Revitalizing the Pollinator Garden at the Buddie Ford Nature Center

Text and photos by Extension Master Gardener Leslie Cameron
Thanks to ARMN for letting us reprint this article.

Arlington Regional Master Naturalists joined Extension Master Gardeners and community volunteers on July 17th in an ongoing effort to revitalize the pollinator garden next to the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center in Alexandria.

This hillside pollinator garden contains native plants local to the area, including Upland Ironweed (Vernonia glauca), Sundrops (Oenothera frutica), and various Milkweed species (Asclepias spp.). Many of these inhabit the nearby Dora Kelley Nature Park and the Holmes Run Gorge. The pollinator garden has for several years been an important part of the work the Nature Center to share the wonders of nature with the community, as well as to support our local pollinators.

Pollinator garden at the Buddie Ford Nature Center at the beginning of the day on July 17th.

Unfortunately, the garden has gradually accumulated many invasive species and other weeds that have been crowding out the native plants. Recognizing the need for some serious TLC, Master Naturalist (and Master Gardener) Valerie LaTortue collaborated with Master Gardeners Bob Besse, Mary Lou Leary, and Scarlett Swan to begin a rejuvenation project. They met several times this spring and realized that they needed a lot more help. So, Valerie organized the July 17th volunteer garden day and reached out to other Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, and park neighbors to pull invasive plants and other weeds from the garden, clear paths, and spread mulch.

Although it was a hot day, the volunteers worked tirelessly to uproot stubborn invasive plants and weeds and clear the pathways, filling many yard-waste bags.

Some roots were tough to remove, but the volunteers were tougher!

And for breaks, volunteers enjoyed snacks, cold water, and Valerie’s herb iced tea under a canopy on the deck overlooking the garden.

Valerie’s herb iced tea.

Best of all, the volunteers could enjoy the fruits of their labor right away! Check out Valerie’s video of accomplishments of the day:

Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists work together to revitalize the pollinator garden at Buddie Ford Nature Center in Alexandria. Video © Valerie LaTortue
Success! A pathway is now cleared of invasive plants and other weeds in the pollinator garden.

The ongoing work to rejuvenate the pollinator garden is part of a long-term plan to redesign and replant the garden and increase its access to and public education value for the community. In addition to supporting pollinators and improving the ecosystem, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, and other area volunteers are helping to reclaim this treasured public education resource for visitors to the Buddie Ford Nature Center and Dora Kelley Park.

More volunteers are needed and welcome! During the foreseeable future, volunteer days are scheduled each Saturday from 9:00-11:00 a.m. Learn more about volunteering at https://armn.org/volunter-alexandria/. Instructions, tools, and refreshments are provided. Volunteers should bring gloves, sunscreen, and insect repellent, and a favorite digging tool if they like.

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