Braxton Citizens' News, Community

Judy’s Garden Club’s native WV plant garden thrives

By Shirley Shuman

Saturday, members of Judy’s Garden Club, Appalachian District, received a plaque from the West Virginia Master Gardeners Extension for their work on the native plant garden near the Sutton Dam. That garden came to be on a proposal from the local Corps of Engineers.

Two years ago, rangers from the Sutton Corps of Engineers approached Judy’s Garden Club with a request. Members of that group granted the request; the result is the West Virginia native plant garden in the area of the Sutton dam. The Corps of Engineer asked for the garden as an attraction to bring more people to the area. Lisa Dennison, master gardener and native plant garden coordinator, described the situation and the members’ reaction.  “We ran with it,” she said. 

An example of the members’ interest can be seen in what Dennison noted she began doing. “I went out in the woods,” she said, “and dug up what I thought was common to West Virginia.” Others did the same, and the garden reflects their efforts.

The garden, an oval which Dennison estimated measures 30 feet by 20 feet, contains over 100 native plants and pollinators. These include lungwort, wild geranium, rose mallard, obedient plant, witch hazel, bee balm, and Solomon seal. Some of these were donated by a Braxton-Clay Master Gardener who is also a member of Judy’s Garden Club. 

Also growing in the native plant garden are more than 12 shrubs, including mountain laurel, along with six ferns. “We thought we’d plant what people might see when they’re out in the woods and wonder about. Now they can go to the garden and identify whatever they’ve seen,” Dennison said. 

Seeing that the garden succeeds has not been easy. Members of Judy’s Garden Club, led by president Pat McPherson, along with Braxton-Clay Master Gardeners face several problems. The area of the garden is shady, and the soil is moist. Most of the plants have survived although a few have had to be replaced. Deer and ground hogs also present a problem, but the members have come up with ways to winterize and prevent most of the damage these animals can cause. They wrap bird netting around separate plants and use metal baskets to protect some.

All this hard work has certainly been noticed. This project by the Corps of Engineers, Judy’s Garden Club, and Braxton-Clay Master Gardeners has received many awards. In May 2020, the local garden club received a National Garden Club First Place Community Garden Club Award. In October of the same year, the Army Corps of Engineers presented a “Power Acknowledgement” to the club for their work creating the site. Also, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ publication, Castle Comments, featured the creation of this interesting area.

Among awards given to the group is the recent plaque from WVU Master Gardeners Program. In January 2021, Judy’s Garden Club received a $1000 grant from National Garden Plant Americana to continue the plant and pollinator project. Club members used the funds to purchase educational tools and additional diverse native plants and to print educational brochures. They also bought improved markers and offered site visits and demonstrations.

Members of Judy’s Garden Club and the Braxton-Clay Master Gardeners continue to analyze growth of the plants to replace those not growing well and to purchase additional native plants. Currently, they are planning to prepare seed packets to distribute to anyone who wants them in the spring. The garden has proved a “labor of love” as McPherson and Dennison, along with all the others who have worked there, can attest.

Editor’s Note: See additional photographic coverage on Page 9 of this issue.