Once upon a time someone started a hop garden in the Learning Garden. However, as sometimes happens, that person was no longer involved with the master gardener program so the hops were left alone. Hops, when left to their own devices, become rather unruly. These hop plants were growing all over the place and looked like a big tangled mess.
My husband had created a small hop yard at our house to support his home brewing hobby. He had a few years experience so he knew how to tame and train hops so that they could grow in an orderly and efficient manner. He kindly volunteered to help get the Learning Garden’s hops back in shape with, of course, my meager assistance.
Since no one knew the variety of hops that had been growing in the garden, those plants were removed and were replaced with Cascade hops. At first, we used the existing structure for the hops to grow up. However, it really wasn’t tall enough. The hop plants were too condensed which impacted air flow and promoted disease. A taller structure has now been built. Hops can grow over twenty feet tall! Now the hop plants get much better airflow.
Once the hops are harvested in late August, they are donated to a local brewery. The brewery makes a special batch of beer using these fresh hops. Under the brewmaster’s guidance, they consistently make tasty brews with our hops. The past couple of years these special locally sourced beers have been very popular and sell out quickly.
When you visit the Learning Garden look for the tallest structure there and you’ll find the hops. If it is early summer you will see the bines (the name of the vines of the hop plant) twisting around twine, growing up to one foot a day. By late summer the plants are twenty feet tall. Look closely and you’ll see their flowers. Those are the hops that are used to make beer. They resemble small, green pinecones. If you can reach one, and it’s close to harvesting time, take a whiff. You may be able to smell a beer brewing!
the sun garden
Formerly known as the Perennial Garden, this year it was to become the Sun Garden, showcasing five different garden beds. Unfortunately, the Learning Garden was closed at planting time, so new plants weren’t installed, but plans are in place for next year.
Each bed will be a display of perennials, shrubs, and annuals that are readily available for the home gardener to adopt for their home landscape. Designing a pleasing landscape bed involves planning and paying attention to plant heights and spreads, bloom times, colors, amending soil when necessary, fertilizing, and watering.
From daffodils in the early spring to chrysanthemums in the fall, the well planned garden bed will display color throughout the season. This doesn’t always need to be flowers. Shrubs and trees also provide color and texture through their leaves and structure. Since perennials usually bloom for a short time, we plant annuals to provide color when perennials have finished blooming.