95 North Rest Stop in Dale City: Native Plant Pollinator Garden. By Jannell Bryant

Thanks to  guest blogger, Jannell Bryant for this article!

95a

Figure 1 – ‘Oh My! Where do we begin!

First, some background on this new garden planting.  Back in 2015 VDOT (provided project management, Site preparation, volunteers and plants), Dominion Energy (volunteers), the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (technical assistance), Virginia Native Plant Society (volunteers)and Valley Land (mulch) teamed up to plant a pollinator-friendly meadow garden at the I-95 Dale City north rest stop. The garden is an impressive 15,000 square feet and required about 8,000 tiny plants to fill the space,  Along with 2 smaller plantings near the rest area building which will serve as educational stations with interpretive signage for visitors to read.

Loudon Wildlife Conservancy, VDOT, and Virginia Native Plant Society were instrumental in getting this garden project up and going.  The garden was one of four pollinator habitats planted around Virginia in September 2015.

Planting day was September 29, 2015 when more than 60 enthusiastic volunteers reported for planting, including a number of our PWC Master Gardeners.   We spent the next 6 hours planting with a much needed lunch break of pizza.  VDOT purchased the plants from North Creek Nurseries, using funds generated by the wildflower and protect pollinator’s vehicle license plates.  Milkweed plugs, both common and swamp milkweed plants, were acquired from Monarch Watch.

95b

Figure 2 – Many very busy volunteers

There was no provision for future maintenance, so the Prince William Chapter of the Native Plant Society stepped in and recruits volunteers to keep the area weeded and cared for.  Many of the volunteers who have given of their time are Master Gardeners who usually volunteer monthly during the growing season.

The most recent volunteer maintenance day, October 19th, three Master Gardeners helped with the planting of: Antennaria plantaginifolia – Pussytoes; Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed; Baptisia australis – Blue wild indigo; Eriogonum allenii “Little Rascal” – Shale Barren Buckwheat; Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhlygrass; and, Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem.  Not all the plugs were planted on October 19th, and another volunteer morning was held on October 26th which volunteer Master Gardeners participated.

With native pollinator habitats shrinking due to habitat loss and development, more areas like this garden need to be set aside to ensure that they continue to thrive and be enjoyed by future generations.  A pollinator garden can be very large like the I-95 Dale City rest stop garden and the native bed at the teaching garden, or a very small town house garden with only a few plants to attract pollinator insects.  Our home and public gardens have become the new native habitats for our lovely butterflies, native bees and other pollinator insects which are so important for crop production in this country now and into the future.

The I-95 Dale City rest stop is a very busy area with vehicles stopping at all hours of the day and night and the garden is the perfect place to showcase our native plants and the insects that nectar on them.  This creates wonderful photo opportunities for travelers passing through our county as they leave with a positive impression and beautiful images of Prince William County. Please take the time to visit this new garden planting sometime in your travels.

95 phlox

Phlox pilosa – Native Phlox

95 mountain mint

Pycnanthemum muticum – Mountain Mint

95 goldenrod

 Solidago rugosa – Rough Stemmed Goldenrod “Fireworks”

Background information and planting day photos for this article were graciously provided by Nancy Vehrs of Virginia Native Plant Society.