Garden Journal

A family's discovery of sustainable gardening, native plants, local food and other treasures in their mid Atlantic backyard.

In order tFinal Indiv Biz Logoo maintain certification in Montgomery County,  Maryland’s Green Business program, businesses are required to report metrics on efforts to implement and educate about sustainable practices.   2011 through 2013  The Abundant Backyard accomplished the following results supporting its mission:

Helping “eager to grow” homeowners and community groups protect our watershed and increase pollination of our local food chain one garden at a time.

550 (approximately) Native Plants Sold and Installed through the following:

20  Conservation Gardens Designed and Installed (Throughout Chevy Chase, Kensington, Silver Spring, Rockville at residences, schools, churches. )

Each plan includes key elements of conservation gardening, native
plants that are drought tolerant and suitably sited, options for permeable
pathways, turf removal, no pesticides or herbicides and use of local organic compost.

close up habitat sign25 Native Plant Starter Kits (Butterfly/Shade Gardens) Sold

20 Locally grown Porch Pantry Herb Baskets (container gardens)

15 Locally Sourced Seasonal Outdoor Decor and Floral Arrangements (new
in 2013)

Community Education & Training

1200- 2000 Individuals Educated  across 16 venues -  on Benefits of Conservation Landscaping.  Included dissemination of materials from  Silver Spring Green, Friends of Sligo Creek, Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council and Potomac Conservancy (1 or more times at the following:)

  • Patuxent Wildlife Center
  • Clara Barton Community Center
  • Friendship Heights Town Center
  • Resurrection Parish
  • St. John the Baptist Parish and School
  • Archdiocese of Washington Social Ministry Conference
  • Fenton Street Market
  • Takoma Park Jazz Fest
  • Silver Spring Green Fest
  • Olney Farmer’s Market
  • Audubon Naturalist Society Preschool
  • Watkins Regional Park


100 Environmental Education Garden Labs taught through Abundant Backyard Schoolyard Living Laboratory Curriculum for K-6th grades tied to state standards.                                                 handling salmanders                                                         

50 Clients and Community Volunteers Trained in Conservation Landscape Practices.

200 Native Plant Seed/Compost Starter Balls Distributed at Markets and Special Events(Give-aways with sustainable DIY information)

2 Articles written specifically on Sustainable Gardening,  and

Watershed Stewardship.


February 7th, 2014

Highlights of an Abundant 2013!

Final Indiv Biz LogoAnd they say 13 is an unluckyIMG_3489 number!  On the contrary, this past year was full of so many projects and new connections in three rewarding areas.

Sustainable Landscaping and Design.  As I indicated in my last post, The Abundant Backyard  was delighted to be a part of the first group of certified Green Landscaping Businesses inIMG_3549 Montgomery County Maryland!   IMG_3498Permeable pathways, meditation gardens, children’s enchanted playspaces, and seasonal arrangements are a few examples of the work completed.  Check photo gallery for samples for other work.

Harper descendants discover their great, great,great grandparents home originally located in historic Jonesville MD.

Harper descendants discover their great, great,great grandparents home originally located in historic Jonesville MD.

Natural History and Heritage  Also in 2013, I completed Maryland Master Naturalist training and hours at Brookside Nature Center.   Master Naturalists study the flora and fauna, natural history, geology and human impact on the Maryland landscape.   My class project would end up reconnecting the Poolesville Harper family to the home of their ancestors- the 1870s Harper Cabin,  now located on the Brookside Nature Center grounds.   The project started with research on ways one freed African American family used natural resources to survive post Empancipation, installation of  a demonstration kitchen garden and recommendations for a new Interpretive plan.    It evolved into a moving journey with the privilege of meeting five of the most recent generations of the Harper family from Maryland to Philadelphia and learning more about the Maryland African American story after slavery from local historians like Tony Cohen, Shirl Spicer, and Claire Kelly.  Getting to work with Harper descendant Sylvia Ford George was the added bonus as she was so gracious in providing the missing pieces in documenting  updated Harper history for a slide show for Brookside Nature Center.   Much thanks to the nature center staff, Geri Drymalski, Master Naturalist Training Coordinator and Scilla Taylor, Facilities Manager for approving the project and providing support.  Click on the Harper family photo to see an article on the cabin in the Poolesville Gazette. 

