Supporting Sustainable Living: Part Two

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

My efforts to establish native Indian pink, Spigelia marilandica, have really paid off.  Nevertheless, I covet this six-year-old stand at Chanticleer.

In my articles My Thanksgiving Oak Forest and Supporting Sustainable Living: Part One, I explained that sustainable living is very important to me, and I have supported it through planting and promoting native plants like the Indian pink pictured above, gardening organically, not watering, replenishing the soil, composting, eliminating lawn, and initiating and running an invasive plant removal program, among other activities.  I also explained that I am uniquely placed to have a wider impact through my interactions with gardeners at my nursery.

The check in table at the Conservancy event.  These young women came specifically to talk with the Lyme disease expert.

In my article Powered By Compost, I described a composting event to be held at my nursery sponsored by the Radnor Conservancy (dedicated to the preservation of open space) to raise township residents’ awareness of the magical powers of compost.  Reader response to this article was very high so I thought everyone might like to find out how the event went.  I also wanted to highlight my latest venture into sustainability–honeybees.

In Radnor Township where I live, we are blessed with the best free municipal compost in the whole area, if not the whole state of Pennsylvania.  The first station at the Conservancy event showed how to transport township compost to your home without renting a truck or messing up your car.  I thought their solution was very clever:

Event organizers demonstrate loading compost into a minivan.

The vehicle is protected from the compost by a blue tarp (how could we function without those?) attached to the side of the van with large orange wood clamps.

There was a lot of interest in the Conservancy’s method of transporting compost.

Two Master Gardeners from the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service were busy all day explaining composting using an outdoor bin and indoor composting with red worms.  They brought sample bins for attendees to explore:

Penn State Master Gardeners under the carport of our carriage house explaining bin composting.

My husband Michael was stationed in the manure pit profiled in Powered By CompostHe explained our laissez faire method of producing compost by piling up kitchen waste, leaves, and garden refuse in the pit and turning it about three times a year.  Participants were very interested:

Michael explains that composting does not have to be complicated to another set of interested attendees.

Michael has had Lyme disease seven times with serious long term implications for his health so the prevention information provided by Doug Fearn, president of the Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, was especially near and dear to my heart.  This is an unpublicized epidemic in the U.S. and should be taken very seriously:

Doug Fearn explaining various Lyme disease prevention techniques.

As promised, delicious refreshments of homemade brownies and chocolate chip cookies accompanied by mint iced tea were provided on my deck:

A fun and informative afternoon was had by all!

Trey Flemming from Two Gander Farm and the Bryn Mawr Farmer’s Market places the first hive at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.

The other “sustainable” event at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens lately was the arrival of the first hive of honeybees.  I have been trying unsuccessfully for quite a while to convince Michael that beekeeping was in his future.  Knowing when to pick up my marbles and go home, I switched my efforts to finding a local beekeeper who might want to place hives at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens.  This spring I sold plants at my town’s growers’ farmer’s market, the Bryn Mawr Farmer’s Market, and met Trey Flemming, a beekeeper and farmer from Two Gander Farm in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.

Trey demonstrates the docility of his bees.

I purchased some delicious honey that Trey produces from an invasive nonnative plant that I constantly battle, Japanese knotweed.  Having a quarter acre of this noxious invader, I thought Trey might be interested in placing some hives here, and he was.  This week the first of three hives arrived.  Trey will market this honey at the Bryn Mawr Farmer’s Market as local Bryn Mawr honey, and I will receive five pounds of honey and the gratification of supporting a local farmer: a win, win situation if there ever was one!

The bees crawl in and out of the hive and over Trey’s hand with their future nectar source, Japanese knotweed, in the foreground.

I am so thrilled to be given the opportunity to support the Radnor Conservancy, composting, and a local farmer.  It just takes the accumulation of small efforts by each of us to contribute to sustainable living in a big way.


Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my website’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed until it cools off in the fall around the middle of September.  If you are on my customer email list, look for an email.  If not, sign up by sending an email to with your name and phone number.

