Virginia Tech Magazine
Feature -|- Summer 2006

Virginia's blooming red, white, and blue
by Lori Greiner

Virginians are turning the commonwealth red, white, and blue with their color-themed gardens as part of the America's Anniversary Garden project commemorating the 400th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown.

The project was developed by Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and Virginia Tech faculty members as a way to engage communities and individuals in the commemoration of America's first permanent English settlement in Jamestown 400 years ago. In addition, organizers hope to provide a boost to Virginia's greenhouse and nursery plant producers and landscapers through an increase in gardening activity.

The project features information on how to plant signature landscapes, including container gardens, in public spaces, such as community entrances and around municipal buildings, as well as around homes and businesses.

"We wanted to participate in the 400th anniversary celebration in a way that would attract new and experienced gardeners by teaching gardening skills and showing these gardeners how to use community gardening to promote local tourism," says Joyce Latimer, professor of horticulture. These red, white, and blue America's Anniversary Gardens will be part of Virginia's welcome to visitors.

The project is supported by a grant from the Jamestown 2007 Foundation and is just one of the numerous events and programs that are part of the 18-month-long commemoration.

Burruss Hall garden
America's Anniversary Garden
"We are extremely excited about the America's Anniversary Garden project," says Ross Richardson, director of marketing communications for Jamestown 2007. "We were looking for a program that would provide towns, churches, schools, and other organizations a way to participate. The America's Anniversary Garden was a perfect solution. It gives people around the state an easy way to participate in the commemoration."

Gov. Tim Kaine showed off his "green thumb" while assisting in planting the first official America's Anniversary Garden at the Jamestown Settlement as part of his inaugural week activities. Since then, anniversary gardens have been popping up all over the state -- including in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Sharron Quisenberry helped plant a garden in front of Burruss Hall. Another garden is planned for the on-campus Hahn Horticulture Garden later this summer.

According to Richardson, more than 160 communities are participating in the Virginia 2007 Community Program, and dozens of them are planting anniversary gardens as part of their community commemoration activities.

Seeing green

The benefits of the America's Anniversary Garden project will extend beyond the commemoration. In addition to engaging people across the state, the project is involving one of the largest industries in the state -- the green industry. Virginia's green industry includes greenhouse, nursery, landscape, and turf products and services. According to a 2002 study, the green industry contributes more than $2 billion annually to Virginia's economy.

"Most people think of increasing tourism as an outcome of the commemoration, but many are surprised that the green industry is also benefiting from the project," says Richardson.

Gov. Tim Kaine
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine showed off his "green thumb" while assisting in planting the first official America's Anniversary Garden at the Jamestown Settlement as part of his inaugural week activities.
More than 70 greenhouse and nursery plant producers, as well as landscapers, have made a commitment to support the effort by providing the appropriate plant materials and by distributing educational and marketing materials for America's Anniversary Garden projects throughout the state.

"I'm excited about the positive response from our partners in the green industry who have been immensely supportive of the effort and are helping us spread the word to communities. I expect even more growers and retailers to participate in the commemoration," says Bonnie Appleton, professor of horticulture and nursery Extension specialist.

America's Garden at Veterans Memorial Park

"Our industry and outreach partners have played an important role in promoting the project through their organizations and events," she adds. “In addition, the Virginia Landscape and Nursery Association and the Virginia Flower Growers Association have provided financial support to help make the project a success."

Appleton notes that this is the first time ever that a green project has been used to unite citizens, municipalities, the state, and industry. "We hope other states will use it as a model."

Burruss Hall anniversary garden
L-to-r: Virginia Tech Provost Mark McNamee, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Sharron Quisenberry, and President Charles Steger helped plant the anniversary garden in front of Burruss Hall.

A grassroots effort

To help gardeners -- both new and experienced -- create their anniversary gardens, Virginia Cooperative Extension has developed a series of publications and support materials. The publications provide information detailing the plants selected; suggested planting designs; and plant-care instructions for various garden projects, including corridor plantings, summer gardens, fall and winter gardens, spring gardens, container gardens, and gardens based on native Virginia plants. The publications can be obtained on the America's Anniversary Garden's website at, through local Extension offices, or at VCE-Master Gardener events.

"The VCE-Master Gardeners are excited to be using the America's Anniversary Garden project and publications to teach good planting and plant maintenance techniques," says Dave Close, state VCE-Master Gardener coordinator.

Master Gardeners have been instrumental in getting the word out about the America's Anniversary Garden project by writing articles for their local newspapers and speaking to local organizations, such as Lions Clubs and garden clubs. In addition, Master Gardeners have assisted in several of the planting efforts, including the gardens at the Jamestown Settlement, York State Park, and Burruss Hall, to name a few. Many Master Gardeners are also putting in gardens of their own, helping to teach by example.

As well, school children have been invited to start America's Anniversary Garden projects.

