There are days, as the executive director of a local not-for-profit, that I find myself overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we receive from our collective community. As this photo came across my desk, today was one of those days. It shows several volunteers kneeling in the snow on Monday morning, on icy ground, pecking shovels through the top frozen layer in order to plant small pots of thyme groundcover on the north slope of our Japanese-inspired “Island Garden”, a generous gift from Don and Jurate Krabill.
As most who follow our construction schedule may know, we were in a race against the seasons these past few months, making progress on hardscape (gorgeous, exposed aggregate pathways) alternating with ‘filling in’ the planting bed spaces created by those walkways, before another 10 cubic yards of concrete could be installed, and so on. Once the final 10 cubic yards of concrete were laid, the weather (and pressing garden maintenance issues and Winter Wonderland Holiday Lights preparation) necessitated an ‘all stop’ on planting… but what to do with over 2000 square feet of ground cover that needed to be preserved until planting could resume in the spring? Had the plants made it in the ground, their roots could overwinter naturally, in place. But in pots/flats, they needed additional help as they would be unnaturally exposed to the extreme temperatures of our region.
Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager consulted with our grower to see if they had any suggestions. Bottom line, “keep them in temperatures at or above 32 degrees.” Easier said than done for over 2000 square feet of plants whose roots needed to be both ‘warm’ and accessible for occasional watering throughout the winter months – and ‘on a budget,’ of course. Our heated, 600-square foot greenhouse was already loaded with our tender tropicals – – no room at the inn. But our good friends at Pac-Van stepped up and helped us out with the loan of a 40-foot shipping container, but the steel ‘Thyme Capsule’, as it became known, was too challenging a beast to keep heated as the mercury continued to drop. A decision had to be made that considered the value of the Thyme (“thyme is money”, right?), the plummeting temperatures, our physical challenges (and cost) associated with continuing to warm the space, as perhaps our biggest X-factor: WHO can help us get these plants in the ground NOW in an attempt to save them.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: People – our volunteers and staff – ARE our Garden. In our time of need, on a snowy slope in 30-degree weather, they answered the call. They planted and planted, square foot after square foot that morning, allowing us to reduce our stock sufficient to retreat the remaining square footage to the nook and cranny spaces left in our greenhouse. The thyme on the slope was mulched in place to increase insulation/protection and waits for a grand unveiling in May, when the Island Garden will open to much fanfare. The Island Garden will grow, its value apparent as we steward its lessons of thoughtful Japanese design and timeless beauty for decades to come. The stories of ‘plant-heroism’ by those who follow this vision remain in our memory forever. THANK YOU, Volunteers!
See you in the Garden,
Robert and Peggy Weed Executive Director