Learning experiences from Eleventh New Ventures Gardening Seminar

March 19, 2011, Northwood School, Minong, WI, USA

Approximately 200 avid gardeners attended the event. They came from Duluth, MN, Rice Lake, Trego, and Hayward, WI to name a few. One speaker especially caught my attention. Francois Medion, is a French gardener who worked for many years with Paris and United States chefs. He grew vegetables and greens for restaurants. He is a gardener who believes in planting edibles into the landscape. For example, you can pair container cabbage plants near cedar and pine. Nasturtiums can be grown in containers to brighten dark corners which are mostly planted in evergreens. Medion suggested the following and I have personally eaten all of these species:

Edible flowers for garnish and salads: Sweet violets, Anise hyssop, Borage and Nasturtiums.

Edible wild plants: Oyster-leaf, Purslane, French and blood sorrel, leeks and fiddlehead ferns. NOTE: 2/1/2012. I don’t remember eating oyster-leaf but feel certain the speaker spoke of plant.

Edible roots: Evening primrose, Jerusalem artichoke

For the third year, Happy Tonics exhibit drew many visitors who were interested in the monarch life cycle. For the first time this year, gardeners told us that they are now growing common milkweed. Some attendees stated they also grew other species of milkweed. It was heartening to learn that in 2011 more gardeners are incorporating butterfly gardens to welcome the monarch butterfly and other pollinating species. A few visitors spoke of their experiences with the swallowtail butterfly, yellow and black species. Others told of sightings of Luna and sphinx moth.

Cassie Thompson, eighth grade student at Northwood School, Minong, assisted us at the Gardening Seminar. She is a long time advocate for the monarch butterfly. For years, Cassie has been raising milkweed on her property. She has established a colony of common milkweed to welcome the monarch butterfly.

As an exhibitor, Happy Tonics sold common milkweed and native crop seed. I spoke to visitors about crops including beans and corn that also has wild relatives. The purpose of wild species is to keep domesticated native species hardy. Wild relatives insure biodiversity of species. Happy Tonics buys seed from Native Seeds/SEARCH, a native seed company, from Tucson, Arizona. Seed is gathered from the Tarahumara, Hopi and Navajo tribes. Native heirloom seed is drought hardy and is better able to survive Climate Change.  We have had great success with native seed. In 2010, we grew a Three Sisters Garden at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. The garden was captured on Discover Wisconsin TV. Diane Dryden, Board Member of Happy Tonics, taught the film crew about the concept of growing a native garden.

After exhibiting at the New Ventures Garden Seminar for the third year, we are learning that gardeners are actively doing their part to help pollinators by planting butterfly gardens into their own landscapes. This is good news because we need to create a floral corridor across America in order to protect pollinators. We need to plant biodiversity of nectar and host plants. Loss of habitat is so severe that the USDA and Xerces Society have determined that farming practices of using pesticides and planting only monoculture crops have harmed pollinators. We need to reestablish native prairie and pollinator gardens across the country.

In April, our online stores reopen.  Visit Happy Tonics web site at www.happytonics.org to order native seed for crops and monarch butterfly.


  1. ron backer says:

    am looking to purchase oyster leaf seeds, mertensis maritima, if available; thanks


    1. Beautifully said Violet. Here’s to a positive step in the right direction. You are part of the solution not part of the problem. Bless you.


    2. Hi Ron, Sorry I don’t know where seed for oyster leaf seeds, mertensis maritima is sold. I never heard of the plant so I did a Google search. Not much information is out there. If it is an heirloom plant perhaps you could get seed from Seed Savers Exchange. I was curious as to if it had medicinal properties and also what part of the country it grows in? You peaked my curiosity. I see it grows in Ca and Norway. If the photo was right, it looks similar a bluebell flower. Good luck in locating a seed source. Thanks for visiting. NOTE: I sSee I wrote the name down that was discussed by a speaker at the New Ventures Garden Seminar in 2010. I don’t remember eating Oyster Leaf (senior moment). Sorry that I can’t recall plant.


    3. Hi Ron, I did some research on oyster leaf seeds, Mertensis maritime. It appears to grow in CA and Norway along shoreline. The blue flower looks much like a Virginia bluebell. I didn’t see who was selling seed but did find it belonged to the Borage family which also has a pretty blue flower but not like oyster leaf plant. You probably searched the plant seed on Google. I did find someone who did sell it but there is none available now at http://www.anniesannuals.com/plt_lst/lists/general/lst.gen.asp?prodid=2663

      The plant is endangered in Massachusetts and New Hampshire according to USDA Database at http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MEMA3
      Thanks for your question. Hope this helps.
      I never heard of the plant until you asked about it. Curious. Why do you want to grow it?


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