By Spring, expect a three-year-old demonstration garden of native plants at Lutheran Homes Assisted Living to begin attracting butterflies, songbirds, and hummingbirds.
The garden is also helping clean the area’s water supply.
“It really looked good this year. It takes a while for a native garden to get established,” said Sue Horvath, chairperson of the Ducks and Otter Creek Partnership.
“All the plants are native. They have deep roots,” Horvath continued. “One of the neatest things about native plants is they don’t require fertilizer or irrigation so that when you put them in you are not going to have to do things to keep those plants going that will endanger the wetlands. All the native plants are of great benefit to our water supply.”
It has been four years since the partnership received a $50,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore wetlands near the Wheeling Street residential home. The wetland covers about 150 acres with most of the land on adjacent property owned by the City of Toledo.
Since then, volunteers have cleared debris, brush, and yard waste. They have removed invasive plant species and planted native species with the hope that it will provide a buffer area along the wetlands to filter pollution before it enters wetlands that border Duck Creek.
“It’s good to protect that wetland and it’s good for the environment. It’s good for the water and the creek, and ultimately good for Lake Erie,” Horvath said. “We are pleased with the project and having the residents enjoy it is just a plus. Basically, the project was done because of that big wetland that the City of Toledo has protected.”
The Lutheran Homes gardens, which became part of the project, are uphill from the wetlands. The project includes a two-acre grass prairie, a wildflower bowl, a rain garden, and five native gardens. Running through the gardens is a pervious concrete path.
“Pervious concrete is generally something new, and it’s concrete where the water can filter through the concrete so that in putting in this path we weren’t increasing the runoff from the project into the wetland,” Horvath said. “Rainwater or any water that comes onto the path soaks in and recharges the groundwater and helps protect the wetlands from runoff.
“We also have an orchard planted there with eight orchard trees. Then, we finally put in some benches for people to sit and enjoy. They overlook some bird houses that are located near the benches for people to see,” Horvath continued.
“There’s a small garden that has examples of plants. We do hope that this can be an educational project when people get to see it if they pay attention to what it looks like and what particular plants are there. There is one garden that has songbird plants and another garden that has hummingbird plants, and another one that has butterfly plants, and another one that has cutting plants that we hope people would notice so that they would plant these with the intention of bringing them into their home.
“We hope to make an area that would interest the residents of the Lutheran Home so that they could take a walk on the pervious path because many of the residents there are in wheelchairs when they come out and are being pushed by family members. The pervious concrete pathway enables them to get through the area.”
Last summer, residents began enjoying the garden, which is maintained by volunteers.
“There are always invasive species coming up. I mean, there is weeding. We got it planted back in 2007 when things got first put in,” Horvath said. “In the last two years, we have managed to get things looking a lot better and things have filled in quite a bit. You know, it continually takes a lot of weeding because there are all kinds of things — thistles and grass and so on that want to find their way in. I’ll be there again in the spring.
“The garden is prettier every year. It takes time to fill in and as it is filling in it looks ragged because the native plants are not designed to be fancy English garden plants, you know. They grow naturally and they are beautiful when they get filled and full and so on. It’s really coming into its own now,” Horvath added.
Even during the winter months the garden has its benefits, Horvath insisted.
“Some of the plants are still there and can provide some of the visual interest,” she explained “They are not growing and they are dried up, but there are interesting seed pods here and there. So, it can be interesting to look at. It’s certainly more interesting than grass. In the winter, there would be birds which might go looking for seeds on the plants, so that’s a possible use. There won’t be much insect activity, but you will see birds finding seeds.”
Naturally Native Nursery out of Bowling Green was hired to install the garden, and nursery owner Jan Hunter remains close to the project, Horvath said.
“She supplies only native plants. She was our consultant and our contractor, and she did a lot of work and still continues to come occasionally and help us when we need to have something done,” Horvath said.
Also involved in the project is master gardener Jim Vogelbacher.
“He’s been a volunteer with helping to maintain the garden. We had an advisory group that was coming in from time to time and looking and making suggestions about what we needed to do. That had a variety of people on it. Jim Vogelbacher has been in and pulled a lot of weight and done a lot of maintenance to help out,” Horvath said.