While enjoying a public park, it’s commonplace to see seasonal color, shade trees and tough landscape shrubs planted throughout. After all, plants are what help make a park a park. But occasionally we run into a treat, where plantings in a park stop us in our tracks and make us take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the potential of a simple patch of earth.
Jack Warren Park in Lewisville is home to a bustling perennial garden, which was planted by members of the Lewisville Beautification Committee. Planted in 2010, the Warren Park garden is a combination of pass along plants, native perennials and even a couple of endangered plants. The garden is also a reflection of the commitment and vigor that the members seem to pour into all projects in the town.
The Lewisville Beautification Committee does a lot for the town of Lewisville, including envisioning ways to engage the public with natural beauty. The committee is responsible for the gateways into Lewisville, street banners, yard of the week designations, Christmas decorations, public benches, N.C. Clean Sweep programs, and plantings along Shallowford Road (the main thoroughfare through Lewisville).
So when land for Warren Park was donated to the town, the beautification committee stepped up to make the plantings more than ordinary. What was once just a simple mulched slope, quickly became a tapestry of color and a haven for pollinators.
“All of the park land was donated by Mary Alice Warren to honor her husband who had died,” said Susan Linker, the chair of the Lewisville Beautification Committee. “That’s how this park came to be, was through her generosity. We started with pass-along plants mostly, and then the town gave us some money to buy plants. Our goal was to have all season color, from the earliest months until the first frost. And I think we have succeeded very well.”
Jack Warren Park is a passive park, which focuses on low intensity recreation, open spaces and the preservation of natural habitat. Warren park has a playground, bocce ball courts, a pavilion and walking trails. The trails meander through wooded areas and open fields, leading visitors from the parking area down a gentle slope. The perennial garden is located on this downhill slope, and engages visitors from top to bottom.
When the committee set out to plant a perennial garden at the park, they were able to connect with a person who hauled in rich, Yadkin River bottom land soil.
“We kept making connections and found this guy that was willing to bring the topsoil and didn’t charge us anything,” said Yvonne Hall, a past committee chair. “So then we built it up and worked (the soil).”
Planted now for almost 10 years, this garden has fully matured, and is a stunning example of how small starter plants can evolve. Many of the original plants came out of committee members’ home gardens and have had to be thinned out over the past years. There are also heirloom perennials in the mix,such as single hollyhocks, stokes aster and tartarian asters, which you don’t tend to see planted as much these days.
Stunning height is realized in the garden, as an old-fashioned butterfly bush and patches of iron weed rise feet above other plants. Clumps of butterfly weed, false dragonhead, rudbeckia and echinacea offer a bounty of food for passing bees, hummingbird moths and other pollinators. Yarrow and sedum spill over the bottom edge of the garden, creating excellent texture for those walking on the nearby path.
“We have two endangered species,” Linker said. “One is the Georgia aster; the other is the Schweinitz’s sunflower. This is probably one of the biggest stands of Georgia aster you’re going to see anywhere. It’s a very large aster, bright purple. It’s been disappearing all over the South, mostly because of spraying of ditches or mowing.”
Another unusual aspect of the perennial garden at Jack Warren Park is members’ no-spray mentality. They have never used roundup or chemical insecticides in the garden, something committee members take great pride in. Weeds are all pulled by hand and the bed is kept heavily mulched to suppress weed growth. There is a heavy deer presence within the park, which they deal with by using an environmentally friendly product called I Must Garden Deer Repellent.
“What we’ve done is try to have things that are nature-friendly,” Hall said. “We use natural products, no chemicals. We have to spray for deer. If we didn’t spray the native azaleas, rose bushes and the perennial garden, they would devour it.”
Since its inception, committee members have been fully responsible for the perennial garden, including maintenance. In the last year, though, a few health issues were keeping key committee members from being as hands-on in the garden as usual. So the town contracted out the maintenance, and the new contractor is taking great care to respect the no-spray commitment that the committee desires.
The Lewisville Beautification Committee sees Warren park as an ever-evolving project, with lots natural space for more plants and educational opportunities.
“We’re working on a memorial project to invite residents of Lewisville to donate a tree to help us to plant more trees in this park,” Linker said. “Along the walking areas is where we’re shade poor. We’re really trying very hard to help show the potential for this park. We believe it’s a wonderful opportunity for education. To me, it’s just a gift.”
Any time late winter through fall is a great time to visit this perennial garden, and it’s an ideal place to get ideas for continual seasonal bloom. Jack Warren Park is at 440 Lewisville Clemmons Road in Lewisville and is open dawn til dusk everyday.