What’s the buzz?

by Mary Helen Darah

President/CEO at Toledo Memorial Park Jeff Clegg checks on the well-being of the pollinators that are responsible for assisting the native flowering plants of the TMP Oak Openings Native Wildflower Prairie. The flowering area was made possible by collaborating with the Green Ribbon Initiative, a partnership of conservation groups that work together to protect the natural beauty and biological diversity of the Oak Openings Region.

Brittany Durco is wild about wildflowers. She has been with the Toledo Memorial Park for five and a half years as its head gardener. “I get to design, order, plant and maintain all the flower beds in the park,” she said. “Throughout the year, I order plants and maintain the flower beds, offer continuing education programs and research native landscapes.

Durco is thrilled with the progress of the Toledo Memorial Park Oak Openings Native Wildflower Prairie. “It’s our own little piece of Oak Openings in our backyard,” she stated. “We collaborated with the Green Ribbon Initiative. We did an application process and they came to us and evaluated our area. They determined the size of our area and the amount of seeds we needed.”

Getting the seeds also required some training. “I had to complete many hours of service in exchange for seeds and their expertise,” Durco explained. “I volunteered at the Nature Conservancy at Kitty Todd Nature Preserve and Blue Creek Metropark in Whitehouse. I learned how to hand seed and met some absolutely wonderful people. We have quite the team for sharing resources. Toledo Memorial Park is also a member of Wild Ones. Cindy Carnicom of  Popping Up Natives and Erika Buri of The Olander Park System have also helped with the project.” 

Brittany Durco stands in a field of native plants at Toledo Memorial Park made possible through the Green Ribbon Initiative. For anyone interested in planting or collecting seeds, visit Toledo Memorial Park Oak Openings Native Wildflower Facebook page.

There are two areas of wildflowers at Toledo Memorial Park. “The prairie in the front is well established and the area in the back is a work in progress,” stated Durco. “It didn’t take hold as the one in the front did. We were trying to get honey bees established so clover was planted. That made it harder for the native seeds to take. The prairie in the front was just grass and that made it easier to plant seeds.”

According to Durco and her experts, the best way to plant seeds for a small prairie is by hand. “We started prepping the area at the end of summer two years ago and then tilled and hand seeded that winter,” she explained. “The following spring we identified about a handful native seedlings coming up. Black-eyed Susan and yarrow bloomed that spring. After that first year we collected seed from our own prairie and other areas we identified. We had about a shoebox full to supplement the prairie in the back that we are working on. This early summer we put the walking paths in to give it shape. The public can now walk through and see its beauty. You can walk anywhere in the park, even with dogs, as long as you clean up after them.”

Durco and her team introduced bees a couple of months ago. “It is very exciting,” she said. “I got to go out and open it up and take out a divider because they have populated so fast. They are doing great. To control the Japanese beetle I had to look into eco-friendly ways to treat them so we do not harm our honey bees. I am using eco-friendly pest control because of them. Most of the bees stay in the prairie and we do not want to hurt our pollinators.”

TMP and Durco hope the community will visit the prairie to enjoy its beauty. “I want people to come out, explore, and spark that curiosity so more people will want to get involved and perhaps get motivated to create a piece of Oak Openings in their homes and in their lives. If everyone just did a little bit it would be tremendous. Even if you are in an apartment and have a couple native plants to support the ecosystem here, it is better than doing nothing at all. There are so many resources if people want to get involved. Wherever you go there are people wanting to make this happen.”

Durco is already thinking about future projects. “Moving forward we are looking into a small woodland restoration project, building a couple dragonfly gardens and continuing work on the other .7-acre prairie, which is coming along a bit slower. It is incredible what can happen in such a short time. Thus far we have identified at least a dozen species of native plants that are blooming or are ready to bloom just two years after putting the seed down. I hope people come out and enjoy the beauty of this incredible flowering slice of nature.”

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