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Green thumbs galore!

Gardeners share bounty, entice chef to join in

Created date

August 20th, 2013

According to playwright George Bernard Shaw, The best place to find God is in a garden. Yet, no matter what they are looking for, the gardeners at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., find friendship, relaxation, and bountiful fruits of their labor. Earlier this year, the Ashby Ponds gardens were moved from their temporary location to their new, much larger home, behind the community s new continuing care neighborhood. For the first time in more than four years, we have not had to turn anyone wanting a garden away, says garden club president Joan Sullivan. In fact, we have enough gardening space for new endeavors, including the beginnings of a butterfly garden and a special garden for Executive Chef Robert Reffell. To celebrate this new phase in the garden club s history, community members were invited to tour the gardens at the recent garden club open house. It s so much fun getting your hands deep in the dirt, says community member and former Fairfax County Master Gardener Jane Moreland. It s really something of a miracle to see what will take root.

Diversity celebrated

Each of the Ashby Ponds gardens is unique in its composition. Gardeners, like Jane, enjoy planting flowers, while others, such as Charles Eisenbise, enjoy planting vegetables that he brings home to his wife Nancy. So far, so good, says Charles. Last night, I harvested some green beans, a few cucumbers, and a tomato. We enjoyed them all for dinner. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked tomato, says fellow gardener Mary Ann Hughes, who has been gardening at Ashby Ponds since she moved to the community June 2010. They are much better than what you ll find at the grocery store. And the trick is not to wash the tomato until you are ready to eat. That keeps the tomato very flavorful. Paul Bjorklund finds that the new location is ideal for his garden. We ve had a lot of rain this summer, and for the most part that has been beneficial to the plants. My tomato plants are producing quite a crop. I share them with my son. He s a huge gazpacho fan. Even community members who don t tend a garden enjoy the fruits of their neighbors labor. I simply enjoy visiting the gardens and seeing what is growing, says Don McPherson. Because most of the gardeners grow more than they could enjoy on their own, they share their vegetables and flowers by placing them in a basket in the Cardinal Clubhouse. Anything in that basket is free for the taking, says Jane Wilson. Although word spreads quickly. It s empty almost as soon as it is filled. Because of the additional space afforded by the new garden location, a help yourself garden has been dedicated to those community members who d like to plant a single plant or harvest something planted by a neighbor. Similar to the free to take basket in the clubhouse, this new garden provides the opportunity to casually plant or harvest without making the commitment of managing an entire garden, says Joan.

Bumper crops

This year, Ashby Ponds Executive Chef Robert Reffell started his own garden on campus. Members of the community will enjoy his fresh herbs and vegetables in many of the dishes prepared at Ashby Ponds restaurants. I began planting right after Mother s Day in May, says Reffell. I have been extremely fortunate. My tomatoes, basil, and peppers are growing quickly. I plan to use the basil for a homemade basil pesto, which will be served over a grilled Chilean sea bass. I will use a hint of the hot peppers in a few marinades and the sweet peppers in a salsa along with some of my herbs. All of the gardeners are thrilled to have Reffell join them in the gardens. He s such a wonderful presence, and I can t wait to taste his fresh, new dishes, says gardener Jane Beard. Chef Robert, like all gardeners, is one of the nicest people I know.