56 Responses to “Supporting Sustainable Living: Part Two”

  1. Carolyn, every time I read your blog, I wish I lived closer so I could visit your gardens and attend the events!

    The photo of Indian pink reminds me again of its beauty and that I must try to reestablish it in the garden …

    Ugh, knotweed. That is my nemesis at the Maine cottage. You came up with a creative solution with importing bees to make honey from it – bees do love it. I foolishly attempted to cut some of it back while in bloom and got two bee stings from defenders …

    • Sheila, Knotweed is my nemesis both here in PA and in Maine where it is one of the main plants we are trying to eliminate with the invasive plant program I started. In PA, we have successfully eliminated it by cutting it down, rototilling the area, removing all the roots we can find, and continuing to remove plants as they resprout. We also planted ostrich fern in it, and with a little help from us it outcompeted knotweed. Some people consider it invasive but it’s beautiful, native, and you can eat the fiddleheads. Carolyn

  2. Off to work this morning, but I had to read your post. I had my horses boarded in Fleetwood for a time. It is a nice community. It is wonderful you now have bees and someone to maintain them. The Radnor event looked like a real success and all had a learning experience and some fun.

  3. Carolyn, thanks for doing your part and for hosting this event. I’m sure it was a real blessing to you and Micheal. g.

  4. This looks like a great event, I wish I lived closer!

  5. NWPhilly Eric Says:

    What a delightful win-win situation……allowing your garden to be a home for the honeybees. I suspect there are more of these situations than one would imagine. I wonder if there’s something unique about gardens that fosters that sort of shared benefit. Having organized a garden tour this spring in Northwest Philadelphia, I realize that both the visitors and the hosts were excited by what the others offered. And when the hosts got together, there was yet more win-win bonus connections made!

  6. Very cool Carolyn,
    Love to hear about all the great initiatives in your garden and neck of the woods.

    • Heather, The honeybees aren’t native, but Trey and Two Gander Farm are :-). I know how hard it is being a farmer and feel privileged to join in Trey’s honey-making efforts. Besides it will be incredibly cool to use honey, which I love, from my own property. Carolyn

  7. Cynthia Kardon Says:

    HI Carolyn:

    I love honey bees!!! I know these guests will be very happy in your yard. In fact, I belong to the great sunflower project: It’s a great way to spend some time in the garden!!!!

  8. Congrats on a well done event at your nursery! It looks like fun. I too think Lyme disease is a big deal-all those tick bites can’t be good.

    How neat to have a local farmer have his hives at your place! That is the only kind of beekeeping I would want to do and 5 pounds of honey-delish! That knotweed has to be good for something:)

  9. oh my Carolyn free compost, I have been trying to find out what my local council does with the compost made from the waste people put into the council compost bins which are emptied fortnightly, without any luck, looks like you did all have a good time, chocolate chip cookies yum,
    japanese knotweed is an invasive over here too, good luck with your bees,
    I will have to think more about what I do as I have never really thought of things I do as sustainable but from what you are saying many of them are, I’m sustainable without knowing it, thanks, Frances

    • Frances, As a recent article pointed out to me very clearly, our parents and grandparents practiced sustainability without knowing it: one car per family, much less driving, no plastic, reusing everything, fresh groceries, etc. I am sure from reading your blog you are the same way. Less is more in so many senses. I am so sad to think of Japanese knotweed on your remote Scottish island. Carolyn

      • sorry Carolyn for the miss understanding when I said ‘over here’ I meant the whole UK Britain, as far as I know it is not on the island and not much in northern Scotland but I know parts of England have a big problem with JKW, the Scottish Highland and Island regions big problem is Rhododendron ponticum especially the central higlands, Frances

      • Frances, Glad to hear that knotweed hasn’t hit your part of the UK. Carolyn

  10. Caroline – Just wondering if the bees would make the knotweed problem worse, because they would be pollinating them and helping them make seeds ?

