Girl Scout Troop and Chesapeake Natives Inc. Provide Native Plants to Nature Center
Bethesda Girl Scout Troop 6002 has joined with Chesapeake Natives Inc., an area nonprofit, to provide locally native plants for Montgomery County's Locust Grove Nature Center on Democracy Blvd. In the third part of a three part project, the girls will plant Helenium Fluxosum (Purple buttons) and Salvia Lyrata, (Lyre-leaf sage) in the butterfly and hummingbird garden at the Center on October 17, 2011. The Lye-leaf sage seeds are loved by gold finches while the Purple buttons are infrequently consumed by the deer that often decimate our local gardens. The girls in Scout leader, Johleen Cannon's two troops are supporting the environment by providing insects and small animals with seeds and nectar as well as habitat. The natives are often host plants for the larva of butterflies and other insects, some of which are endangered. Without these plants, the larva cannot survive. It is possible to purchase the Helenium Fluxosum from companies that provide plants that are needed by specific butterflies.
This story begins on Oct. 11, 2010 when Junior Troop 6002 and Brownie Troop 4952 spent a Monday after-noon in the Greenhouse Garden maintained by Chesapeake Natives on the campus of the University of Maryland. The girls visited the garden to learn about the role of native plants in the environment and tied that information to all they had learned at school about pollination and pollinators. The girls collected seed heads from various plants in the garden. Then they gathered in the potting room of the Research Greenhouse to clean the seeds, opening the spent flowers so they could observe the seeds using a simple magnifying lens or just their eyes. They took home some potted Conoclinium Coelestinum, or blue mist flower, which they soon planted at their Montgomery County school, Wyngate Elementary, where in the spring of 2011 they watched them begin to grow. A cloud of blue buds carpeted the little garden in the Fall.
The story continues when the girls of Troop 6002 had an opportunity to spread native plants in Bethesda, Maryland while performing a service project at Locust Grove Nature Center. Newly sprouted seedlings donated by Chesapeake Natives earlier in the spring had been grown in tiny containers for several months at the home of a Chesapeake Natives volunteer. On May 23, 2011, they worked in the pavilion at Locust Grove Nature Center to "pot-up" the seedlings, now grown into small plants, into 120 four-inch pots. They mixed compost and sand for the planting medium and handled the delicate plants with great care. In the hot, dry months of June and July, volunteers from Community Support Services kept the potted plants alive by watering them on the back deck of the Nature Center. Here they became robust and vibrant after all the rain in August.
When the girls, who have become Cadette Scouts, arrive at Locust Grove after school on 10/17, they will have about an hour and a quarter to apply some compost to the gardens and install the new plants. If they work as diligently as they did last May, the garden will look beautiful when they are finished.
Locust Grove volunteer coordinator, Marta Potter, is excited about having the new natives at Locust Grove both to support the environment and educate the public about eco-friendly gardening practices. Both Marta and the Girls Scouts are eager to see the new plants blooming in the spring and summer of 2012. Due to time limitations, the third set of plants potted up by the girls, Lobelia Cardinalis, was installed on September 16th by a visiting group from the Bullis School in Potomac that also learned about native plants. The cardinal flowers were planted in a wetter area around the pond at the Center where their dark, leafy rosettes have already expanded in the fall weather. Their long red spikes, which are a favorite of ruby-throated humming birds, will brighten up the woodsy garden next July and August.
Together, Locust Grove Nature Center, the Girl Scouts, and Chesapeake Natives, Inc., along with other volunteers, have joined to propagate and plant a new crop of Chesapeake Bay Watershed natives. In the future, it is likely that Pope Farm of Montgomery County Parks and Recreation will also provide some natives for Locust Grove. However, given the budget cuts in Montgomery County, more efforts like this one will be needed to provide native plants when funds are limited and other youth groups may continue this work at Locust Grove. Article and Photos Submitted by Sarah Fulton