Volunteer hands go a long way in city garden

August 12, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

New: Aug. 12, 10:18 a.m.

The Lower Commons Native Plant Garden is a volunteer project with no end. As are the ever-growing weeds in it.

Cared for completely by volunteers, the patch at the back corner of the Sammamish’s Lower Commons, beneath mature Douglas firs, took off four years ago and continues to be a work in progress. The space had already been reserved for a public garden when Sammamish residents Erica Tiliacos and Pauline Cantor went to work making it a safe haven for indigenous plants.

Pauline Cantor, Erica Tiliacos, Kristen and Janus Rasmussen and Dawn Sanders take a break from weeding the Sammamish Lower Commons Native Plant Garden. Photo by Lillian O’Rorke

“I sometimes wonder when I’m heading out to weed this place, why I’m not weeding my own place,” said Tiliacos, who owns 3 acres nearby. “But it’s much more fun to weed with friends than alone.”

Tiliacos and Cantor were fresh out of the Washington Native Plant Society’s Native Plant Stewardship Program. The two are among more than 500 people from King, Snohomish and Pierce counties who have completed the 10-week course.

During the training, volunteers learn about native plants and their care, how to organize work teams and write grants to fund projects.

At the end of the program, stewards commit to spend 100 volunteers hours putting all their new knowledge to work. According to Dawn Sanders of the city of Sammamish, Tiliacos and Cantor logged their 100 hours long ago and continue to plug away at city’s garden, which is now home to the likes of bleeding hearts and salmonberries.

“Hopefully, every year we’ll be able to fill in more, and the plants here will continue to do well,” said Cantor. “Little by little, it can be done. Once the native plants are established, care is minimal because they are used to the wet winters and dry summers.”

But that time has not yet come. Many of the plants and shrubs are still adolescents, and the absence of a middle canopy between the garden and the tall Douglas firs means that weeds bask and grow in the sunlight. In an attempt to keep the army of weeds at bay, more than half a dozen community volunteer projects have been dedicated to the garden this year. As well, this summer the city has been hosting a monthly meet-and-great for locals to learn from the native plant stewards, get their hands dirty and hopefully makes some new friends in the process.

“It’s just fun. I love it,” said Kristen Rasmussen. Having moved to Sammamish in December from Denmark she and her three-year-old son Janus were eager to get involved at the Aug. 9 volunteer event. With a biology degree in her arsenal, Rasmussen is a fan of botany. “This is completely different flora here. Some of them I know…some things that are not invasive back home are invasive here.”

To find out about future native garden volunteer projects visit www.ci.sammamish.wa.us and click on the “volunteer” tab on the left hand side of the page.

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