Jamaica woman hosts free garden workshops

Tuesday February 19, 2013

JAMAICA -- The winter is only about six weeks from being over, but Erica Bowman, a garden and landscape architect as well as owner of Andromeda Designs, is going to be holding her first free garden workshop on Feb. 25 at her home office and garden facility, which she named Evernest.

"Hopefully, I'll get some people and start to get this thing rolling this year," she said.

Bowman told the Reformer that Evernest is "a work in progress and always will be." It functions as a garden collection that sits on about 50 acres of land. So far, about two acres of that land have been used to cultivate her gardens.

She said that it has been a dream of hers to teach programs on gardening. Having the land for it makes the dream achievable.

"It's something I'm trying to make happen," she said. "I'm trying to get more people involved in gardening."

Andromeda Designs' first free workshop will be on the mechanics of perennial garden design. It will start at 3:30 p.m. and run until 5 p.m. The workshop will go over how to construct a planting plan, based on site evaluation and measurement to spacing and species selection.

The second free workshop will be on May 11 from 10 a.m. to noon. It will go over perennial bed preparation and planting. Participants will learn to shape, cut, de-sod, amend and double dig a new garden.

Bowman will also be teaching about basic garden layouts and planting.

She believes that with being a gardener there's a lot to learn and know. It takes "a lifetime of knowledge," she said.

Bowman works as a type of mentor to people interested in planting and maintaining gardens. She specializes in many things, especially with planting and caring for perennials.

"Each plant has a different tendency," she said. "Some to fertilize, some for the shade and some for the sun. All these things matter and contribute to whether you have a successful garden."

Bowman has done workshops and lectures in the past. Mostly she speaks to and works with garden clubs, but she also works as a garden coach.

Working one-on-one is something she enjoys doing. Working as a garden coach, Bowman teaches how to care for plants, which entails knowing what each plant's specific needs are. She also helps design gardens.

"Often, we start from scratch," she said. "We put in the garden together, then I may come every week and we work together. It's fantastic. That person gets hands-on experience. There's only so much you can learn from a book that you can't learn from touching the plant."

While growing up in New Jersey, Bowman's mother had a gardening business. Every summer, she would work with her mother. She said that it was hard work and thought she wouldn't ever be doing that type of work again.

After graduating from college, she went back to the business. Then she went to graduate school and received a degree in landscaping architecture.

"When I moved away, I learned that I really loved gardening and flowers," Bowman said.

She has lived in Vermont since 1991. Most of her time running her own gardening business has been done in the state, she said. Some clients come to Bowman just for the fact that she knows how to harvest plants and flowers in Vermont.

"They move from places like California, where it's warmer and they might have been a gardener in whatever region they were from, but they need to learn about the regional plants and regional techniques," she said.

This may require learning how to deal with snow in the winter as well as the range of plants that can be grown in Vermont.

Other clients come to Bowman because they don't feel confident enough to create their own garden without some assistance from an expert.

"Sometimes people want something specific," she said. "They may want a native landscape. One guy hired me and we worked together to make a garden for birds bees and butterflies, a wildlife garden."

Bowman's work at Evernest gets people to practice their gardening techniques. She said that dead-heading and weeding is "a huge component people have trouble doing," because it's difficult "identifying weeds when they're small."

She also teaches edging, mulching and watering.

"Some people don't understand that if you just spray water on plants during sunny day," said Bowman. "It can reflect the sun and burn the leaf. All these details would be details I'm teaching."

Bowman is concerned that there's not enough places people can go to learn about gardening and landscaping. She thinks Evernest will be a great resource for those who want to learn.

She chose February for the first workshop because of the time sensitivity of planting perennials.

"Now is the time to do that," Bowman said. "Once you get into spring, you want to be able to get the ground prepared and get the plants in the ground."

She thinks that by March, there is the potential for bulbs to start coming out of the ground. Last year, she said that there were some blooming at that point, especially in Brattleboro.

The workshop in February will also be helpful for those who want to plant trees and shrubs.

"Having that workshop in February allows someone the time to plan on getting those plants and getting them in the ground," she said.

Bowman told the Reformer that people in her business prefer to have the winter full of design work and spring full of installation work.

"No matter what we do, May is a really insanely busy time for all of us, she said. "I'd love to get people to start thinking about their summer garden for everybody's sake."

Bowman is also really interested in helping people grow their own vegetables. She said that it doesn't take a large amount of space like some gardeners would think. It can be done in a small space and it can be started inside.

"It's an up-and-coming trend in Vermont," she said. "People want to have more control over the production of their own food."

Bowman is currently working on starting to cultivate peppers and artichokes, which she said have a really long growing season. She will start the process inside her home, then move it outdoors when the time is right.

"People who really know about gardens make it their life study. You have to, in a way, learn all the intricacies of the plants, soil and in addition to that, I continue to learn every day. It is an evolving body of knowledge."

The spots for the workshops are limited. To register, contact Bowman at 802-688-5008 or enroll at andromedadesigns.com.


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