Started in the Spring of 2011, the primary purpose of this project has been to provide forage for butterflies, bees and other pollinators in the heat of summer using native perennial wildflowers which require little care.
Seeds were started indoors in the early spring.
There is an existing butterfly garden located next to the Chapter Fieldhouse which is comprised of a number of shrubs and perennials growing in shade, most of which flower in the cooler months.
Located across the parking lot of the Chapter field house, the location of the flower bed was selected due to its proximity to the existing butterfly garden, good sun exposure and lack of existing vegetation. It was a challenging site since the soil contained many chunks of acidic shale and little if any organic matter.
| Black |
|Mammoth Sunflowers||Lance |
|Black Oil Sunflower||Black Eyed Susan|
|Purple Coneflower||Butterfly Weed|
To prepare the bed, it was first rototilled with our tractor and most of the larger chunks of stone were removed. Some decayed leaf litter was incorporated in the soil along with some wood ash. After watering the bed, the flower seedlings were transplanted into the prepared bed.
After the transplants became established, they were mulched with pine needles to help retain moisture and add organic matter to the soil.
Growth during the summer was hampered by a lack of rain. According to the the National Weather Service data for Dulles Airport, the 2011 rainfall totals for the months of May through July were about 40 percent below normal . Of course that was not the only set back.
As is the case with most drought tolerant perennial wildflowers, there is only green growth during the first year. In fact only a couple of the Butterfly Weed plants flowered in the first season. The plants expend much of their energy in establishing an extensive root system in preparation for the next years growth.
Which is why, a number of these flowering plants were able to survive an encounter with a string trimmer likely wielded by a Chapter volunteer who mistook them for weeds.
Continuing the work started last year, In 2012, We have add more native perennial wildflowers as well as a couple of rows of annual sunflowers.
Initially purple coneflower develops a root mass that is far larger than the above ground growth.
Butterfly Weed is painfully slow to germinate, generally in excess of 30 days. The tap root in mature plants makes transplanting difficult once established. Plant dies down to root crown during the winter.
For more information on this project send an email to fairfaxwatershed at yahoo.com or call 703-200-3994.
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