By Beth Sullivan
Time for good news, positive thoughts, and actions. A nice change of pace.
The Parker Preserve
Almost 10 years ago an interesting piece of property was donated to Avalonia Land Conservancy, way out on the southern tip of River Rd in Pawcatuck. The two Parker brothers tended the front acres as a garden. The larger western portion, or rear of the parcel, is mostly wetlands with an established grove of large mixed evergreens. When the property was given to Avalonia, it became the Parker Brothers Preserve. It had young fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, a grape arbor, and many specimen evergreens and conifers.
Over the years, the fields were mowed by a willing and generous neighbor steward. But the gardening part went by the wayside. Our stewardship chores are too numerous already, and we don’t have time for maintenance gardening. I tried my hand at rescuing the grape arbor several times, but when it became overgrown with porcelain berry, it was nearly impossible to tell the two vines and their leaves apart.
During the terribly stormy period of 2012-2013 with hurricanes and blizzards, the evergreen grove took a beating. Many of them were broken, trunks littered the ground, and what remained were jagged snags and brush piles. We couldn’t do anything about it.
Each year we would go in to do our annual boundary walk and tried to get around the wetlands. It was always easier to do it when the ground was frozen, so we really didn’t spend a lot of time there during the summer season. Over the years, invasive vines grew up into the evergreens and over the walls. But it remained a lovely spot to look for cones, berries, and birds - a place to see the water and enjoy the breeze and views.
|Shining yellow near the center of the back wall, we found a lovely Dawn redwood tree growing.|
|The evergreen grove was severely damaged by the wind storms and blizzards several years ago.|
|There was a great patch of native milkweed already established.|
Girl Scouts have a plan
Early this year I was contacted by Girl Scout troop 61047 leader, Laura Holveck, who had enjoyed the Hike Stonington Program, got to know Avalonia, and knew the Parker preserve in her neighborhood. She and her troop had a proposal: to create a pollinator garden in the preserve. This would be following Stonington’s efforts to create pollinator pathways throughout the town. Avalonia doesn’t, as a rule, allow or encourage “gardening” on our nature preserves, but since the preserve was the donors’ garden, and it surely needed some TLC and attention, this seemed like a great time to take a new look and get some new input. Perfect for a Girl Scout Project. Then came Covid, home schooling, confusion, and distancing. Then there was summer drought and more uncertainty. But we planned. The girls, Kate Holveck, Nora Fanning, and Sierra Redfern, are Middle School age and working toward their Silver Award. (You can read more about the Silver Award here.) They had to research, plan, and present their plan. Then they needed to decide how to implement the plan. We did a lot of email communication, and I did an on-site meeting with one Scout and her mom.
She presented the group’s idea to create a 10-foot diameter circle garden, divided into quarters, that would represent the four seasons with appropriate plants and flowers. It was decided that the best place to locate the garden was just inside the entrance and adjacent to a natural patch of native milkweed for monarchs.
With the help of our neighbor-steward and his bigger equipment, the sod was removed and compost was added. At this point it was getting late in the season, well into October, so the opportunity to get donations from local garden centers seemed to be diminishing for the season. But the girls had great luck when they approached Pequot Plant Farm and were given two native Cinquefoil and two butterfly bushes. Many Thanks!
During the recent spell of lovely weather, the girls got together and edged out the garden and planted the small shrubs. They hope to add some early spring-flowering bulbs for those early honeybees. They will continue to plan over the winter, for a spring planting of flowers for summer bloom.
Avalonia stewards have continued to clear the walls, took a lot of debris to the dump, and have had quite a time ripping and pulling invasive plants and vines from the beautiful big trees. There are larch, fir, yew, cedar, spruce, and pine. We uncovered several young, native holly trees and also discovered a lovely Dawn redwood tree along the back wall.
The evergreen grove is beyond rescue. The area will be left to evolve naturally with gradual decomposition of woody debris. There is an old dump of garden debris that will also compost naturally. Invasive plants are attempting to get hold in that area, and we may need to address these, but otherwise we will leave the woodlands and wetlands alone.
The Parker Brothers’ Preserve is a little gem, off the main roads of travel. It can become a great local resource with some collaboration. I am hoping that other neighbors in the area will step up and continue to help with stewardship as the Girl Scouts have set a good example. A bright spot when we need it. I am thankful.
|Picking up trash that was hidden under years of vegetation. Photograph by Troop 61047.|
|The garden was dug and compost piled on. Photograph by Troop 61047.|
|Pequot Plant Farm donated some great plants, and they are in. Photograph by Troop 61047.|
|The plants, and the girls, look pretty happy. Photograph by Troop 61047.|
|It is cleaned up, garden ready, and grapes rescued. It is a lovely spot. Photograph by Troop 61047.|
Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.