Enironmental Education

Work continues IMG_3384in  The Abundant Backyard partnership with Broad Acres Elementary School and culminated in 2013 with a Green Apple Day of Service organized by Silver Spring Green.  The Abundant Backyard led a team of community and school volunteers in removing turf and mulching the garden space in the Living Classroom Courtyard.  The Abundant Backyard also connected students to the landscape through garden lesson plans and teachers toured the garden to see language arts ties to their curriculum.  Many thanks to Assistant Principal Bob Geiger and his teaching teams in K through 2 Grades for their enthusiasm and embracing the project!   This Spring I taught at the Audubon Naturalist Society to 3 and 5 year olds and started a spring garden for the preschool.  Seeing the wonder of nature through their eyes is such a gift.  Continued garden installation and lesson plans occurred with parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Washington.


Under the guidance of Mary Phillips, founder of The Abundant Backyard, and with coordination of partners by Silver Spring Green, the Broad Acres Elementary School Living Classroom has flourished. Broad Acres kindergartners and first graders have completed spring planting in three raised 8’ x 4’ vegetable beds and two 10’ x 10’ native plant beds. The beds were installed in the school’s K-1 courtyard over Earth Day weekend. K-1 Students have been watering the beds diligently, and have now begun to harvest the vegetables–kale, spinach, onions, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and fennel. The two bordering pollinator gardens have been planted by the students with various flowering native plants that will bloom spring through October.


This summer, The Abundant Backyard is working with Silver Spring Green and the Broad Acres teaching team to identify fall curriculum connections to the garden to help students, parents and faculty learn about our watershed and ecosystem through care and enjoyment of the garden.


Silver Spring Green is bringing together partners involved in the Broad Acres School Greening Project to plan for the summer and fall. Partners, including IMPACT Silver Spring and Knights FC Soccer Club, will support Broad Acres over the summer as it maintains the courtyard and adds summer vegetables to the raised beds–tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, beans, etc., donated by The Farm at Our House, a local organic farm.


At an event in Garrett Park today, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recognized The Abundant Backyard as one of the first seven businesses to be certified under the County’s new Green Landscape Business Certification Program, a collaboration between MoCo Department of Environmental Protection, the MoCo Chamber of Commerce and Montgomery College.

Abundant Backyard Client Kensington, MD

Landscape businesses, garden centers and design consultants offering installation and/or maintenance services are eligible for the program.  To be certified a business must meet requirements from a checklist of over 130 actions in four broad areas:

1) Air quality, energy efficiency, waste management and procurement; 2) Integrated Pest Management and plants;  3) Water and soil; and 4) Organizational Commitment and office operations.

Highlights of green practices in The Abundant Backyard Garden Design and Garden Buddy Consultation services include:

Abundant Backyard Client Chevy Chase MD

  • Creating  garden designs with climate appropriate, hardy, pest-resistant plants to limit need for watering, fertilizing and chemical pest control.
  • Installing in each floral garden  design, locally grown plants, with 75% or more being native to the  Maryland Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions that attract local pollinators.
  • Planting edible garden designs  and vegetable gardens with locally grown organic seeds and seedlings.
  • Using locally composted soil amendments, e.g. Leaf Gro made here in Montgomery County and locally produced worm castings.
  • Reducing turf by recommending  no or less lawn in client garden design and implementation.
  • Incorporating recycled composite  edging for garden beds and paths to limit mulch run off.
  • Mulching with sustainably  harvested shredded hardwood mulches with no added chemicals.

Look for The Abundant Backyard and the other Green Landscape Businesses in an ad featured on MoCo Ride On buses starting today!

Courtesy Alice Ferguson Foundation -Andrea Williams

The Washington DC Metro area is filled with opportunities to connect with one of our most important resources- Water!   As mentioned in my latest article for Washington Parent Magazine, River Keeping: Hands on Ways to Protect and Enjoy the Watershed, there are many ways for families to get involved.  Two upcoming events include, 1)H2O Summit on Saturday, March 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 the Activity Center at Bohrer Park, 506 S. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD. No registration needed for the activities for kids and to see the exhibits. 2) The 25th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, Saturday, April 6, 2013 9am – 12pm  If April 6 does not work for you,The Alice Ferguson Foundation also provides the Trash Free Potomac Network, an easy-to-use database that allows you to find volunteer opportunities, cleanups, and workshops throughout the year.



