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    behind the scenes

    Gardeners can get free lessons in going green

    The Gardening Green Expo is at Kennedy’s Country Gardens in Scituate this weekend.
    Kennedy’s Country Gardens
    The Gardening Green Expo is at Kennedy’s Country Gardens in Scituate this weekend.

    It may be hard to believe, but as crocuses replace snow banks, the gardening season is upon us.

    Area gardeners with visions of brilliant spring perennials, ornamental grasses waving in the warm breeze — and, perhaps, a summer free of heavy watering — can get ideas and advice for their yards at the Gardening Green Expo, a two-day weekend series of demonstrations, talks, and tours at Kennedy’s Country Gardens in Scituate.

    Described by the planners as “everything organic and natural for your yard,” the expo includes an introduction to green products such as drought-resistant perennials and potassium-fortified fertilizers, opportunities to “ask an expert,” and a tour of the garden center’s wildlife-certified back garden.


    “This weekend will be chock-full of information to help folks achieve beautiful, healthy yards that require fewer chemicals and less water,” said Debbie Cook, manager of the Norwell-based nonprofit Greenscapes program, which encourages planting with both water conservation and water quality in mind.

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    Cook said she has recently heard from residents eager to learn how to make their yards safe for children and pets.

    “We will have plenty of experts to advise them,” Cook said of the informational event jointly sponsored by Greenscapes and Kennedy’s. “I am so encouraged to see people becoming more interested in natural products that not only tend to stay put in our yards, they also contribute to the health of our soils.”

    Pointing to Greenscapes’ concern with water quality, she said federal environmental regulators state that 80 percent of the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides people put on their lawns wash away into rivers and ponds.

    Chris Kennedy, Kennedy’s owner and the former president of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, agreed that natural products and attention to environmental health pay off in healthy, attractive home landscapes.


    “After years in the nursery business, I have seen over and over how natural products contribute to making healthy soils, which in turn support healthy plants,” Kennedy said.

    The expo’s weekend schedule will feature presentations on xeriscaping (water-saving landscaping), transitioning to organic lawn care, natural lawn care products, how to create healthy soils, native plants, heirloom vegetables, and related topics. Workshops will take place on composting and compost tea, selecting grass seeds and seeding techniques, creating bird and butterfly gardens, soil testing, and fertilizing techniques. Local vendors will be on hand with products such as rain barrels and water sensors for irrigation systems.

    Landscape designer Betty Greene will serve as the keynote speaker on the concept of xeriscaping. “She’ll be talking about designing a garden that requires little or no water,” Cook said.

    “It’s an environmentally friendly approach using drought-tolerant plans to reduce water use,” said Jean Shildneck, marketing and events coordinator for Kennedy’s Gardens. “Some [gardeners] get away from a lawn altogether, substituting shrubs, trees, perennials, and native grass.”

    Saving water in the summer, a time when heavy watering is often required to keep non-native plants looking good, can help reduce the stress on local water supplies, Shildneck said.


    “Most communities on the South Shore do end up with watering restrictions,” she said.

    Carl Brodeur, a professor at Massasoit Community College, will speak on “Earth Friendly Lawn Care Techniques,” an organic approach to lawn care.

    “You can grow grass without the four-step chemical process,” Shildneck said. “We encourage people to do less of the traditional grass without making anybody feel bad.”

    Len Giddix of Prides Corner Farm in Connecticut will speak on “Why Go Green?” in making landscape choices. Native plants lend themselves to “green” or low-water, organic gardening, Shildneck explained, requiring less care than plant species that developed historically in other environments. For examples, she cites echinacea (cone flower), native blueberry (”it looks gorgeous in the fall” as leaves redden), and bearberry, a ground cover that provides an alternative to vinca and pachysandra.

    Other native plants Kennedy’s will have on hand specifically for the expo include the eastern redbud and magnolia trees; northern highbush blueberry varieties; the elderberry shrub; the blue false indigo and columbine flowering perennials; and hair grass.

    Abraham Monahan will speak on “Tree RX — Creating Healthy Trees,” how to prune and care for trees so they suffer less damage and require less work after storms.

    Chris Kennedy will be the tour guide for the garden center’s display gardens. Extending to the North River and bordered by salt marshes, Kennedy’s Gardens has received a National Wildlife Federation certification as a property conducive to wildlife.

    Even dandelions serve wildlife, Shildneck said, since bees like their flowers. They’re good for people, too, since their greens are edible.

    “We kill them in our yard, then buy them in the supermarket,” she said.

    Robert Knox can be reached at