Pollinators and plants are inextricably linked. A population decline of one would result in a population decline of the other.
For that reason, Sutton Lake in Sutton, WV, has formed a partnership with a local garden club to create a native pollinator garden featuring plant species native to West Virginia.
Judy’s Garden Club, Appalachian District, partnered with Sutton Lake in the 2020 season to construct and maintain a pollinator garden. That project has enhanced educational opportunity and introduced the vibrancy of native plants to the visiting public.
While researching pollinator gardens at the Sutton Library, Ranger Tesia Gnagey discovered Judy’s Garden Club. That resulted in a professional working relationship with the club’s president, Pat McPherson. She invited Gnagey to some of the club’s community events including a seed exchange at Big Otter Elementary School.
The club’s working goals and special interests lined up with the lake’s plans, and the Corps mission to build a pollinator garden at Sutton was shared with McPherson. She agreed to make a site visit and discussed the potential for the club to help achieve the goal. Collaboration for the planning process began after that meeting.
The site visit was in early February of 2020 and different locations were explored for creating a native pollinator garden at Sutton Dam. Items to consider were: parking for viewing this garden; sunlight; good soil; and a location that would draw the public’s attention.
Ultimately the chosen location was the right-hand side of the road just past the dam and heading towards the South Abutment. This is also the trailhead for five different trails including Sunrise Ridge, Ellison Cemetery, Bug Ridge, Sunshine Line, and Hardwood Timber Loop.
Tilling up the soil and getting an egg shape design was priority number one. Sutton’s Maintenance Team hauled several dump truck loads of good soil, since there were too many big rocks that were brought to the surface after tilling. Garden club volunteers worked many hours gathering West Virginia native plants. They put in over 220 volunteer hours to locate, dig, and replant multiple native species of West Virginia plants to our project location. The club donated approximately 100 plants.
Club members also assisted with the relocation of native flat stone from sites in the region for constructing the natural walk path throughout the garden and a rock border to further enhance the visiting public’s outdoor experience. The Garden was completed prior to the major summer recreation season of 2020.
A pollinator sign that describes the power of native plants was created and installed in late November. It provides information on the backbone of wildlife habitat, preferred food for plant-eating insects, and the role that native plants play in songbird survival. A pollinator garden sustains life for insects, birds, and many other animals.
It appeared that the plants did not take off right away due to soil conditions and lack of nutrients. Lime was added to the pollinator garden November of 2020, and a soil test was completed in January with West Virginia University’s Department of Agriculture Extension Office. Their scientific recommendations were to amend the soil with compost and mulch. This year, focus will be on a second planting in May. Compost has also been being added to the garden regularly.
Judy’s Garden Club, Appalachian District, as part of their partnership with Sutton Lake, entered an application into National Garden Clubs, Inc., and this application was selected for a $1,000 National Garden Clubs Plant America Grant to be used on the pollinator garden at Sutton Dam. The grant money will be used for plant identification tags, a bench, and a butterfly house.
Through the dedicated efforts of Judy’s Garden Club, Appalachian District, local volunteers, West Virginia Extension Service, and personnel from the Sutton Lake Project office, the Pollinator Garden Project was a great success.
The garden will increase pollinator populations at Sutton utilizing native plants. It will also be used to teach the visiting public at Sutton, and for future generations to come, about the vital role of native plants in our world today.