Written by Maraea Harris, Master Gardener Intern
The Bluemont Bird and Butterfly Garden began around 2004. The space, which had been just another parking lot island, was filled with various flowering perennials and shrubs and was used and maintained by park rangers. When the county changed its policies regarding ranger assignments, no rangers were permanently assigned to the park and it fell into disrepair.
In 2013, a team of four interns and a Master Gardener were tasked with revitalizing the garden. Work began in December of 2013 to assess and plan for the project. When the project began, the park looked like an overgrown dirt patch. The walkways were indiscernible and overgrown plants were crowding each other out of the garden. Since then the team, with the help of dedicated community members and support from Parks and Recreation staff, has transformed the park into a once again flourishing garden.
Master Gardener and neighborhood volunteers began by cleaning the garden and identifying surviving plants. The team augmented the existing plantings with additional species and in May 2014, we received our Monarch Waystation Certification from Monarch Watch. Although small, the garden contains three species of milkweed and various pollinator favorites like hoary mountain mint, purple coneflower and the Virginia Native Plant Society plant of the year, Lonicera sempervirens.
Lonicera sempervirens thrives near the new sign certifying the Bluemont Park Bird and Butterfly Garden as a Monarch Waystation.
The garden has been planned with a range of plants to bloom from spring to late fall and also has varieties like Winterberry and Beautyberry to provide winter interest. The season began with the early blooming serviceberry tree whose fruit has since ripened, much to the delight of the resident birds. The Amsonia hubrichtii and Lonicera sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ bloomed in early May adding vibrant blue and golden yellow hues to the garden. Since the end of May, the Penstemon digitalis has been attracting bees and butterflies – with the Verbena bonariensis and Hydrangea quercifolia adding to the blooms in late May and the Asclepias tuberosa and Yucca soon to follow.
This special garden serves as an example of gardening that can be done with hardy, native plants. The parking lot island is a harsh, dry environment where the right plants can survive and even flourish. Our goal is to continue to be involved in the garden.
We hope to attract more interest from neighbors and residents in the community. We would like to support neighborhood groups interested in adopting the garden so that it can continue to be a resource to the community and provide a small piece of habitat for pollinators of all kinds.
Please contact the Virginia Extension Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in supporting the garden and this project.