Marshall Native Gardens is a "certified" Native Plant Habitat.

Welcome to our newest partner and sponsor of our Bird Garden:

We're still looking for a champion for the BIRD, PIZZA, ENTRY and RAIN gardens.....interested??  
Drop us an email and let us know.

A Big Season for Marshall Native Gardens

By Rita Pelczar

Falling leaves and chilly temperatures signal the end of the 2017 growing season, and it’s been a very productive one for the Marshall Native Gardens Initiative (MNGI). New gardens were installed while others were expanded. Walkways were developed and improved, more habitat for friendly wildlife was developed, and partnerships with a number of local groups were forged, adding depth to the plantings and associated programs.

One of the most exciting new programs introduced this year is EcoExplore, a citizen science program that combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology. Sponsored jointly by the Madison County Public Library, MNGI, and the North Carolina Arboretum, EcoExplore invites students to observe nature, record their findings, and share their observations. Observation tools from butterfly and pond nets to trail cameras are available for loan from the library. Data that students collect are sent to the Arboretum, which in turn, shares it with iNaturalist, an international citizen science network. To enhance students’ experience, the Arboretum presents four programs a year at the library focused on different nature topics. To date more than 300 students are participating in the program.

The new Bird Garden is among the EcoExplore “Hot Spots”—one of six locations on the library grounds where students are encouraged to make observations. The Bird Garden was designed and installed by MNGI with the cooperation of the North Carolina Arboretum and the Audubon Society of WNC. The garden is located just outside the rear doors of the library, and is bordered by a fence installed by volunteers in July. Visitors can view eight different nesting boxes, suitable for a variety of birds from chickadees and bluebirds to kestrels and owls. Directions for constructing any of these boxes are available on the MNGI website. Bird feeders - three for hummingbirds and three for seedeater - provide sustenance for avian visitors. Six additional birdhouses are located on the library grounds.

Also new is the Rain Garden, located along the entrance drive at the base of the steep slope that leads up to the library building. This garden uses deep rooted native plants to help capture rainwater runoff and reduce soil erosion. The NC Arboretum helped develop the design and provided many of the plants. Volunteers from Americorps and Project Challenge partnered with the MNGI volunteers to construct the garden in June. The Rain Garden includes a shallow pond with a small observation deck, where visitors can keep an eye on the wildlife that calls this garden home.

Just beyond the Rain Garden is one of four chestnut trees that were donated this year by The American Chestnut Society (ACS) and planted on the library grounds. A display near the tree, also donated by the ACS, provides information about this important native that used to dominate regional forests.

Down the hill from the Rain Garden, the Forest Farm continues its development. A controlled burn in July, coordinated by the City of Marshall Fire Department, reduced a three-year old brush pile to ashes. New this year are the mulberry nursery, upgraded paths that connect with the Woodland Shade Garden, and a brush-on-contour demonstration area for erosion prevention. This year’s two day Forest Farm Program included instructions for making and using bio-char.

Still under development is the new Native Shrub Garden located on the hill adjacent to the library building and along the driveway. Many new shrubs have been planted and mulched with help from Americorps and Project Challenge volunteers, Bonner students from Mars Hill University, and students from the French Broad River Girls Academy who have worked side by side with MNGI volunteers. This garden will continue to grow with more plants and the addition of a walkway, which will be installed in the coming months. To construct this walkway and others, MNGI is looking for locust logs, four to eight inches in diameter. If you have any to donate, please contact Ed McNally at (828) 333-3383.

The Woodland Shade Garden has expanded with a variety of new shrubs, ferns, and wildflowers and additional stairs have been installed along the walking trail. The Cliff and Native Vines Garden added more shrubs and grasses, and a new interpretive sign was installed. In the Native Grasses Garden three new species were incorporated into the collection.

While much has been accomplished, there’s always more to be done. The next MNGI workday—the last of 2017—is scheduled for Saturday, November 18 from 8:30 until noon. Come and join the fun, even for just an hour or two. You will learn more about native plants, and share the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment that comes with developing and tending a garden that we all can share.

MNGI activities are starting.....

Every Tuesday this month from 3pm until about 6pm we will have the Project Challenge crew on-site to do service projects in the gardens.

Sometime in mid-March we will be receiving a bareroot shipment
of 50  2'-4' ht. native trees and shrubs.  Once I have them in hand, we will be having a potting party.  Please let me know if you can help with this effort...

Thursday, March 15th from 3pm until about 5pm
 ecoExplore folks from the Arboretum will be on-site to do a program for Brush Creek Elementary students and we have been asked to introduce our native gardens..

NOTE:  Saturday, March 17th is our MNGI Work Day and Monthly Meeting starting at 9am

Our kickoff MNGI meeting for 2018 will start at about 12noon and will focus on coordinating the plant sale (set for May 19th this year - Mark your calendars! ).  All are welcome to our informal gathering/meeting...  At about 1pm we will have a tour of the gardens for anyone interested...

Monday, March 19th from 8:30am until noon MNGI will be assisting Library & ecoExplore staff by manning a ecoExplore botany station.  This is part of a larger ecoExplore event open to the public that will involve a number of stations for kids to learn at...  We could use a volunteer or two...


Is your mail box full?  Mine was yesterday.  I received 6 seed catalogs!!  And that's probably just the start.   It's time... to think about what you'd like in your garden next spring and summer, and start some seeds. Those interested in helping MNGI, can also consider starting some plants for the May plant sale.

If you participated in our seed demonstration last fall, you may have a number of seeds that need to be stratified (cold or/& wet treatment) to begin the germination process.

First, of course, you need to check your calendar and the time needed to germinate your seed.  Estimate the date you will be able to put your seedlings out in the garden and count back the weeks needed to figure out when to start your seed.  Include any time necessary for stratification if required.

Remember to use fresh, sterile seed starting medium - not soil.  Soil is too heavy for those tender new roots to push through.  If you are using recycled pots, be sure to clean them in a 10% bleach solution and thoroughly rinse in water. It is important to kill any harmful soil pathogens that might remain.  You just don't know what was in that pot previously and there is no point in going through the germination process to fail.

There are a lot of websites available with seed starting information.  But you also need to know specifics for your particular seed choices, especially natives.  Find out whether the seed needs dark or light to germinate and temperature at which seed the germinates best. Does it need stratification?  Any one of these requirements can keep you from being successful. Over-watering is another common cause of failure.

Quite a number of websites, as well as professionals, use the Latin name of the plant.  What is the reasoning behind this?  Because so many plants have similar common names.  If you want to be sure you are getting the exact plant you want, research and use the Latin name. 

I ran across a website a number of years ago that has a lot of great information as well as specific seed requirements for germination of unusual plants.  Check it out

Another resource is the library. Check out William Cullina's book: The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to GROWING AND PROPAGATING WILDFLOWERS of the US and Canada.  There are also volumes on Ferns and Grasses, as well as Shrubs.

Good luck in your planning and planting.  If you have any questions, drop us an email.

We are in need of additional locust logs for the pathways. Know anyone who has some to donate?  
Please call Ed at 828-333-3883

Meet our partners:

NC Aboretum, Asheville, NC

Pat Somers, Natural Selections Nursery, Asheville, NC

Reems Creek Nursery, Weaverville, NC

Southeastern Native Plant Nursery,
Candler, NC

Asheville, NC