The 2nd Annual Vienna Sustainability Home & Garden Tour is a paean to conservation and a resourceful means of creating sustainability. From homemade deer fencing to energy-efficient homes, the 11 homes and single business participating in the Sept. 16 tour showcased vegetable and flower gardens that thrive in Northern Virginia.
The Town of Vienna Department of Parks and Recreation produced a map marked with each participating property, and the public had the opportunity to tour as many as they wanted between noon and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Most of the homes were clustered in the Ayr Hill district of Vienna, but a few were scattered around town. Participating homes were marked by a sign.
Many of the visitors were looking for deer barriers, deer-deterring plants, and native plants that flourish in Virginia’s climate and clay soil.
“I wanted to know what can grow in our area,” said Jemma Bishop, who returned to the U.S. after living out of the country for many years. “We have a problem with deer. I was trying to grow vegetables and flowers, but had to give up. During the night, animals would come and eat everything.”
Jemma and Donald Bishop made Susan Stillman’s house their first stop. Stillman has raised plant beds and deer-resistant plants and herbs growing. She created what she calls “cheap and easy” removable deer fencing to protect her vegetables.
“It didn’t occur to me that you can so-simply put together deer fencing using ordinary Home Depot kind of materials,” Donald Bishop said.
IN STILLMAN’S FRONT YARD, her little raised-bed garden sits surrounded by asters, native honeysuckle, lavender and rosemary. The decorative plot attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Deer do not eat herbs so herbs do not need protection.
Across the street from Stillman’s house, at the home of Diane and Ed Rice, is a landscape of complex gardening and conservation techniques. Ed Rice takes raised beds a step further from the usual by blending his own soil for maximum nutrition and drainage. The Rice’s vegetable garden holds cauliflower, eggplant, coriander, beets, squash, basil and more. Ed Rice constructed the rain barrel that was once a pickle barrel and a greenhouse.
Maple Avenue Market, going on four years old, responded to the demands of the local community by creating a year-round farmers’-type market in the heart of Vienna. Owners Chris and Sara Guerre offer locally-produced produce, meats and dairy products that meet the Guerre’s high standards of purity and sustainable farming. Guerre has to know where the ingredients come from before he buys a finished product. The Guerres themselves produce vegetables they sell at their market and at farmers’ markets in Northern Virginia.
THE GUERRES actively support Real Food for Kids, a grassroots organization working to get healthy, nutritional lunches into school cafeterias. They have donated fresh vegetables from their own Great Falls two-acre farm to local schools and groups promoting healthy childhood eating.
“We’re living very much in an age of wellness, a pretty good time for farmers,” said Guerre. “A lot of people are acting on feeding their families better, protecting the environment.
“But an age of wellness hasn’t made it into school cafeterias, yet. That really burns me up that there’s such a great positive response to this but we haven’t been able to make a lasting and significant change to school lunches.”
N.F. Gabbert and her daughter stopped by Maple Avenue Market while on the sustainability tour. The pair was looking at native plants and locally-grown produce. Gabbert said she buys mostly organic, sustainably-grown produce.
“This store is fantastic,” Gabbert said, looking over the produce and the shelves. “I support businesses that give back to the community.”