In 2002 when Randal Son was director of the Blue Mountain Humane Society, land was purchased on George Street southwest of the Veteran's Memorial Golf Course for a new building. At the same time, the Walla Walla subchapter was interested in developing a native plant garden to demonstrate how plants indigenous to Walla Walla would be attractive in home gardens AND would use much less water than the usual landscaping species.
Our first introduction to the Humane Society building site was discouraging. The financing had run out before the building was complete, and we viewed what looked like an abandoned building, all boarded up with plywood, amongst a sea of invasive weeds. Our designated spokesperson Betsy Kaiser, a forester and silviculturist for the USDA Forest Service on the Walla Walla Ranger District, approached Randal with our idea. He was very interested and willing for us to landscape part of the grounds. We didn't want to bite off more than we could chew, so after looking at the building lot and landscape plans, we suggested planting the six parking lot bump-outs and the two corner plots on the southeast and southwest of the parking lot. Randal agreed and Betsy wrote up our proposal which was accepted.
We searched our own gardens, as well as areas of the national forest where ground-disturbing activities provided opportunities to salvage native plants. With a list of proposed native plants, Betsy developed a detailed landscape plan, but first we needed a weed control plan. A county work crew pulled and mowed the weeds surrounding the building. Then, Butch Bosley, the county weed control coordinator, sprayed the eight areas to be planted. Meanwhile, Jim and Susan Swayne contributed penstemon seedlings, while Betsy, Priscilla Dauble and others had potted native plants, and Laura Maier, Linda Sutor, Maryanne Uweda salvaged plants along Highway 204 in the Tollgate area to begin our fledgling native plant garden.
In the spring, summer and fall of 2003 we began planting the eight designated areas. We cultivated, fertilized with Laura's lovely composted leaf material, planted, watered and nurtured our small seedlings which seemed doomed to succumb to the summer's heat waves. However, the native plants thrived except when some erstwhile Humane Society volunteer mistook our precious native plants for weeds and sprayed them! After that we carefully labeled each plant, and even placed rocks and short picket fences around each area. We learned so much from this initial native plant project. For one thing, to plan the watering system BEFORE planting! Laura, Diane Ackerman, Donna Johnannssen and others got very tired watering the eight planting areas two or three times a week during the summer. Finally, Marianne and Linda came to the rescue by installing a drip system off the existing sprinkler system.
Since then we have continued to add new plantings of rose, oceanspray, blue elderberry, sedum, strawberry, and many more species. Under Betsy's direction a Whitman College intern produced a brochure listing the plants and their location in the eight areas. Each of us spent time weeding and appreciating our efforts as more of the plants began to thrive and bloom. Our plantings flourished and we felt success within our reach, a NATIVE PLANT DEMONSTRATION GARDEN!
Since our first agreement with the Humane Society was complete, we discussed continuing the landscaping, since no funds were available in their budget. Betsy approached the new director with several suggestions which were quickly endorsed. Betsy wrote up a second agreement which included planting grass along the front and side perimeter, and shrubs along the back fence on the northside. About fifty shrubs and native grasses were added to the northside. Buffalo grass was chosen to plant along the front and sides; and, although not a native, this species of grass has properties of very low water needs and could withstand trampling by volunteer dog walkers. Our intrepid gardeners spaded the four-foot by one-hundred-foot construction-compacted area. The buffalo grass was seeded and is a very successful addition.
A bench was added for the animal caregivers, volunteers, weeding group and for visitors to rest on. Not just any bench, but a bench to fit around one of the trees! Betsy found plans on the Internet, and Laura discovered that the WaHi shop students would build the bench under the direction of Mr. Robert Maib. The only cost would be for the material. The students figured out the material needed to build the bench, Mr. Maib purchased it, and five students worked on building the bench.
The painted, redwood Demonstration Garden signs, constructed by the Washington State Correctional Institute are in place: there is one large sign and eight small signs, one for each garden bed, so th/e visitor can find any plant listed in the brochure, at the appropriately numbered bed.
The garden continues with volunteers from the Walla Walla subchapter, local colleges and Boy Scout troops.
Contact Information Betsy Kaiser firstname.lastname@example.org