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.
At the CCC Field, those Yucca plants you can see in the background have been blooming and producing seeds for years, though perhaps not all the way back to the CCC days. Consequently, there have been lots of little Yuccas in the landscaped areas here. Until now. We’ve taken most of them out, as in the bed in the foreground. I cut and discarded the spent flowering stems this year, to discourage volunteer seeding, but I could have taken another course. According to Helen Hamilton in Wildflowers and Grasses of Virginia’s Coastal Plain, the immature fruit can be cooked and eaten after the seeds are removed.
With the sidewalk cleaned and this Dogwood bed weeded, we moved to the Pool Gardens to take out the invading Nutsedge, Horse Nettle and Bermuda Grass. That was pretty well in hand (though seemingly never complete) when the arriving pool visitors shattered the quiet of the morning. So we moved up to the CCC Museum where grasses and Dandelion were beginning to return. Here there was also an unrecognized small wildflower that is proving difficult to identify. From there to the Butterfly Garden, finding a few weeds and a few insects of interest, though no butterflies. Eric found a very patient dragonfly, and we think we found a bee-mimic fly.
With the Butterfly Garden well in hand, we traipsed over to the Rain Garden, with a nod to a large Fowler’s Toad in passing. Again there were just a few weeds to be picked out, some Bee Balm to admire and photograph, and that completed our morning’s gardening task. Before leaving the park, I took time to visit a bathhouse in the New Campground where there have been some Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven) trees. The last photograph shows the resprouts from the roots of these trees, which must be pulled or cut several times each summer to keep them from growing back.
Once again Mother Nature tried to help us with our daily ablutions by providing a free shower, but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm of today’s crew. At the CCC Field we worked on general weeding, with emphasis on the brick walks. Abandoning that effort in the shower, leaving more to be done, we moved to the CCC Museum and cleaned out the weeds there. Next stop, the Butterfly Garden, where again it was scattered crabgrass, carpetweed and a few others. Turtle damage was minimal, for a change. No butterflies to been seen today, but the Joe Pye Weed will be blooming soon. Last stop was the Pool gardens. On the left side we finished removing the unwanted grasses, and on both sides we did general weeding. The crew also tackled the grasses around the landscape edging, making a big improvement in the visual aspect. Several of the pool visitors gave us a verbal pat on the back for a job well done. There is still more to be done here also, with a rich crop of nutsedge growing at the back of the right side bed.
In the next session we’ll need to get to the weeds in the Rain and Native Plant gardens. The Native Plant Garden now has 10 new plant signs which connect via smartphone to associated plant web pages. Feedback on their usefulness and functionality is welcome.
Thoughts on the park, its residents and how to preserve its natural beauty.