Tag Archives: gardening

Green Gaze: Organic entrepreneur grows fresh food in Ripon

By NATE BECK, Fond de Lac Reporter

In a basement below Bluemke’s appliance shop in downtown Ripon, thousands of vegetables sprout every week, bound for the aisles of one of northeast Wisconsin’s biggest grocers.

Since it was founded two years ago, Ernessi Organics has grown to supply its greens to 16 grocery stores, including 13 Festival Foods locations across Wisconsin, the Fond de Lac Reporter reported.

Basil, amaranth and other veggies grown here can be found nestled in entrees at The Roxy, Primo Italian Restaurant and other eateries in the Fox Valley.

Ernessi’s fast success turns on consumer appetite for fresh and wholesome ingredients prepared locally and retail’s efforts to catch up.

Ripon approved a $60,000 loan to the company last summer that helped pay for custom-made lights and other infrastructure. With a facility that produces 3,000 packages of fresh greens weekly, Ernessi can hardly keep pace with demand so the company recently launched an expansion that will double how much it can produce this fall.

So what does it take to start a blossoming company like this?

It’s about charging forward, head down, at the hurdles before you, said company founder Brian Ernst. “As an entrepreneur, you see a vacuum in the market and you go for it,” he said.

A geologist educated at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Ernst found work after college at a large company, but soon tired of the work. He began tinkering with hydroponics, the process of growing plants without soil, in his basement. Ernst and his friend Tim Alessi began testing how light affects the growth of herbs and vegetables, settling on a combination that tricks plants into thinking that spring has just sprung, causing them to sprout faster.

In 2014, Ernst’s employer laid him off. Rather than shopping his resume around to other companies, Ernst, at the urging of his wife, decided to turn this hydroponic hobby into a company.

But to do that would require cash.

So he and his wife sold everything they could: TVs, furniture, Ernst’s 401(K), all of it. With $10,000, the company was born, three months after he and his wife had their second child, while raising a 3-year-old.

So, no. Starting a business isn’t about safety.

The draw about this breed of farming is that it can be done anywhere. Inside the Ernessi operation, floor-to-ceiling steel racks support rows of budding plants on trays. One four-foot-by-eight-foot palate of veggies yields 576 plants in just 35 days, using much less water than a typical farm would. And here in Wisconsin, with its brutal winters, there’s no end to Ernessi’s growing season.

This latest expansion will allow the company to double its production and deliver its plants faster, with a new refrigerated truck. The company’s business is built on supplying plants to grocery stores or restaurants less than 24 hours after they are cut, for the same price as producers elsewhere.

To meet this, Ernst said expanding the company to different parts of the Midwest will likely require him to franchise the company. These veggies are no longer local, he said, if they travel more than two hours to their destination. So in the next five years, Ernst hopes to start a location in Duluth, Minnesota, for example, that would supply produce to grocery stores and others in that market.

For now though, Ernst is focused on the company’s expansion, and growing new products, lettuce, gourmet mushrooms and more. He plans to use leftovers from the beer-making process at nearby Knuth Brewing Co., a Ripon-based brewery, for the soil to grow mushrooms. Lately, he’s been wheeling a blue plastic drum two blocks up Watson Street to the brewery to collect the stuff.

“If you have the drive, starting a business is not a hard decision,” Ernst said. “Any entrepreneur will tell you, there’s never a good time to start a business.”

The harder you work, the smaller these hurdles seem.

 

Gardeners can help protect butterfly populations

Bees aren’t the only pollinators suffering from a massive North American die-off. Butterfly and moth populations, those flying flowers of the insect world, are disappearing too.

“But the situation isn’t hopeless,” says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in Portland, Oregon. “Anybody — gardeners or butterfly lovers — can make an oasis in their landscape for these important animals. It doesn’t matter if you have a tiny lot or a farmyard. A little effort can help a lot.”

Besides their beauty, butterflies and moths play a significant role in the pollination of flowering plants, 80 percent of which rely on animals — mostly insects — to move their pollen from plant to plant, the Xerces Society says. Butterflies and moths also serve as an important food source for other animals.

Yet in the United States alone, at least five butterfly species have gone extinct since 1950; an additional 25 are listed as endangered nationwide, and four are listed as threatened, according to Xerces in its new guide, “Gardening for Butterflies” (Timber Press, 2016).

