Whether a novice gardener or an experienced green thumb, apartment dweller or homeowner, there’s something of interest to everyone on Gardening Day, Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., at the Queens Botanical Garden.
The afternoon of how-to talks and demonstrations, designed to get Queens residents growing, features an array of programs by QBG staff and guest speakers on topics of all aspects of gardening, from plant propagation and container gardening, to creating a wildlife friendly garden, lawn care, and composting. The afternoon’s activities — including seed plantings and crafts in the Children’s Garden for ages 3 and up — will be presented rain or shine. Admission is free.
Food and fashion find their way into this year’s Gardening Day with two classics, beans and jeans, serving as inspiration for many of the afternoon’s talks and family activities. The Beans & Jeans theme was born out of the far-reaching influence denim has had beyond the fashion world to all aspects of culture, including gardening and sustainability, and the fact that beans are a food staple for people all over the world.
According to Levi Straus’s “A History of Denim,” denim jeans probably originated in 17th-century Europe. Yet they are heavily identified with the United States, and transcend all cultures, economic classes, and generations. A durable fabric made entirely from cotton, denim truly meets the criteria for sustainability. Thanks to recycling methods, worn-out jeans are finding new life as stationery, pencils, even piggy banks, among other products. Several of these items will be for sale in the garden’s plant shop.
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., kids can jazz up an old pair of jeans brought from home. Instructor Lauren Blum will show them how to decorate their denim using fabric paint, patches, buttons, and bows. In lieu of jeans, parents may choose to purchase a denim purse on Gardening Day that can be decorated.
“From Egyptian Funerals to the American Frontier: The History and Symbolism of Indigo Blue,” a talk by independent scholar Rachel Morris, will be offered at 3 p.m. Morris explores the complex and rich history of the indigo plant and the significance of the color blue throughout the world. “I am compelled by the idea that it is difficult to create blue in the natural world,” said Morris. “For that reason, culturally, it becomes variously synonymous with medicine, luxury, religion, spirituality, and death.”
Taking a nod from the National Garden Bureau, which has declared 2003 as The Year of the Bean, the garden salutes this member of the legume family (Leguminosae), which has been cultivated by people for thousands of years. According to the NGB’s Bean Fact Sheet, prior to the 19th century most beans grown by home gardeners were raised for dried, not fresh, beans. Today beans are enjoyed straight from the garden and are also used in ornamental plantings.
At 1 p.m., Tamsen Yeh, an Extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension, will present “It All Amounts to a Hill of Beans: The Ultimate Bean Soup Garden.”
“The humble bean has more to offer than just a tasty bowl of soup,” said Yeh. “Its importance to agriculture, history, and the culinary arts has been ridiculed, downplayed, and swept into the pantry.” Visitors will have the opportunity to learn everything they ever wanted to know about conquering bean gardening, as well as the history and importance of beans to fine dining and the world.
Three Just for Kids! bean workshops for children ages 3 to 12 and their families are scheduled:
• “Plant a String Bean” (Noon to 5 p.m.)
Throughout the day, children can stop by and learn how to plant and care for their very own green beans that they get to take home.
• “Bean Mosaics” (12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Beans come in all shape, sizes, and colors. Kids can use a variety of beans to create a beautiful work of art.
• “Grow Your Own Beanstalk” (2 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
Just like Jack, kids can pant some scarlet runner beans and see how big they get this summer. Both the red flowers and beans can be picked and eaten. Kids will learn a little bean history, as well as how to care for their bean plant.
Additional Just for Kids! activities include “Create Your Own Masterpiece from Recycled Materials,” (noon to 3 p.m.), facilitated by Materials for the Arts, and craft activities, face-painting, and games (Noon to 4 p.m.) sponsored by Queens Department of Parks and Recreation staff.
Other featured talks on Gardening Day include (times may be subject to change):
• “Container Gardening” (Noon to 1 p.m.) with Marianne Kristoff, QBG horticulturist. Planting attractive pots and planters has aesthetic and culinary value. With some special attention, anyone can grow flowers for cutting or fragrance, tomatoes and cucumbers to slice up for dinner or herbs such as mint, cilantro, or chives for medicinal or culinary appeal. Kristoff will offer advice on shortcuts home gardeners can take to enhance their windowsill, terrace, or garden.
• “Wildlife Friendly Gardens” (12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.) a tour by Fred Gerber, QBG director emeritus of education. Visit the bird, bee, and woodland gardens, along with other areas, to learn about and see how plants actually benefit by bees, beneficial insects, and birds. Plants that provide food or nectar and shelter for butterflies will also be highlighted.
• “Fascinating Honey Bees” (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) with apiarist Urte Schaedle. Stop by the Bee Garden to see working hives and learn more about the productive lives of honey bees.
• “Plant Propagation” (2 p.m. to 3 p.m.) with Zofia Pienkos, QBG horticulturist. Explore various methods of plant propagation such as cuttings, layering, division, and starting from seeds.
• “Give Your House Plants a Summer Vacation” (3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.) with Fred Gerber, QBG director emeritus of education. As you move outdoors, take your plants with you. Learn how to rejuvenate old house plants, summer care and feeding, watering, pest and disease control, and how to keep those plants going when you’re away on your own vacation.
• Composting and Lawn Care (Noon to 4:30 p.m.) New York City certified master composters will be on hand to offer composting and lawn care advice. For anyone who’s ever wondered why the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, Queens master composters will explain how even lazy gardeners can have a lush healthy lawn, as well as a bumper crop of flowers and vegetables.
Additional Gardening Day highlights include house plant advice from QBG’s Plant Lady, Lynn McMahon, floral craft demonstrations and a sale by the QBG’s Crafts Group, and an open house in the Senior Garden.
Located at 43-50 Main Street, in Flushing, the Queens Botanical Garden is easily accessible by car (LIE to Exit 23 Main Street or Van Wyck Expressway to Exit 12A, College Point Boulevard), train (IRT #7 or LIRR Port Washington line to Main Street), bus (Q44 from Bronx or Jamaica), and the Queens Culture Loop trolley. Parking is available in the garden’s lot on Dahlia Avenue for $3. For more information and complete travel instructions, call 718-886-3800 or visit QBG on-line at www.queensbotanical.org.
Gardening Day is made possible, in part, by Astoria Federal Savings.