Parking Lot Beds at Library Get Major Re-do

By Wendy Mills, Extension Master Gardener

New Ground Cover – Zizia aurea (golden alexanders)
Photo © 2017 Elaine Mills

Master Gardeners at the Glencarlyn Library have been renovating the garden beds along the parking lot. As the growing season progresses, local residents will see dozens of new plantings and a more intentional, holistic design that highlights native plants.

The parking lot beds have evolved over the years to include an eclectic collection of native and non-native perennial shrubs, flowers, grasses and bulbs, many installed by interns as part of their Master Gardener certification. Over the years, the beds have changed. Sections have become shady as the oaks and sweet gum in the cemetery have grown. In the beds themselves, plants have matured; some have become aggressive, reseeding liberally, while others have underperformed or died due to the challenging conditions—cars, foot traffic. and intense weather.

The renovation underway will honor the past by incorporating a selection of plantings from each of the intern beds into a new design that emphasizes complementary and contrasting swaths of colors, textures, and shapes across the length of the parking lot. Once completed, these beds will showcase plants found in eastern woodland, meadow, and cottage garden landscapes and signage will make them more useful as a teaching tool.

Liatris spicata (blazing star)
Photo © 2015 Elaine Mills

Highlights from the new garden plan, a copy of which will be available in the educational box on the garden patio, include:

  • New structural plants: Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea), awarded 2019 Wildflower of the Year by the Virginia Native Plant Society; Itea virginica ‘Merlot’ (Virginia sweetspire ‘Merlot’) and Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern).
  • Edibles: Asparagus, low bush blueberries, okra, and rhubarb.
  • Grasses: Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem), Tridens flavus (purpletop grass), and Elymus hystrix (bottlebrush grass).
  • Three types of blazing star: Liatris spicata (dense blazing star), scariosa (blazing star), and L. pilosa (grass-leaf blazing star).
  • New ground covers: Zizia aurea (golden alexanders), Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower), and Phlox subulata (creeping or moss phlox).

Helianthus divaricatus and Solidago caesia
Photo © 2018 Elaine Mills

Plants have been selected with an eye to creating a welcoming environment for birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other wildlife. Newcomer sweet fern, for example, supports 64 species of caterpillars—the larval stage of butterflies and moths—which are nutrient dense foods that provide birds with a huge proportion of their diets.

Funding for the renovation of the parking lot beds is possible thanks to money raised from the Library Garden’s annual Spring Celebration and Autumnfest and to the generosity of VCE Master Gardener volunteers and local community members.

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