Federal protection is being sought for the monarch butterfly population, which has plunged 90 percent in North America in less than 20 years. “During the same period, it is estimated that these once-common, iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds,” the Center for Biological Diversity says.

Just as significant has been the near elimination in farm fields of milkweed, the exclusive food of monarch caterpillars.

Donald Lewis, a professor and extension entomologist with Iowa State University, cites a 2012 study that documented an 81 percent decline in milkweeds in agricultural fields from 1999 to 2010.

“The cure for butterfly and pollinator preservation, conservation and improvement is to create biodiversity, which, of course, is at odds with most farming, urban sprawl and commercial development,” Lewis said. “But it is our goal.”

Nurture, enrich and diversify your home habitat, entomologists say.

Planting pollinator gardens that emphasize nectar plants that bloom year-round for bees, wasps and other wildlife is a good first step. Butterfly gardens take that a stage further by adding host plants suitable for hungry caterpillars.

“Since butterfly larvae are picky eaters, it takes a variety of food plants,” Lewis said.

Butterfly gardens should be located where they’ll get at least six hours of sun per day. They should contain at least four annual, biennial or perennial nectar plant species, and at least 10 milkweed plants of two or more types.

Ironically, beware the invasive butterfly bush, which has been listed as a noxious weed in several states. And think twice about the mass release of butterflies.

“Xerces is taking a stand that we should not be moving or releasing butterflies for such things as weddings, out of a concern for possible diseases,” Black said. “We have a sense that the same issues that are happening with bees are happening with butterflies.”

Gardening: Native plants offer fruit, beauty

More and more gardens are going native these days. Butterfly weeds are edging out delphiniums, clethra is hobnobbing with flowering dogwood, and sunflower is strutting like a prima donna.

Fruit plantings, though, are stalled in the past, with many people still planting apples, peaches or pears — all non-natives.

Yet native fruits are worth planting even if they are less familiar. Many are highly resistant to pests, which is more than can be said for apples, peaches and the like. In addition to distinctive and delectable flavors, some native fruits also are borne on handsome plants that can mingle in the landscape with other ornamentals.

Let’s foray out into the American wilderness and look at a sampling of such delectables (also covered in my book “Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden,” Timber Press, 2008).

FRUIT TREES GO NATIVE

Why not start with trees, with American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)? This native lives up to its botanical name, meaning “food of the gods,” only if you choose one known to bear tasty fruits and can ripen them within your growing season. The best are something like a dried apricot that’s been soaked in water, dipped in honey and then given a dash of spice.

In the northernmost growing regions (into USDA Zone 4) or in coastal areas where summers stay cool, good choices are Szukis, Mohler, Yates and Dooley. In hot-summer areas and further south, choose from a slew of good varieties, including Early Golden, John Rick and Garretson. None of these varieties need another tree for cross-pollination, and all are draped throughout summer in languorous, slightly bluish leaves that, in autumn, turn a rich, golden yellow. With some varieties, the orange fruits cling to branches long after leaves drop, decorating the bare limbs like Christmas ornaments.

Mulberry (Morus rubra) is a native that perhaps would be more loved if it were more difficult to grow. (We also have non-native mulberries, and their hybrids with our natives — all delicious.)

This familiar fruit resembles a blackberry in shape, but ranges in color from deep black to red to lavender to pure white. Fruits on wild trees usually are cloying, appealing mostly to children. Illinois Everbearing and Oscar are among the best varieties — to adults — for their refreshing dash of tartness.

Mulberry leafs out late and fall color is inconsequential, so it is in summer that the tree comes into its own as an ornamental. Some weeping forms also bear fruit.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native tree with tropical aspirations. With large, drooping, lush leaves that resemble those of avocado, this is not the sort of plant you would expect to find in woodlands of the eastern U.S. It does have botanical connections with the tropics, being the northernmost member of the Custard Apple family, which includes such delicacies as the cherimoya and soursop.

Pawpaw sheds some of its tropical airs in the fall, when its leaves turn a clear yellow. The fruits, though, carry on the tropical theme. They are the size and shape of mangos and ripen in clusters like bananas. Inside, the fruit is creamy and tastes much like banana, with hints of pineapple, avocado, vanilla and mango.

