Monthly Archives: July 2015

We have a beautiful new sign! But wait, there’s more…

The Great Falls Garden Club and Friends of the Great Falls Library recently installed an educational sign at the library meadow. Finally, passersby can answer the question, “What’s going on here?”

“Fairfax County is promoting the planting of meadows in parks and other public property in an effort to create more diverse habitats for wildlife and to reduce the amount of grass in areas that aren’t needed for sports fields or playgrounds,” said Garden Club President Candace Campbell. “We were delighted to work with them to turn what had been an unsightly storm water retention pond into a beautiful meadow that’s jam packed with bees, birds and other pollinators. The Monarch butterflies absolutely love it, which makes it a nice spot to bring children.”

As the educational sign explains, the primary purpose of the meadow is to support wildlife and the environment. The plants were chosen because they support the largest numbers of butterflies and moths and attract pollinators of all kinds. Once each year, in late winter, the meadow should be mowed. By leaving the grasses and flowers standing until then, they will provide seeds and shelter to wildlife during the winter months and protect pollinator eggs that have been laid in the stems to hatch when the weather warms. (Which answers the inevitable question, “Why don’t they cut down all this dead stuff in the fall?”)

“The Friends of the Great Falls Library are pleased to support the Great Falls Garden Club with the purchase of the new sign honoring their beautifully & lovingly maintained meadow.  The Garden Club does so much to make the Great Falls Library setting beautiful and inviting,” said President Michelle Miller. “The meadow is an absolute joy to behold, either as one walks amongst it or while looking out from within the library.”

In addition to the new sign, the Garden Club prepared a binder of detailed information about each of the plants in the meadow so that interested visitors to the library can identify the dozens of flowers and grasses living there. The binder is located near the information desk. The Club also added two narrow paths to the meadow this year, so that interested visitors can walk through the meadow to see more than the handful of species visible from around the edges. Frankly, the paths are a work in progress, having been quickly squeezed by the impressive growth of surrounding flowers so that they are now nearly impossible to find. Next year they might have to be made wider… or eliminated to prevent claustrophobia among meadow visitors.

(Left to right)  Daniella Dixon, library manager; Michelle Miller, president Friends of Great Falls Library; Bev Lane, graphic designer; Candice Burt, Great Falls Garden Club; Candace Campbell (kneeling) president of Great Falls Garden Club.

(Left to right) Daniella Dixon, library manager; Michelle Miller, president Friends of Great Falls Library; Bev Lane, graphic designer; Candice Burt, Great Falls Garden Club; Candace Campbell (kneeling) president of Great Falls Garden Club.

The beautiful new sign was designed by local graphic designer Bev Lane, who also designed the Garden Club logo. “Since I am normally creating logos, newspaper ads and brochures, creating this sign for the Great Falls Garden Club was really fun, “ she said.  The 2’x3’ sign was placed near the sidewalk in front of the meadow, where it will be accessible to library visitors as well as school children learning about pollinators, meadows and the environment. “It’s important for people to know why this meadow is here, why the plants aren’t cut down until early spring, why specific plants were chosen,” she continued. “The new sign explains that and more.” Mrs. Lane has created logos for numerous local organizations, including Friends of the Great Falls Library, The Arts of Great Falls, Great Falls Lacrosse and the Celebrate Great Falls Foundation.

Next time you are at the library, please wander out to the meadow and check out the sign. Only a few steps farther and you’ll get a bird’s eye view of all the butterflies and bees working like mad.

Next project: a bench?

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Lots going on in the meadow this year

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In spite of the fact that I haven’t posted anything new about the meadow for months, a lot has been happening. Here’s a quick run down:

First, were you wondering why the dead plants were left standing all winter and into the spring? It turns out that Fairfax County didn’t have us on their late winter maintenance schedule so the meadow never got mowed. We kept thinking the lack of mowing was because the area was so wet, but no, we weren’t even on the radar. As a consequence, the old growth stuck around looking absolutely awful until this year’s growth eventually pushed through and covered everything with beautiful, new, green leaves. Unfortunately, the 5′ tall brown, brittle flower stems defied gravity and remained standing, resolutely poking out of the new growth – not a good look. We ended up paying a hardy soul to manually remove every single one of the brown stems before it became impossible to walk through there without doing too much damage. It took him 8 hours! Note to self: next year call the Fairfax County maintenance department in January and get on their March schedule.

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On the bright side, Joanne Schumpert of Landscape Design Associates/Treefrog Nursery on Georgetown Pike helped us tremendously by giving us a huge discount on nearly 500 plugs of grass and invaluable advice on grass selection. After consulting with her, the Garden Club bought Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’ (switchgrass) that gets up to 6 feet tall and turns gold in the fall;Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ (red switch grass) that gets up to 4 feet tall and turns bright red in the fall; and Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) which gets up to 8 feet tall and turns bronze in the fall. Our hope is that the grasses will soon spread and help break up the large swaths of flowers, providing some movement in the breeze. We chose these particular grasses because they get tall, they can compete with the aggressive plants already in the meadow, their colors and tall plumes will look great in the fall, and they will provide visual interest and wildlife shelter over the winter. They all got planted in April, and we only had to water them once, thanks to the wet weather we’ve been having. Our fingers are crossed that most of them make it.

DSC02754At Joanne’s suggestion, we also carved two narrow paths through the meadow – one running lengthwise and one from the library side towards Georgetown Pike. The intention was that the paths would encourage visitors to wander through the meadow where they could actually see more of the flowers than what is visible from around the edges. They also make it easier to get in the jungle to plant and weed. Well, it was a nice idea, but in reality, the flowers are so thick and tall, and the paths so narrow, no one in their right mind would wander in there! The resident groundhog, however, is quite happy. The library is having a naming contest for him/her, by the way.

Laying out the path 4.30.15

Laying out the path 4.30.15

Martin Lawn & Landscape is mowing the paths for us once a month, thank heavens, or the paths would totally disappear. Maybe next year we’ll make them wider. Or just give up on that idea. We’ll see.  In the meantime, we plan to hold the entrance to each path open with stakes and twine so we can at least find them.

In June we planted six native hibiscus in the low part of the meadow near where the sidewalk meets Georgetown Pike. They should get tall and be quite stunning once their giant flowers appear. If you drive past Madeira School, you might have noticed the red ones they’ve planted in-between a couple of their horse pastures on a sunny slope. They look like children’s tissue paper flowers, they are so big. We’re hoping ours, which should be pink, get as large. Hibiscus are known for self-sowing if they are happy, so we’re hoping future years bring lots of offspring.

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We also planted 50 Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) and 50 Agastache foeniculum (blue giant hyssop) in June. As with the grass planting, we first mowed down the existing flowers to create a bed and give the new things a fighting chance. Thanks to the perfect growing weather and lots of rain, the existing flowers quickly bounced back, however, shading the new grass and flowers. Hopefully the new guys will make it anyway. I think if you stand next to the meadow for more than a few minutes, you too might get absorbed into the jungle.