Join us on Monday, February 8th from 5:00-6:00 p.m. in the Library conference room for a planning meeting.  We'll be talking about plans to participate in the Madison County Expo to be held in Mars Hill on Saturday, March 12.

Something’s Growing at the Library

By Rita Pelczar

Many gardens are beautiful, but Marshall Native Gardens, located on the grounds of the Marshall Branch of the Madison County Library, is also an increasingly valuable educational resource. Designed to showcase plants native to our Southern Appalachian Mountains—one of the most botanically diverse regions in the world—these gardens demonstrate the landscape potential of native plants while providing needed habitat for pollinators.

Putting Down Roots           

This garden has grown through the efforts of many local talents and has received support of four different library directors. When the library building was completed in 2003, initial landscape plantings were installed with the help of volunteers. Michael Redfox, a member of Friends of the Madison County Library, was instrumental in coordinating efforts to maintain the plantings with limited county assistance.  

         The library director at that time was Kathleen Phillips, who appointed a steering committee under the leadership of volunteers Tim Malone and Peter Kublickis, to address the potential for improving and better maintaining the library grounds. “Sustainable maintenance of the grounds was becoming a progressively more difficult effort for the volunteers who were involved at that time,” explains current garden coordinator Ed McNally, whose background as a landscape architect has helped steer the garden’s development.

         Upon the steering committee’s recommendation, a Garden and Grounds Committee, composed entirely of volunteers and jointly headed by McNally and Bobbi Tousey, was formed in 2011. “We worked closely with the library director at that time, Sally Klipp, to finalize a Strategic Plan,” explains McNally.  The Plan was completed in September 2011, and it established the mission to create demonstration gardens that would be attractive, educational, and showcase native plants. In April 2012, a Landscape Master Plan for the entire grounds was completed and it provided a long-range conceptual design for all the themed native gardens.

         The all volunteer committee, which changed its name to Marshall Native Gardens Initiative (MNGI) in 2013, continues developing these gardens, leaning on the generous help of many local volunteers, as well as the active support of Melanie Morgan, who became the current library director in 2014.

Themed Gardens

The Landscape Master Plan defines a series of themed gardens, several of which have been installed.  Each garden has a ‘champion”—a volunteer who coordinates the garden’s maintenance and helps develop the interpretive signs and labels so visitors can learn as they enjoy a stroll among the beds.

            The Entry Garden, which flanks the main doors to the library building, was the first to be installed. It features a diverse selection of plants, demonstrating how they can be combined to create a welcoming landscape that could be replicated at home. Pagoda dogwood, fringe tree, and river birch cast shade over ninebark, inkberry, winterberry,  red twig dogwood and other shrubs.  American wisteria and cross vine amble over a split rail fence. Weaving the woody plants together into a cohesive design are flowering perennials and native grasses.

            Other established gardens include the Native Grasses Garden, the Children’s Play Area and Vegetable Garden, the Forest Farm Demonstration Garden, and the Butterfly Garden, which was installed last year. This spring, several county schools will bring classes to the Butterfly Garden to learn about the relationship between plants and butterflies, and their significance to our ecosystem.

            More themed gardens will take shape over the next few years, including the Outcrop and Vines Garden, Medicinal Herb Garden, Bird Garden, Native Shrubs Garden, Rain Garden, and Woodland and Ferns Garden.

Community Support

In addition to MNGI volunteers, several partners and sponsors have stepped up to help the gardens grow. Theses included: Friends of the Madison County Library, The Southern Highlands Reserve, Bear Wallow Wild Native Plants and Nursery, Living Systems Design, French Broad Electric, NC State DOT, Sow True Seeds, Carolina Native Nursery, Project Challenge, Kabloom, Madison County Agricultural Extension Service, and Reems Creek Nursery.

         No garden is ever finished. The MNGI needs more volunteers to share the excitement of creating these lovely native gardens and watching them mature. McNally invites you, “to visit the Marshall Native Gardens at your library, and to learn about the importance of native plants and how you can incorporate them into your own landscape.”

         For more information or if you’d like to participate, please contact Ed McNally at 333-3883.


    Plans are ongoing for spring activities in the Madison County Library gardens.  The upcoming season will focus on establishing the woodland garden at the back of the property.  We'll start with removing non-native and invasive plants.  We will then clean out, limb up and remove undesired growth from the trees.  New pathways will be installed using gravel and logs.  Then the best part:  planting.  We'll start with understory shrubs native to western NC.

   Then we'll focus on native, shade loving perennials such as tiarella (foamflower), heuchera (coral bells),
Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair ferns), arunculus (goat's beard), anemonella (Anemone), Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells), ladies' slippers, Arisaema triphyllum (Jack In the pulpit) and trillium!!  Look for some of these at the plant sale.

    Some folks don't realize how many options exist for shade gardens.  There are lots!!

   Ever wonder why we use the Latin names for plants?  There can be many, many different local names for some plants.  Using the Latin name assures that you get the exact plant you want.
You can then be sure that it gets planted in the right growing conditions.  This can make the difference between failure and success.

In the Garden ......  Winter has now arrived.  There's nothing to be done in the garden except admire the winter beauty of snow on the silhouette of the
remaining grasses and shrubs.  Watch as the birds visit to search for seed.  Personally, I enjoy it, but I'm anxiously awaiting spring while enjoying the seed catalogs and the dreams they inspire.


Now partnering with:

Southern Highlands Reserve, Lake Toxaway, NC

Carolina Native Nursery