Plant two different varieties for cross-pollination (and fruit from each).

Juneberry (Amerlanchier spp.), also known as serviceberry or shadblow, is a native tree more often planted as an ornamental than for its fruit. Early spring brings clouds of white or reddish blossoms; fall ignites the leaves in purples, oranges, and yellows; and the plants continue to earn their keep through winter with neat form and striped, gray bark.

The fruits look like blueberries but have a unique flavor that is sweet and juicy, with the richness of sweet cherries and a hint of almond.

FRUIT BUSHES GO NATIVE

If you are looking for a native, fruiting bush rather than a tree, you might again turn to juneberry. Bushy juneberries have the same qualities as the trees do, except that they are more multi-stemmed and shrubby.

And speaking of fruits that look like blueberries, let’s segue over to the real thing. Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum and V. asheii) would undoubtedly be planted as ornamentals if they were not so valued for their fruits. Clusters of blossoms dangle from the stems like dainty, white bells in spring, and the leaves turn a fiery red in autumn. Even in winter, blueberry’s red stems add welcome color to the landscape, especially against a snowy backdrop.

The secret to success with blueberries is a soil low in fertility, rich in humus and very acidic.

A blueberry relative also ideal as a native fruit is lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea). This half-foot-high plant sports evergreen leaves as lustrous as those of holly and as dainty as mouse ears.

In spring and again in summer, flowers dangle from lingonberry stems like rosy white urns. Lingonberry requires the same soil conditions as blueberry, and in fact grows well in a bed with lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium).

Both spread to create an edible groundcover; they are as happy together in a garden bed as their fruits are in a jar of jam.

Perhaps the star performer among native plants offering beauty and good flavor is a relatively unknown currant, the clove currant (Ribes odoratum). At the turn of the 19th century, it was a common dooryard shrub whose large, yellow flowers would waft spicy fragrance indoors.

Clove currant is a tough plant, able to laugh off drought, heat and cold, as well as insects and diseases, deer and birds. The shiny, blue-black berries are aromatic, fairly large and have a sweet-tart flavor.

Gardening for the planet

Suzanne Breder is still greening her thumbs, but the city dweller already has a green consciousness.

“It is an awakening really, a realization that we – people – just can’t con- tinue on our current course, whether you live in Chicago or Milwaukee or Beetown,” says Breder, who lives in Kenosha. “For our sustainability, for the planet’s sustainability we have to learn to love and live with the land.”

The 29-year-old Breder and her partner are two of nearly 998 million people who pledged to A Billion Acts of Green. The couple’s pledge, made on act.earthday.org, is a simple one – to plant a garden on April 22, the 42nd anniversary of the eco-holiday pioneered by former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis.

Nelson, for some years, had wanted to turn attention in the United States to the environment. In 1970, when the first Earth Day took place, Americans burned leaded gas in massive V8 engines. Factories belched smoke and sludge. Air pollution signaled prosperity. But, with the work of politicians such as Nelson, scientists such as Rachel Carson and a growing network of activists, there was an emerging consciousness about caring for the environment.

Nelson, looking back, would one day say that Earth Day organized itself. An estimated 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day. This year, under the theme “Mobilize the Earth,” at least a billion people were expected to get involved in events and activities planned at local, national and international levels. A march and rally were set for the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and, beyond the beltway, organizations were scheduling rallies, marches, lectures, community cleanups, recycling drives, environmental fairs, repurposed art shows and documentary screenings.

Many Earth Day events tap into the ever-growing “growing” campaigns, initiatives that intentionally blur the distinction between gardening and farming. Gardens can be much more than a fence-line of hydrangeas, and farms can be much less than acre upon acre of soybeans.

So, for Earth Day:

• Students were planting gardens for the herbs and vegetables in their lunches.

• Neighborhood groups were planting community vegetable gardens to feed families, supply homeless shelters and sell at market stands.

• Families were creating sunny spots at home – in the yard, on the patio, on the roof, even indoors – to establish food gardens or urban farms. 

Growing your own

“It is becoming an option for everybody to grow their own food,” says Gretchen Mead, founder and executive director of the Victory Garden Initiative in Shorewood.