Show us your garden!

Send us a photograph of your Amercia's Anniverary Garden and we will post it on the America's Anniversary Garden™ website at

E-mail your photo to or send it to Joyce Latimer, 306-D Saunders Hall, Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech (0327), Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Please include your name and hometown.

Photos cannot be returned.

Virginia's 4-H agents and schoolteachers received information that included a CD of resource materials. Many groups are planting gardens as community service projects. The Junior Master Gardener program is also incorporating the garden project into its educational offerings.

Create your own garden

Appleton says that an America's Anniversary Garden is easy to start, regardless of the time of year, since gardens are not just for the summer. Fall and winter annuals and spring blooming bulbs can be added to trees and shrubs planted in the summer, ensuring a beautiful garden year round. Virginia Tech horticulture specialists have designed a small landscape garden for a sunny area, with suggestions for a few trees and shrubs that can be planted in each season. This landscape is illustrated in the VCE publication Plant America's Anniversary Garden, available as a printable file from the Amercian's Anniverary Garden website at

Leanne DuBois, James City County Horticulture Extension agent and one of the four originators of the project, explains, "The beauty of the idea is found in its simplicity. Every community and citizen can enjoy a colorful reminder of our nation’s origin long after the 2007 commemoration ends."

Details about the Jamestown commemoration events are at

Lori Greiner is the communications manager for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Maurer provides artistic talent to gardening project
Elizabeth Maurer
Combining her passion for gardening, talent for painting, and love of country, Elizabeth Maurer (M.S. horticulture '05) is helping to design planting examples and create illustrations for the America's Anniversary Garden project.

Maurer was recruited last summer by her former faculty adviser, Bonnie Appleton, to lend her artistic skills to the gardening project. Appleton, a professor of horticulture and an Extension nursery specialist, is the coordinator for Virginia Tech's extended campus master of science degree program in horticulture based at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach.

"I thought it would be nice to have our publications illustrated in a slightly different manner from the typical line drawings we use," says Appleton.

Appleton was impressed with Maurer's independent-study project, Grandma's Magic Greenhouse in Winter, a children's book that Maurer wrote and illustrated using watercolors. The book explains to children where food comes from.

Maurer has taken art lessons since she was a small child and took some art courses in college. The book project allowed her to combine her artistic talent with her love of horticulture. Although Maurer grew up in a family that appreciated gardening, it wasn't until she turned to it as a therapeutic hobby that gardening became her second career.

She received her B.A. in economics from Connecticut College and went on to spend a decade in investment banking. She then stepped away from banking to become a full-time parent, as well as a caregiver for her parents. Tragically, she lost both her parents within months of each other and turned to gardening as a form of therapy.

"I found that no matter how much love and care we willingly give to failing parents, we are not the ones who are in control. Plants, given a little attention and nurturing, will generally respond and flourish. It is very healing to the human spirit," says Maurer.

Her desire to learn more about gardening led her to take horticulture classes at Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake. She ended up serving as the greenhouse technician there for three years and later taught classes as an adjunct instructor.

Her hobby quickly turned into a garden design and installation business. "As my neighbors watched my gardens grow, they began to ask if I could design something similar for them," explains Maurer. She ran her business for a couple of years and then realized that she was no longer able to maintain the intense physical labor it required.

Maurer joined the Virginia Beach Master Gardeners in 2001 and is very active within the organization. She serves as education chair, Speakers' Bureau presenter, and unit representative to the State Master Gardener Organization. She went on to pursue her master's degree in horticulture, which she received in June 2005.

She has since lent her talents to developing and painting many of the planting designs and has worked with the America's Anniversary Garden committee and communications staff to help develop the marketing and educational materials for the project, including the signature three-ship logo.

"I hope people will understand that we have only provided examples and suggestions for creating a garden," Maurer says. She also hopes that gardeners will learn from creating their own garden designs and not rely entirely on a predetermined formula. "It will be so much fun to see what everyone does because no two gardens will be alike."

Maurer also hopes that creating the themed garden will give people the confidence to try new gardening combinations.

Her involvement in the America's Anniversary Garden project has also given Maurer a deep respect for history. "It is humbling to study the events of the early 1600s in Virginia," Maurer says.

She shares her knowledge through a presentation she created, "History, Horticulture, and a Place We All Call Home," that she frequently gives to community groups throughout Virginia to help promote the America's 400th Anniversary project.

"There are so many powerful stories of explorations, bravery, endurance, perseverance, danger, kindness, and overwhelming hardships," says Maurer. "The United States owes so much of its existence to the Native Americans, Europeans, and African Americans who were forged together in a settlement called Jamestown 400 years ago. It is moving to see the red, white, and blue America's Anniversary Gardens popping up all over the state, giving Virginians a united way to pay tribute to their remarkable legacy, Jamestown, America's birthplace."

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