At the Healthy Living Market in the Wilton Mall, just off exit 15 in Saratoga Springs, NY, I’ve been asked to plant a garden that’s a mix of edible annuals (vegetables and flowers) and perennials, herbs and flowering native species. For Saratoga native plant lovers and natural gardening enthusiasts, this is a dream project. It’s the kind of project I’ve always wondered why malls don’t take on more often. This triangle bed is planted with a mix of organic vegetables, herbs and the native plant species Skullcap (Scutellaria incana), Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and the alternate Monarch butterfly host plant, Orange Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which creates Monarch habitat.

This island bed in the has been planted with NY Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis), Little Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium dubium), Ox-Eye Sunflower (Helianthus helianthoides), native Pink Coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea), Mini Primrose (Oenothera minima) and the classic Monarch butterfly host plant, Pink Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). The habitat value of the Wilton Mall parking lot has improved overnight by 150%, and now there’s one more safe space in the world, and Saratoga Springs for breeding Monarch butterflies. When this garden fills in and begins to bloom later this summer, it will be colorful and spectacular. Native plants like Ironweed and Joe Pye Weed are a really great fit for a site like this with its poor soil and sunbaked cement heat and near drought conditions. The Healthy Living Market has changed the Saratoga Springs community in a positive way since it opened in spring 2013. Now, with all the eco-friendly landscape design and native plant installations, the positive effects of Healthy Living can actually be measured in a physical way in Saratoga’s ecosystem. If that isn’t caring about the community, I’m not sure what is.