By Peg Mohar
The ten-year anniversary for “Bringing Nature Home” program brings back fond memories of the garden visits, award ceremonies and dedicated people I had the pleasure of working with! It does my heart good to have been part of the beginning of a great program.
When we moved to Virginia in 2015, we had only our tiny front yard with enough sun for a prairie garden. My husband Don meticulously dug out the sod and roots of Bermuda grass, and we planted a native garden similar to the one at Meadowbrook, similar in species planted—not size. See the picture of our house and garden taken in 2017. The left side was planted in ’16; right side in ’17.
In the meantime, Don and I went through the Master Naturalist training. The organization is similar to Master Gardeners, but has projects varying from testing water quality, to oyster shell recycling, to caring for native plant/pollinator gardens in Bryan Park—a Richmond city park fortuitously situated a block from our house. So naturally we chose to join in the project to bring back some old gardens to new glory. And in the last three years our group of about ten people have managed to do a pretty good job of this.
This winter the group switched to removing invasive plants from a stretch along a lake in the park. Many trees were completely engulfed in vines. Do you have porcelain berry in Indiana yet? If not, watch out for it. It is like kudzu in its ability to blanket an area and smother trees. Besides porcelain berry, there was Asian honeysuckle, Japanese virgin’s bower, multiflora rose, and numerous other greater or lesser scourges. To see a fifteen-foot oak tree freed from the bonds of vines is very satisfying. One fifty-foot area had no trees, but it was two to five feet high with a jumble of these invasives. After they were removed, we were inspired to “bring nature home” to this stretch.
So, starting in early March we have planted starts, mostly from our little front yard garden. Most of these natives are prolific and greedy for space, so it was great to have a place to take them where we beg them to be prolific and greedy. The plant list includes wild golden glow (Rudbeckia laciniata), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), wrinkle leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa), river oats grass (Chasmanthium latifolium), orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), clustered mountain mint (Pycanthemum muticum), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), broomsedge grass (Andropogon virginicus), aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), early sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), lavender hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), false aster (Boltonia asteroides), wild senna (Senna hebecarpa) and rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).
About a hundred young but vigorous plants are now in their new home. BUT it is not a done deal. Though we applied herbicide to the roots of many vines, we know the invaders will not be content to see their territory taken back by rightful owners. They will fight back! Just today (March 30, 2020) we are seeing sprouts of god-knows-what peeking through among our beauties. Perhaps Japanese clematis? Will good prevail? Will the natives succeed in taking hold where the evil aliens stood their ground? Stay tuned for the next episode.
As to the “Sanity Versus Insanity” segment of this story—Every activity we enjoy outside our house has been put out-of-bounds except—we can still walk over to our neighborhood park. And we get a pretty good workout planting and weeding. At the end of the day we are feeling too tired and creaky to think about COVID 19 (which leads to insanity). Instead, sanity prevails with that good feeling of accomplishing one little part of our plan to—Bring Nature Home.
Peg Mohar is one of the founding members of the Friends of Shirley Heinze (FOSH), a group of former Shirley Heinze board members who wanted to stay actively involved after their terms on the board ended. Peg and others, including Warren Buckler, Myrna Newgent, Laura Henderson, and Henry Jones, were instrumental in creating the “Bringing Nature Home” native planting recognition program in 2011. Peg also served as the part-time Executive Director of Shirley Heinze Land Trust from 1994-97 and served on the Board of Directors from 1997-2003. She also worked on the staff as Property Assistant from 2004-2015.