The Victory Garden Initiative, which gets its name from the community gardens of WWI and WWII, conducts:

• The Fruity Nutty Campaign to promote the planting of fruit and nut trees to create food forests in city parks and neighborhoods. VGI’s goal is to plant more than 1,200 trees.

• The Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz, which takes place in May and involves planting raised garden beds in partnership with the Urban Ecology Center. For the fourth annual blitz next month, agricultural giant CNH has donated $20,000 as well as loading equipment, Purple Cow Organics has donated compost and soil mix, the West Allis Health Department is sponsoring the installation of 25 gardens and the City of Milwaukee is offering up to 50 discounted gardens. Organizers hope to plant at least 300 gardens.

• The Garden Mentor pro- gram, which trains volunteers who train other volunteers in green techniques.

• The Urban Permaculture program, which includes a course and certification in the design style.

• The Food Leader Certification Program, which pro- vides instruction in growing food and also lessons in food distribution.

• The Lettuce Help You Grow Food campaign, which involves teaching people sustainable gardening techniques and planting gardens.

“Every person, in every household, can connect to their food source, through the act of growing it,” VGI’s vision statement reads. “This act reminds us that we are of the Earth, that we cannot live without the Earth, that our needs our met, not by the economy, but from the Earth. Growing food will reintegrate us with deep ecology, guiding our culture towards a sustainable, abundant future, freed from financial inequalities.”

VGI envisions a time “when food pantries house vegetable gardens and school children participate in growing their lunches” and “we will have a secure, sovereign, socially just and sustainable food system.”

Mead was working as a behavioral therapist for Aurora Health Care when she founded VGI in 2008. “There’s an overlap,” she says of the two jobs. Food – the quality and the cost – is a major issue in social work in the United States, where about 14 percent of the population experiences “food insecurity” and where, in lower-income neighbor- hoods, 70 percent of food dollars might be spent out- side the community.

People growing their own food, Mead says, is about empowerment, sustainability, vitality and community.

“It’s so important that we are all participating in the production of our own food,” she  says. “The act of growing food changes the way people think. …We install gardens at peoples’ homes, and gardening becomes a part of their everyday life.”

Mead, who describes her- self as a gardener, an environmentalist and a foodie, has her own vegetable garden, which provides for the family table, plus produces enough for sales at the local farmers’ market on Saturdays, as well as donations to pantries.

Mead is scheduled to talk about the “good food movement” in Milwaukee on the Stonewall Stage at PrideFest on June 9. She’s still working on her presentation, but plans to focus on fostering an urban agrarian society in the city.

Mead connected with PrideFest organizers through Denise Cawley of Circore Creative, who says she’s doing what she can to grow enthusiasm for the garden initiative in the LGBT com- munity.

“I sincerely dream of a time when the Victory Garden Initiative is installing gardens for the LGBT com- munity all over Milwaukee County,” Cawley says. “We have people who are hungry in the LGBT community who would benefit from fresh homegrown food.”

With programs such as VGI, the wannabe farmer doesn’t need to say goodbye to city life to create his or her green acres.

But some sow that seed.

Green acres

“Farming, it gets you outside, keeps you more active. And it’s more wholesome. You are eating better food. Whole, natural food,” says Courtney Skeeba. Twelve years ago, Skeeba and partner Denise Whitesides purchased a 3-acre farm, which they named Homestead Ranch, outside of Lawrence, Kan.

“We had worked in natural foods for some time, and we had the idea to lower our impact on the environment and create a sustainable food source with the farm,” Skeeba says. “We            just wanted to try our hand at it.”

Their know-how came from talking with other farmers, working on other farms and “reading a lot of books.”

The women grow vegetables and berries and raise chickens and kids – as in a human child and nine goats. Skeeba, who recently retired from the U.S. Postal Ser- vice, is now working the farm fulltime while her partner attends nursing school.

“It’s pretty much a green day every day here,” she says. “I think it’s important. So I try to live my life accordingly.” The farm produces enough fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk for the family’s table and for sales and trades at the

Lawrence farmers’ market. “We make enough at the market to be in the black,” says Skeeba, who also sells goats’ milk skin creams and lotions on the Web at www.circlehr.com. Farmer’s markets are where many people find the inspiration to grow good food themselves. Breder says going to her local market has become a way of life in the summer. Now she hopes her family can also bring its own fresh produce to the table.

