaurant had soil mix that was made with thirty percent food waste compost. Plant Health Care Leader Casey Sclar explains that unutilized food from the restaurant goes to Longwood’s composting facility. “It’s then mixed with wood chips and horse manure from local farms,” says Sclar, “which eventually results in a great compost product that is used here on the site in the gardens and conservatories. We also use it as a soil amendment on Longwood’s meadows and in other places.”
Longwood’s Terrace Restaurant works hard in its quest for sustainability. Food waste from meal preparation (pre-consumer) and uneaten items (post-consumer) is composted. Drink cups, soup containers, and lids are made from compostable materials; many other offered items are in recyclable forms. Passholders will notice that the old trash cans have been replaced by bins in which items are sorted for recycling, composting, or cleaning.
A unique opportunity is the use of produce in the restaurant that is grown on site or sourced locally. “We are really trying to reduce the amount of miles that our food travels to reduce our carbon footprint and offer the freshest food to our Guests,” says Tijs Wolters, General Manager of the Terrace. Executive Chef Joe Labombarda adds, “We love the fact that the food is grown here. and that allows us to be creative with whatever is at its best that day to bring it to the table.”
“We work with a local recycler to make sure our materials don’t end up in a landfill,” adds John Rhoads, Longwood’s Facilities Manager. “Almost anything that the restaurant generates—paper, cardboard, glass, metals, plastic—we can recycle. From August through December, 2009, we recycled twelve tons of materials. That’s a huge amount that’s diverted, and we hope to dramatically increase that.”
Rhoads has been gratified by the public response. “Our Passholders are excited to be contributing to our efforts,” says Rhoads, “and thrilled that Longwood Gardens is taking steps toward sustainability.”
Staff members are well-educated on “what goes where,” whether it’s in the public part of the restaurant or the back of the house. For example, they know that plastic trash bags have to be opened and the contents emptied into the bins. (This might not be an issue for long, though, because Longwood is experimenting with biodegradable bags.)
The future holds even more promise. “One of the really exciting things just beginning is the restaurant’s effort to become certified by the Green Restaurant Association,” says Sclar. That organization looks not just at waste reduction and recycling, but also at water efficiency, sustainable furnishings and building materials, the food itself (whether it is local, fair trade, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free, free-range, etc.), reduction of chemical use and pollution, and energy use. “Official certification will be months down the road,” says Sclar. “But our focus is on continuous improvement and environmental sensitivity.”
John Rhoads also hints that there is more to come. “We have plans to put a lot of new programming in place, and will share it with Passholders as it comes online. We’re in the middle phase of a period of tremendous growth,” he says. “Visitors will be very pleased with what they’ll see. Stay tuned!”
For more information regarding Longwood’s sustainability programs, check out http://www.longwoodgardens.org/SustainabilityatLongwood.html. You can learn about the Green Restaurant Association and its certification requirements at http://www.dinegreen.com/.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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