Thinking spring

Tribune Staff • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:20 PM

When horticulturalist and sustainable gardening expert Jeff Epping daydreams about his field of study, he sees a meadow.

Epping, a featured speaker at this year's March Garden Day in Grand Haven, will challenge gardeners to reimagine their landscapes to include a “fescue meadow that has spring flowering bulbs that would be mowed two or three times a year, and require limited water and chemicals.” 

“We like to replace Kentucky bluegrass turf when that’s possible,” Epping said.

The annual March Garden Day, with the theme "A Celebration of Gardening," is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Haven Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave.

Organized by the West Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, March Garden Day attracts approximately 300 gardeners of all skill levels from across the state. The event offers lively and informative programs, a garden market filled with vendors and greenery, and a welcome peek at the growing season to come.

In his program titled “Sustainable Gardens: Designs and Plants for Greener Gardens,” Epping acknowledges the need for lawn areas for recreation, but suggests many other ways gardeners can “go green” in their home landscape, such as making smart plant choices.

“We’re looking at plants that are as disease-hardy as possible, and matched to the garden we’re putting them in — not just because they look good,” he said.

Smart plant choices minimize the use of water and chemicals, Epping said.

Epping, director of horticulture for Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Wisconsin, will also discuss “Small Trees with Big Impact.” He’ll be joined by Chuck Martin, curator of woody plants for Dow Gardens in Midland, who will present “Shrub Roses: A New American Love Affair.”

Martin said the shrub rose’s profusion of blooms, disease resistance and general ease of care has allowed it to grasp a huge share of the market once dominated by the comparatively fussy hybrid teas. 

“It’s definitely where the rose industry is going,” he said.

Martin will help gardeners sort out the myriad “brand” shrub roses on the market today.

The daylong seminar also includes break-out sessions with plant and garden experts covering topics such as: adding color with bulbs, vertical gardening, deer-resistant plants, rain gardens, bees and other pollinators, and propagating azaleas.

Registration for the seminar is $45 in advance and $50 at the door. A gourmet box lunch, provided by Grand Haven’s Landyacht Bake House, is included in the price of the ticket.

To pre-register and reserve your space at March Garden Day, visit Grand Haven Garden House in Grand Haven or Jonker’s Gardens in Holland. For additional information, visit wmnla.com.

The West Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association is a nonprofit organization of gardening and landscape professionals. Proceeds from March Garden Day, including a silent auction, help support the association’s efforts to aid horticulture education.

— By Lynne Boezaart, Special to the Tribune

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