Maybe, she adds, the family eventually can sell some of its harvest, like the Homestead Ranch farmers do in Lawrence, Kan., and like Mead does in Milwaukee.

“Ecology is the new economy,” Mead says.

On the calendar

What: Garden Installation Blitz. When: May 19-26.

Where: Throughout Milwaukee.

Who: Victory Garden Initiative and an army of volunteers and sponsors.

Why: To install hundreds of vegetable gardens in yards, businesses, schools, churches and community spaces.

Web: www.victorygardeninitiative.org, where people can purchase gardens, donate for a garden or volunteer to help create gardens.

“You can help by donating gardens to those who can’t afford it or offering your expertise and service for the event,” says VGI executive director Gretchen Mead. “This year, we especially need trucks to move soil. This is a grassroots movement to grow more food for a nutritious, sustainable food system. Real change, one garden at a time. Help us plant as many food gardens as possible throughout the city in one week.”

Victory gardens return to Wisconsin

Out urban gardener Yves LaPierre will remember 2011 as the year he had trouble with his tomatoes.

“The tomatoes and Swiss chard were out of control this year, something I attribute to a new half compost/manure soil recommended for our raised beds,” says LaPierre, an urban planner with Milwaukee’s Department of City Development. “The Brussels sprouts did not work out, and this is most likely because the soil was too loose. Brussels sprouts like compacted soil to create those tasty little cabbages.”

A native of Quebec, LaPierre has been urban gardening since he and partner Steve moved to Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood four years ago. Through his work as a city planner, LaPierre came in contact with the Victory Garden Initiative. As manager of the city’s land bank, he’s responsible for helping VGI and other urban agricultural groups make the best use possible of open urban spaces by using them to grow fresh food.

The program takes its name from the “victory gardens” that were popular during World War II as a means to increase the food supply and support the war effort overseas. VGI’s motto is, “This is a grassroots movement. Move grass, grow food.”

“I have always been digging in the dirt and planting things,” says LaPierre, who comes from a Canadian farming family. “I don’t garden as part of VGI directly, but I do support their undertakings.”

VGI is hosting the second annual “Fruity, Nutty Affair,” a fundraising dinner scheduled for Nov. 11 at Best Place Tavern in the historic Pabst Brewery, 901 W. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee. Funds raised from the event will support the growth of the city’s urban food forest, an initiative to plant fruit and nut trees throughout Milwaukee to provide free, fresh food to city residents.

“Victory Garden Initiative is a nonprofit organization that focuses on creating a more sustainable and socially just food system by empowering people to grow their own food,” says Emily Whitcomb, VGI program director. “We envision Milwaukee as an abundant food forest full of harvestable fruit and nut trees.”

VGI supports the planting of fruit and nut trees in public spaces that would be accessible to all residents. By providing fresh produce, VGI hopes to offer residents a healthy, organic alternative that allows them to make better use of their food dollars in the face of a still-struggling local and global economy.

“We are especially interested in fruit and nut trees for the urban environment, because they take up relatively little space while producing lots of food,” Whitcomb says. “People don’t think about localizing a protein source like a hazelnut, and we are trying to change that.”

The relatively young organization, based in Shorewood and headed by director Gretchen Mead, promotes the creation and empowerment of urban farmers and runs largely on the efforts of volunteers. VGI holds various fundraising initiatives throughout the year, and also earns income to support its work by installing gardens for first-time tillers. Volunteers will cut up the turf and till and treat the soil so that it is ready for planting. A single garden installation costs $125, or a property owner can get two gardens installed for $200.

Although heavily concentrated in the city of Milwaukee, VGI has helped urban gardeners from Glendale to Greenfield and from New Berlin to the North Shore. For those without their own property to till, VGI has established group gardens like the Hide House Gardens in Bay View, which hosts 100 individual plots on a half-acre of urban land, and Concordia Gardens, a 1.5-acre plot located at the corner of Palmer and Concordia streets. 

The group also aligns with other organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders and the Urban Ecology Center, to help facilitate success among first-time food growers.