  11. I think we’d go broke here if we didn’t make our own compost. Organic fertilizers are expensive, and honestly, I don’t find they tend to work as well in most instances. I hate Lyme disease, I’m sorry Michael has had to battle it. We have a lot ticks here, and at least once or twice a year one sneaks past me and gets sent in for testing. I’m glad Trey is setting up his hives there. I know your gardens will be good for the bees, and I’m sure the bees will be good for the gardens too. I’ll be curious to see if you notice much difference around the garden with the bees there.

  12. I wonder how many people came just for the homemade brownies, cookies , and mint iced tea! It sounds like a great event. I am sure people learned a lot and hopefully they will be inspired to practice sustainable living in their own homes and gardens. Good luck with your bees! I’m glad to know that even an obnoxious weed can be put to good use. For every thing there is a purpose!

  13. Sounds like a great event – and I look forward to hearing about your first honey tasting!
    Your note about Lyme Disease was sobering. Poor Michael. We have good friends in western Mass whose young son was just diagnosed, probably some months after he was infected, and it was all pretty serious for a good while – he was rushed to hospital for an emergency operation and kept in for several days while the anti-biotics kicked in. So I guess any advice about avoiding infection in the first place is very important. Jill

    • Jill, In 1997, lyme disease attacked Micheal’s old fused vertebra fracture even though he saw the bull’s eye and took antibiotics. He had to have an anterior and posterior spinal fusion, one of the longest and most complicated surgeries there is. He continues to suffer from chronic pain and he has never recovered his health. The reason I “reveal” this here is that people think that if you get lyme you just take anitbiotics and you’re fine. That is not the case–it often leads to long term and serious health consequences with no cure. Gardeners should never risk getting a deer tick on them and should protect their children and pets. Carolyn

  14. Dear Carolyn,

    I have not been able to visit blogs for some time now and it is uncanny that I should visit this post since I am coping with Lyme in my daily life. Looks like a wonderful event and I love the use of the van for moving compost! I hope you are having a spectacular season. Carol

  15. I love how you & the bee keeper connected! Cool! (its seems he does the work and you get a bonus of honey!) 🙂

  16. What a great day! I love the compost. When people like you educate others about sustainable living it has an impact. They look to you for gardening guidance and are more likely to take on some of those tasks.

  17. Look likr a fun and interesting activity….very informative too!

  18. Carolyn, what a wonderful event that looks like. So much information and fun for everyone. I’m particularly excited to see that you found a beekeeper looking for a place to house bees. I’m very interested in bee keeping but don’t think it’s really feasible due to lack of time. Nice to know there’s the possibility that a co-operative situation is possible.

    • Marguerite, That’s where I was when the thought struck me that I have a lot of flowers that bees would like so maybe someone would like to keep hives here. I think it helps that I am one mile from the farmer’s market where the beekeeper sells his honey every Saturday–it’s convenient for both of us. Carolyn

  19. Hey – looks like it was a beautiful and successful day! Congratulations! I hope one day to be able to tour your gardens and compost pit myself.

    I love how you are really taking lemons (or knotweed in this case) and making lemonade by welcoming bees to your home! It’s great for everyone! I’ve been enjoying Villager’s bee-keeping posts at
    He’s got lots of great photos and info.

    My heart goes out to Michael. I have a friend who has dealt with Lyme’s and was very shocking and sobering to see all that he has gone through. I spend a lot of time hiking and lived in Wisconsin for many years, so I’ve become hyper-vigilant regarding ticks. It’s great that the composting event also included getting the word out about ticks and Lyme’s disease.

