This July I was delighted to be asked to take on a garden renovation and new design project for the town of Queensbury, NY at a municipal garden site. The gardens are located at the busiest corner in town, across from the Lowe’s. The community knows this space affectionately as the, “$50,000 corner” due to the initial cost to the municipality to construct the landscape design: many boulders and stone walls were used, which can add up quickly. Our local paper, The Post Star wrote an article about the municipal gardens project.
It was quite an experience to do what I do, mostly in quiet backyards and private locations in such an open, public space. Cars honked their horns all day long, people came out of the woodwork. It was wonderful; I’d be delighted to see many more municipal landscape design projects come my way in the future.
At the time I submitted a proposal to the town for this renovation project, the gardens were a disaster. There was a solid backbone of some lovely, well developed native plants and shrubs as well as many non-native plants (more daylilies than you can shake a stick at.) These plants were well on their way to being choked out by the unchecked crabgrasses and other weeds. The upper level of the garden design, which measures approximately 40’x10′ or so, needed to be entirely dug out: it was necessary to shovel through almost every square foot and separate the weeds from the perennials to make the garden sustainable again.
This year is the town of Queensbury’s bicentennial celebration; this was perhaps an incentive to renovate the landscape design at the municipal corner. The town of Queensbury’s official flower is the Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta. There was already a plethora of existing Rudbeckia, but in homage to the good town’s 200th birthday, I planted some fancy Black-Eyed Susans in the front of the space that will flower prolifically and be showy all season long.
Another annual plant added was Datmansia, or Giant Moonflower. This exotic hybrid plant, native to South America, is technically a night bloomer, but the beautiful, white, tuba shaped blooms on the three plants will offer a spectacular display until first frost.
Typically when I compose a blog narrating a project, I include a handful of the plant species that were used in the garden design, the highlights perhaps. Given the public nature of this municipal garden renovation, it seems in keeping to allow transparency in the project, and list every plant used. This way any interested parties can educate themselves about the beautiful, hardy, obscure native plants that were chosen. The plants in the new design were sourced from Wildthings Rescue Nursery in Valley Falls, NY. Existing native plants of note are Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculata, NY Ironweed, Vernonia novaborescenes, Big Blue Stem Grass, Andropogon gerardii and as already noted, Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta.
Native perennial plants added in July, 2013
3 Eastern Baccharis, Baccharis halimifolia
9 Pink Butterflyweed, Asclepias incarnata (This is the Monarch butterfly host plant.)
3 Ox-Eye Sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides
1 Buttonbush shrub, Cephalanthus occidentalis
7 Cardinalflower, Lobelia cardinalis
3 Tall Bluestar, Amsonia tabernaemontana
4 Queen-of-the-Prairie, Filipendula rubra
5 Blue Vervain, Verbana stricta
6 Late blooming Ageratum, Eupatorium coelestinum
3 Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum
5 Variegated Goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis aureovariegata
2 “Little Joe” Pye Weed, Eupatorium dubium
7 Little Bluestar, Amsonia hubrectii
3 Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica
Some of these plants will bring earlier, and later, color to the municipal gardens. The existing landscaping was optimally a July display, with the renovation and new garden design, flowers will appear sooner next year and last longer into the fall. The renewed landscaping is beyond environmentally friendly- it is extraordinarily low maintenance and is really, secretly a habitat oasis for butterflies, birds and pollinators with the addition of all these native plants that belong in this ecosystem. The location is adjacent to Halfway Brook and several miles of high value wetland habitat conditions. This project, with the investment in native species plants which belong in this habitat by right of co-evolution, was a radically positive move for this community’s ecosystem and all it’s members. As time elapses and the plants go to seed, birds will eat the seeds and move them through excretion to the surrounding streambeds and wetlands which will be improved tremendously. Our carrying capacity for many bird and butterfly species just increased exponentially: thank you so much, beautiful town of Queensbury and specifically, Mr. J.S.