The front of the CCC Field was a busy place this morning, with high school runners finishing up their morning workouts. If they had needed water, they could have used the drinking fountain; it’s working again, thanks to Park Manager Josh. We finally finished lining the brick walk with a strip of mulch. With that and a little weeding, we can safely say that it is truly ready for the public to enjoy. To top it off, the sunflowers in the planting box have attracted several dazzling butterflies.
Our second and most important task this morning was to perform end-of-summer cleaning in the Rain Garden. To assure proper rain garden functioning, spent vegetation needs to be removed. Over time, if plant debris is allowed to build up in the garden, it will lose its capacity to hold and infiltrate run-off. In our case, most of the spent vegetation was bee balm, and that was removed down to the soil level. In addition, the decline of summer growth was revealing weeds that needed to be removed. The bee balm and the weeds are all good candidates for composting.
Next on the agenda was a check of the CCC Museum and the Butterfly Garden, both of which presently require little maintenance. Eric wants to follow up on getting rid of the bugs on the Butterflyweed. Finally, Eric and I cruised over to the Powhatan Activity Center to water and weed the new plantings there. We found the new transplants holding up well, and the so-recently subdued weeds beginning to return.
Our next trick will be to locate the important “see me” plants in the Native Plant Garden, and remove the plants that are distractions. We will have lots of grasses and sedges to chip out of that rock-hard clay soil. A rain dance would be appropriate now.
(Photo of Bee Balm at the Rain Garden)
Horticultural skills are in short supply in Pocahontas, thanks to a slim budget. So those of us who contribute our skills have been on the receiving end of some warm thanks from the park staff. We aren’t experts, but what we accomplish makes a difference, and it’s nice to get a pat on the back now and then.
We’ve been working at the CCC Field on a few things, one of which is to make the walks more attractive by lining them with mulch to cover the cement which holds the bricks in place. This is still unfinished and is now a high priority. While there, Andrea Hasenfus, Volunteer Coordinator, paid us a visit. One of her bits of news was that she had received permission for us to clear away the bee balm at the Rain Garden, so that will be an upcoming task. This week we decided to skip the Aquatic Center due to time, and we moved to the CCC Museum and then to the Butterfly Garden. Both of these were quickly cleared of the few weeds that have appeared (or that we missed) since last week. Both also afforded the opportunity to talk plants and insects, among other things.
To finish our morning, Eric and I spent a few minutes weeding the Native Plant Garden. Bryce Wilk, park Assistant Manager, stopped by and spent a few minutes looking over the new plant tags. He suggested that it would be helpful to have mulched, open approaches to the tags that are not close to the parking pavement. Yes, I agree, and that will be something we can work on.
The garden we’re now calling the Native Plant Garden was originally planned as a landscape bed with a few native plants from a nursery and a ton of mulch. It came together one Saturday morning with a few volunteers, a small assortment of plants, the mulch and some tools. We dug a few holes, plugged in the plants, spread the mulch and walked away.
Well, landscaping is not so simple. Turn your back and the immigrants, the colonizers, arrive to stake their claim. In a few weeks the landscape bed was pleading to be rescued, singing a siren song to a susceptible garden geek. Yes, I would come to the rescue. But the geek in me saw value in some of those immigrants, new plants to get acquainted with, new plants to invite others to get acquainted with. With plant labels, the bed could be more than just landscaping; it could also enlighten and perhaps spark a thirst for more.
I looked around for affordable plant labels and found the older style that you may still see in the garden. Not convenient to print; not sturdy enough for a public space; not resistant to fading. This year I got word through the Virginia Master Naturalists of a new option. The new tags you now see in the garden, and will see in other gardens, come from a start-up company that is maintaining a corresponding plant information web site. We are now able to link the label you see in the garden, via the QR code on the label, to a page on the web site which provides additional information about the plant.
Our set of plant pages on the plantsmap.com web site is organized into collections (Tree Trails and Landscape Gardens) and sub-collections (two tree trails and several individual landscape gardens). The easiest way to find our collections is to go to URL http://plantsmap.com/collections/30033 and explore from there. This is still very much a work in progress, but there is currently a plant page for each plant label in the garden.
If you have a smartphone but need a QR code reader, the company recommends purchasing the ad-free version at http://scan.me. This a whole new world for a garden geek who still has a flip-phone, so feed-back is welcome. Look for me in the garden!
A group of young runners was just finishing up their morning workout when we gathered at the CCC Field for our gardening session. We didn’t need to run to get our workout; we had a tree to plant and the manual edger to run along the brick walk. The tree is a small White Fringetree, purchased to continue a tradition of honoring outgoing presidents of our sister organization in the park, the Pocahontas Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists.
Planting the tree was relatively easy, compared to working the edger, so the edging work will be continued next week, along with general weeding of the landscape beds. We moved to the Pool Gardens for a bit of cleaning up, then checked the Anniversary Garden. That was still in good shape, so we moved on to the Butterfly Garden, finding a few weeds and one Pearl Crescent butterfly. After that a few minutes at the CCC Museum, and finally ending up at the Rain Garden.
We have finally arrived at the “sweet spot” of garden maintenance, where a few minutes weekly at each garden is enough, provided that there are several of us doing the work. The Pool Gardens and the CCC Field are so much cleaner and more attractive than they were in the summer last year, it’s ironic that our new park manager, Joshua Ellington, did not get to see the transformation.
(Photo of a small wildflower at the CCC Museum)
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.