    I look forward to hearing more about your bees and your pinks. 😉

    • Aimee, Everyone needs to be hyper vigilant about keeping deer ticks (and regular ticks which also carry nasty diseases) off themselves. The lack of attention to the Lyme disease epidemic does a real disservice to everyone because it makes people think the threat isn’t that big. But it’s like Russian roulette–one bite from a diseased tick can mean the end of your health as you now know it. Carolyn

  20. Hi Carolyn, I would love to have a hive of bees in my garden in exchange for honey. What a great arrangement !

  21. Well done you! For many reasons. I tried my luck with a few Spigella plants and between the weather and the rabbits none survive. If I can find the plant again I will try once more.

  22. Love the beekeeping project! It’s nice that you at least found a use for your invasive plants. Also, great tips with the no-truck compost moving, too. I am often truck-less and will have to keep it in mind (though I admit to being spoiled by borrowing a friend’s large pickup with an automatic dumping bed).

  23. Another wonderful post, Carolyn! We struggle with knotweed here too, plus loosestrife. Invasive plants are making me nutty these days. But I am interested in the composting as well — we have been very lazy about appropriately turning and mixing our compost and as a result, things aren’t working very well. We finally agreed that we need to research a bit and once we get back from vacation in a couple of weeks, that will be our new priority.

    Lyme is epidemic in New England and we live in one of the epicenters. We deal with it here all the time, and even here, the diagnosis gets missed all the time. It’s so frustrating!

    As for the bees, good for you! Our vet has bees and she had a hard time finding farmers close to her who would allow her apiaries in their orchards! We have a neighbor who has bees and her bees visit every day. They have never stung anyone. She gave us a jar of honey a couple of years ago and we could definitely taste the lavender!

    Like others have said, I wish we lived closer!

    • Cathy, Contrary to what you might read, both knotweed and purple loosestrife can be eliminated by digging. I have been successful with digging both plants in my invasive plant removal program in Maine. The county next to mine has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the US. I have already gotten about 10 deer ticks on me this season and my husband is currently taking doxycycline for a suspicious deer tick bite. Lyme disease is an ailment where you can’t necessarily sit back and let the doctors decide. You need to research and advocate for yourself. Carolyn

  24. Speaking as someone who lives “downstream” from you at the other end of the Chesapeake, we appreciate your efforts. I just wish my own state would take things up a notch or two to be more like MD and PA when it comes to such things.

    At my job, I am also situated to help people make better choices when it comes to gardening. I am constantly amused and often stupified by some people’s lack of environmental responsibility and the notions they have about in regards to gardening.

    • Les, I didn’t realize that PA is doing a better job than VA, but I am pleased to hear that. I am glad you use your job to help customers make better choices. I think it is all a question of education. It took years and years of bad information to get where we are now, and unfortunately it will take many more years of reeducation to train people to respect the environment. It is hard to make environmentally sound choices if you don’t realize that what you are doing is not sound. I too am amazed by statements like “I moved into my new house and cut down every tree in the yard so I don’t have much shade” or “I have sprayed the area with Roundup five times but weeds just keep coming back.” I just have to take a deep breath and start with the basics. Luckily most of my customers are interested in native plants, sustainable methods, and preserving the environment–it gives me hope for the future. Carolyn

  25. I love your spigellia! I’ve had a lot of success with it and have a nice patch near my backberries. It’s so awesome that your supporting hives! My aunt lives quite close to your nursery. Perhaps in the fall I’ll come up and we can visit. That would be a real treat!!

  26. I have always wondered why it seems all tarps are blue. And this is an ingenious way to get compost. My prius would be proud, I think.

    • Jess, I drive a Prius too, and when Jan from Thanks for Today and Jean from Jean’s Garden visited, they were both driving a Prius–very funny.someone should study the link between gardening, blogging, and driving a Prius. You can get tarps in more earth friendly colors like brown and green, but bright blue seems to be the preferred color–there’s got to be a story there too. Carolyn

  27. What an incredible event…I just said to my hubby that we need to plan some excursions this summer and you are one destination we hope to definitely visit

  28. You are doing sucha an amazing work by showing how good it is to run a sustainable nursery. I reall y wish to visit you sometime! I am learning from you when for my soon to have garden.

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