VGI also maintains the Kilbourn Gardens in the Riverwest neighborhood near LaPierre’s abundant home garden. “I walk through it all the time,” he says. “It’s a great addition to the city.”

LaPierre allows that maintaining a successful
garden is a year-round “labor of love” for him and his partner. As both a social and nutritional initiative, however, it’s always worth the effort, he adds.

“We grow our food for quality. An Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato picked and eaten fresh off the vine is worth all the effort,” he says. “Home gardening and VGI’s initiatives are great for the body and the soul.”

ON THE WEB

For more information about the Victory Garden Initiative and the second annual Fruity, Nutty Affair, go to www. victorygardeninitiative.org.

A garden of reverie, tended with reverance

As our society eliminates unscheduled time, the concept of day dreaming feels ever more remote. The Japanese (via the Chinese historically) understood that to create a sense of reverie one needed to carefully structure the passage. It was only through artificial ordering and attentive effort that one could lay the means for relaxation.

The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Ill., are built on this kind of paradox – and perhaps that is why their beauty is so pronounced. Rockford is a ravished city that struggles for an economic foothold. Yet hidden within its folds is this 12-acre gem of reflecting pools, golden koi, stone paths, shady knolls, a 50-foot waterfall and trickling streams. It was recently rated the number one Japanese garden in America.

About 90 miles from Milwaukee, one approaches Rockford through long stretches of big-box sprawl to a depleted downtown of once noble 19th-century buildings. A busy street borders the garden entrance, but once you step inside a mythical land beckons. You immediately forget the white noise of traffic as your hearing adjusts to the focused tick of a bamboo funnel collecting and pouring water in a hidden grove. The soul thrives on simplicity, and here a single leaf floating down a shallow stream offers everything you need.

John D. Anderson was the son of a prominent Rockford family who ran Anderson Packaging. He graduated from the UW-Madison in 1966, married, had four children and purchased a home on a hill on Stoneridge Road with an acre lot. He had visited Japan with a college buddy in the 1960s but it wasn’t until a trip to a Japanese garden in Portland, Ore., in 1978 that his “aha” moment occurred.

Anderson returned to the Midwest and called landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu, who had designed the Portland garden. Together they initiated a project that would shape the next 30 years of their lives. They sculpted acre after acre of swampy Midwestern scrub into an other-worldly pastoral dream featuring three styles of Japanese gardens: a 12th-century pond strolling garden, 16th-century tea garden and a contemporary garden of reflection.

The gardens could be considered one large composition that entices and rewards slow, engaged looking – a little like a Kandinsky painting, but not as messy. The formal elements here are air, stones, water and plants. Spun together within a 1,000-year tradition, the principles of animism and Buddhism provide gentle philosophical depth to the notion of a stroll.

Your eyes need time to adjust to this new language. Then, slowly, nuances appear. Layers and textures of leaves, innumerable shades of green, the feeling of a curve and the color of a shadow begin to assert themselves as if they were always there, but we hadn’t noticed. It’s a perfect lesson in observation: What we think we see is only a fragment of what could be seen.

As the 1.5-mile half path zigzags and crosses small bridges, new scenes (like the sight of a tea house built into the hillside or a lone duck perched on a rock) nudge our consciousness toward the ethereal. Sunlight falls into shadowy places in a rhythm that feels programmed to make us notice. Simple log benches provide moments to rest and contemplate the view. The ponds and streams first dazzle us with sparkling surfaces but soon fish or turtles emerge, and then reflections begin to appear. The more you look, the more you see.

Be sure to buy the Koi food at the ticket counter, because a sprinkling of these pellets causes eruptions of fat, orange, yellow, gold and black fish that dissipate back to their leisurely drift as quickly as they arrive.

Although Anderson gave the site to the public 13 years ago and had his home on the hill demolished a year and a half ago, renovations and expansion continues. Anderson plans to build a new, more architecturally appropriate, home on the hill in the near future. A restaurant opened in the visitor’s center in 2008, featuring a chef from Thailand via Laos with an Asian fusion menu of her family recipes.

Prime fall viewing at the garden is the first or second week of October. You can call the center to ask the percentage of color change. Legend has it that there is a Japanese maple tree by the garden of reflection that turns so red that people think it’s artificial. As the Zen koan suggests: Reality is elusive. Impermanence is the only truth.