mystery coverThis is a fun birthday party theme where kids investigate a nearby creek and solve riddles to find the lost treasure.   Guests received the following invitation somewhat mimicking the old “Hardy Boys” books.  The inside of the invitation included an introduction to the story (see below in bold )based on some real historical info about the park and the rest  “our family legend” about the mystery.   ” In the early 1900s, an old resort hotel was built in a part of Sligo Creek.  It was called the Glen Sligo Resort.  Visitors included diplomats from the embassies, Congressmen, and other regulars. The business thrived and telegraph lines were brought in from the nearby Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The hotel eventually became a gambling Casino.  The place specialized in race track information and sought to expand its clientele.  It did, and with the new prosperity came a more distinguished group of patrons.  The visitors included groups of highly-financed gamblers from Baltimore.”   ”Our family’s legend has it that during a dark and stormy night andGlen Sligo Hotel 1901 a flood that forced the wealthy guests out of the hotel, a treasure was taken out of the hotel safe and hidden along the Sligo Creek trail.  Years after the resort was torn down, “old man Jenkins”, the former caretaker of the property swore he knew the place this treasure was hidden.  His dying words were: “ It glistens on high, in a Y, near the number 6 bridges……”  Join (birthday boy/girl) to search for clues to the treasure and enjoy a birthday treat!  Each guest received a detective cap, magniIMG_2654fying glass, and private investigator badge made from their school picture, spy glasses and a belt clip compass.   Clues that led them along the creek trail related to natural landmarks, the bridge maps and a lean- to “hide out” created by branches downed in the recent snow storm.   Each team found their treasure box of gold chocolate coins hidden in a “Y” shaped tree.


Clue: Turn back the way you came- you passed me before-I am a billion years old and look like a giant Crocodile nose.

Clue: I once was alive. But now I lie. Hollow and empty. Reach into my inside.


Old Man Jenkins partner is looking for the treasure too!  He has a clue hidden in his lean-to shelter in the woods.

Old Man Jenkins partner is looking for the treasure too! He has a clue hidden in his lean-to shelter in the woods.

Enjoying their find!

Enjoying their find!

After doing research on the chemical make up of the standard green floral foam -commonly referred to as Oasis, the Abundant Backyard has stopped using it and is committed to using only non toxic bases for securing flowers and greens in our floral designs.   The link from a fellow sustainably committted floral designer, Gorgeous and Green,  lists the manufacturers specifications and indicates the product contains formaldehyde and/or carbon black.   It is a challenge to switch as the floral foam is considerably easier to work with.  To that end, I have experimented creating customized floral wire bases and will use traditional floral”frogs” starting in 2013.   So far the results have been good.  (Note, these arrangements will require keeping an adequate water level to cover stems.)  This year I will explore other eco friendly absorbent, moisture retaining options to help arrangements last longer.


Join the Abundant Backyard at  a HOLIDAY CRAFT SHOW to benefit outreach programs at the Clara Barton Community Center, 7425 MacArthur Blvd, Cabin John, MD, this Sunday, December 2, 2012.

 More than 50 artists will be participating.   There will be paintings, photography, pottery, glass, jewelry, home made jam, cards, gift baskets, books by local authors, hand bound photo albums, wood crafts, scarves, shawls, knits, hats, dresses for little girls, Christmas items, mosaics, table linens, and much more.  Treat yourself or a pick up a hostess gift with an unique Abundant Backyard Forest to Field Holiday Centerpiece, Evergreen Ice Skate Door Swag, Rustic Benches made from rescued wood.

Friends of Patuxent Wildlife Holiday Bazaar, at the National Wildlife Visitor Center,  Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD

Shop for wild and not-so-wild new and gently used treasures.   Find unique gifts from local crafters and the “Friends” members.. and vendors including Reflecting Nature’s award winning local nature photography on notecards, nature journals and framed art along with the Abundant Backyard’s sustainable home and garden gifts .  Treat yourself or a pick up a hostess gift with an unique Forest to Field Holiday Centerpiece, Evergreen Ice Skate Door Swag, Rustic Benches made from rescued wood.  Kids can take a cool photo with the Holiday Polar Bear – — Make origami ornaments and hand-crafted cards-

…and at the same time support the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Patuxent Research Refuge

The 12,750-acre refuge is home to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Cen­ter. The Research Center has been a leading international institute for wildlife and applied environmental research needed to better manage the Nation’s natural resources. The Friends of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and Patuxent Research Refuge, Inc., is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, formed to support the mission and programs of the Patuxent Research Refuge and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland.  Friends of Patuxent raise funds for educa­tional programs, exhibits, and re­search

The Abundant Backyard will be at Silver Spring Holiday Market at the corner of Ellsworth and Fenton Streets from 10am to 4pm this Saturday, November 28, 2012  Stop by to pick up a long lasting Forest to Field Centerpiece or Holiday Floral Swag featuring locally sourced greens, dried materials and beeswax candles!       See how we repurposed old ice skates, tree stumps and other items into festive holiday decorations.  We also have our  rescued wood garden benches and birdhouses made from storm felled trees.  Our poplular gift baskets celebrating Maryland’s Backyard are filled with quality home and food items locally and sustainably made.  This is a special Fenton Street Market with many handcrafted items available for your holiday shopping.  We look forward to seeing you!

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