Native plants in bloom at Kul Kah Han

Explore the ‘ecosystems’ of Chimacum’s native garden

Posted 6/19/19

Weeding can be a meditative act. Getting your hands in the fresh soil, pulling out weeds one by one, piling them in a bucket to be gone from your garden forever.

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Native plants in bloom at Kul Kah Han

Explore the ‘ecosystems’ of Chimacum’s native garden

Posted

Weeding can be a meditative act. Getting your hands in the fresh soil, pulling out weeds one by one, piling them in a bucket to be gone from your garden forever.

Weeding can also be a pain. Literally. Back-aching, knee-cramping work, ridding the flower beds of weeds is a gardener’s eternal crusade. But it’s better with friends.

“A lot of gardeners end up alone in their own garden,” said Ellen Larkin, as she kneels in the dirt, scooping out weeds from a bed at the Kul Kah Han native plant demonstration at HJ Carroll Park. “It can be a pretty solitary hobby. So it’s nice to get out and have this social gardening.”

Larkin can often be found alongside a close-knit group of gardeners who have created and cared for the native plant garden at HJ Carroll Park since the first roots were planted back in 1998.

The garden was started by Linda Landkammer, designer in chief of the native plant demonstration, after Wild Olympic Salmon, the conservation group proceeded the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, built the Salmon Shelter at the park. The funds for the shelter were donated by Bill Irwin, who was on the board of Wild Olympic Salmon. He asked Landkammer to come design a garden around the shelter.

“When I got here it was just one big gravel pit,” she said. “You couldn’t even grow weeds here.”

Since then, the gravel pit has transformed into a lush paradise of plants. The garden includes eight different sections, each representing an ecosystem, that include only plants native to the Olympic Peninsula.

With the Chimacum Creek babbling on the edge of the garden, the gardeners have created a maze of pathways that take visitors through eight small native ecosystems, including damp forest, dry forest, edgeland, meadow, montaine, subalpine, wetland, and their newest shoreline ecosystem.

“Having a native plant garden was just an extension of Wild Olympic Salmon’s philosophy,” Landkammer said. “Their mission was restoration, ours was education. I dreamed of dividing it into different ecosystems, just like in the wild.”

Native plants have more benefits than just their beauty. Since they are native to the ecosystem, they can survive with little help, reducing the need for extra water, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and gas powered lawn mowers, Landkammer said. Native plants have evolved with the insects and diseases of our region, so don’t need much pest control.

Native plants are also rich in nectar and seeds, which attract more wild birds, pollinating insects, and reptiles, and can create a wildlife corridor in your backyard, Landkammer said.

“There didn’t used to be birds or anything here,” said Robin Nye,a volunteer gardener at the native plant demonstration. “Recently, we’ve noticed a lot of butterflies in the garden.”

Amongst the singing birds and floating butterflies, the volunteer gardeners enjoy each others’ company, while keeping the garden in tip-top shape. But the weeds never stop growing, and with expanding ecosystems, the gardeners are hoping to draw more volunteers to come garden with them on Wednesdays, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“It’s good for the physique, it’s better than exercising,” said Ann Evans, a volunteer gardener who Landkammer says has an “eagle eye” for weeds. “Being in a garden and out in nature is more powerful than any drug.”

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