Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Williamsburg Library Garden

Last year I contacted the Williamsburg Public Library about installing a native plant garden in front of their building in downtown Williamsburg. The library had a nice brick-walled courtyard with boxwood hedges, crapemyrtles, and other plants, but it had built many years ago and the garden needed updating. Because the library was in such a prominent place, with people always coming and going, I thought it would be the perfect spot for a new native plant garden - it even had some natives already in place, like the sweetbay magnolia above.

I was inspired in part by the native plant garden at Stonehouse Elementary School that Jan Newton created with the help of students, and by the nearby Adams garden that's maintained by Madeleine Watkinson, and which is a favorite spot for locals and tourists to relax.

I have to admit, I also had selfish reasons for wanting to replant the garden. My yard is very shady and there are a lot of plants that I never been able to try. My pitcher plants (pictured below) had never done well, and I could never grow things like baptisia and coneflower.

Jason Robins in the Williamsburg landscape department was very helpful and agreed to donate funds and labor - I also contributed a bit myself. Most of the plants came from Sandy's Plants in Mechanicsville, supplemented with plants leftover from VNPS native plant sales, and couple plants donated from friend's gardens. Some of plants are native species that you would find locally, and some of the plants are cultivars, so it may be a bit of a stretch to call it a "native garden". But when using cultivars I did use only plants descended from North American species. I also used plants from up and down the east coast, so there are some things you might not find growing in the tidewater area.

One thing I enjoyed about creating the garden, and I know this will be controversial, was removing some of the many daffodils that filled the garden. Yes, they're pretty, yes the bloom at the time of year when people desperately need some color, but they seem to be taking over the world! They're everywhere! And then after they bloom you're stuck with those boring green leaves that take up valuable garden real estate. But not to worry - I did leave a few.

Here are a couple shots where I tried to downplay all the exposed mulch (the new plantings are still on the small side). You can see the existing crapemyrtles and boxwood hedge that were in the original garden. Of course they aren't native, but they do frame the new perennials nicely. I'm still getting to know how the crapemyrtles shade the garden throughout the day, so I'll probably be moving things around a bit over the next year or two. And even though the plants are just getting established, they're already drawing butterflies and other insects to the garden. Here's a shot of a bee on a milkweed:

Eventually, I'm planning to write up a brochure about the garden to leave at the front desk (most of the staff don't even know the garden is there yet) and when I get a list to the city, they'll be able to put labels on the plants. Until then, here's a list of the plants Jason and I planted in the garden:

Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa)
Asters (Symphyotrichum sp.)
Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red')
Black Snake root (Actaea racemosa)
Blug Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)
Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)
Coralbells (Heuchera villosa 'Autumn Bride' and Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple')
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
Dixie wood Fern (Dryopteris x australis)
Dwarf Sabal Palm (Sabal minor)
False Aloe (Manfreda virginica)
Foamflower (Tiarella sp.)
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)
Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea)
Goldenrods (Solidago sp.)
Goldie Fern (Dryoperis goldiana)
Grassyleaf goldenaster (Pityopsis graminifolia)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Lanceleaf Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.)
Meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica)
Mountain Mint (Pycanthemum sp.)
Nodding Ladies' tresses (Spiranthes cernua)
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana 'Miss Manners')
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)
Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Purple Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
Skullcap (Scutellaria sp.)
Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale 'Helena Gold')
Spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.)
Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata)
Sticky Catchfly (Silene caroliniana)
Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum 'Dallas Blues' and 'Shenandoah')
Thalia (Thalia dealbata)
Tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb')
Turtlehead (Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips')
Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis and Baptisia alba)

Wow, writing it all out makes it seem like a lot of plants for a not so big garden. I hope you stop by the next time you're in the area.


Janet said...

Wow Phillip, it sounds great. I will make sure to check it out. Adam's Garden is so special, hard to realize such a beautiful spot is tucked into a corner in downtown Williamsburg. Kudos to Sandy's, they donated a bunch of plants to us at the Learning Garden last year. Surpirsed you don't have any Silene virginiana!! I was going through plant material in our 'Wildlife' area of the LG, Felice really chose a wonderful selection of plant material. I just read through your list again. what a great list!

Les said...

Thanks for the links, I am flattered. What you have been working on sounds like quite an undertaking. The fact that the city was so helpful is very encouraging. Besides the daffs, did you pull anything else out like the Crape Myrtles or Boxwoods? You proabably need a judges ruling to remove a Boxwood in Williamsburg. Do you have any shots of the completed garden?

Janet said...

Phillip!! I read the blogs before I sat down to read today's paper. Very nice write up about you! (Now I will go back to eating breakfast)

compost in my shoe said...

How about some before and afters?

compost in my shoe said...

How about a link to the article in the local newspaper.....

Phillip M said...

Les, we kept the Crapes and the boxwood, but we did take out some nandina and Japanese holly. I added some shots of the 'completed' garden to the posting. It still has a ways to go.

c.i.m.s., Sorry I don't really have any before shots. I'll post a link to the newspaper article momentarily.

Janet, Thanks for you comments - I thought the article turned out pretty well.

Phillip M said...

Les, maybe I should have asked before linking to your stories, but it sounds like you don't mind. Thanks!