Get to Know: Amanda Montgomery of Hummingbird Gardens
This week, we're introducing a new series of interviews with people you should get to know!
First up, our friend and client, Amanda Montgomery, owner of Hummingbird Gardens, and gardening instructor at the Weinstein JCC. We met Amanda years ago when Stephanie coordinated her wedding catering with Pizza Tonight, and we've been so impressed by how Amanda has followed her passions for gardening and education since then!
- Tell me about your background and what led you to create Hummingbird Gardens?
I started off volunteering at Tricycle Gardens after graduating from VCU and then went to graduate school at Chatham University in Pittsburgh where I earned a Master of Arts in Food Studies. My main job while I was there was at Churchview Farm, just outside the city and lady-owned! My second season there I managed a small CSA program and learned so much about small scale diversified farming. I learned that I’d rather clean a poopy chicken coop than sit at a desk all day, too. After I graduated I came back to Richmond because I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Still can’t!
I live in Southside and have a little less than half an acre. I wanted to see what I could do with the space I have. So, we ripped up the yard and now we have beds in the front and back yard, a greenhouse, a chicken coop, and my friend’s beehive! I have been doing garden education at the JCC for the past five years (the last two years through HBG) and I find that what I do at home and what I can teach at school really complement each other.
- What inspires you?
Other female business owners, being outside, being in the garden with the kids at school (seriously, this rocks), and dreaming up collaboration ideas with my other friends that own businesses.
- Tell me about the Garden Share program -- Who is it for, and what are they getting?
The Garden Share program is actually two programs so let me break it down!
First, we have Garden Share - Home which is new this year. We have 12 shares available and 2 pick-up spots (Perk Bon Air and Little House Green Grocery). Every other Thursday from May-October members will receive a flower arrangement made with what is available in the garden (and they get to borrow a vase too- I have one with a big flamingo on it I’m particularly eager to share), two culinary herbs to use in the kitchen (I’ll be providing recipes and ideas because some may be on the funky side), and a value added item, many of which will be made in collaboration with other local businesses! I’ll also send out a newsletter at the beginning of the week so everyone knows what they’ll be getting.
Second, Garden Share - Business is going into its second year. This is for coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, and other food establishments! We have two share sizes this year, one for smaller businesses and one for restaurants. Everyone will get 4-5 herbs and/or edible flowers each week for 20 weeks, starting in May. Businesses also have the option of adding a flower share and they can choose every other week or every week if they’d like! A weekly newsletter goes out for this as well. We’re adding to our herby repertoire this year and hoping to have 12-15 businesses along for the ride!
- What are some things you grow that chefs and home cooks might not see elsewhere?
I grew Blue Spice Basil for the first time last year and quickly became obsessed. The restaurants I worked with used it in anything from soups to desserts. It has this beautiful fruity smell (the kids at school think it smells like blueberries) and it’s so flavorful. I had never grown it before and I’ve never seen anyone else growing it! I also gave them A LOT of Vietnamese Coriander last year, which is like cilantro on steroids. I also grow things like salad burnet (a leaf that tastes like cucumber), Mexican tarragon, and lots of fun edible flowers.
- Tell me about the coaching service you offer? Can you turn this black thumb green???
There’s still hope for you! I launched Garden Coach late last year to offer people a service that gives you support, a really solid plan, and the ability to go from nothing growing to having a working garden that you and your family can work on together. We package it by the season (so, every 3 months) and I come to visit once a month for an hour. In addition, you get a little starter pack and I create a personalized garden notebook that gives you all the info you need to be successful!
- How do you hope to see HBG grow in the future?
I see myself spending more time making herb salts! I enjoy it and people seem to like it. I hope to get more wholesale customers for that part of the business. I also want my business to have strong partnerships with other business and organizations and always make sure I’m doing something that gives back to the community, whether that’s doing a benefit market or opening the garden up for community groups. I think the possibilities are pretty endless!
Also, I’m really into growing cut flowers so more of that, please!
We're big fans of HBG's salt blends. Amanda recently shared her chili rose salt with us, and we think it makes the perfect addition to chilled, raw oysters, so we sprinkled it on a few just to make sure...You should get on this.
For more, visit Hummingbird Gardens online, and look for HBG TONIGHT (4/7) at the Markets at Monroe for First Fridays and on Earth Day (4/22) at the Earth Day Market at COTU and The Brunch Market and Block Party!