Laura Dean Bennett
On the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street in Marlinton, there’s a tiny bit of space that will soon become a special place.
Reclamation of this spot began a while back when the giant Norway Spruce, which had been its dominant feature, had to be removed and the Marlinton Woman’s Club stepped up to pay the bill.
The removal of that huge evergreen left a void.
Enter the creative mind of Anne Walker, president of the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op, who, as it happens, is also a gardener.
Walker and fellow artist and gardening enthusiast Chris Bartlett teamed up to re-make the plot of ground into a pollinator garden where they envision visitors and residents strolling through or resting on a bench to enjoy their handiwork.
With a lovely design, practical botanical plans, a lot of elbow grease and the support of the community, the little garden is taking shape.
“This winding, graveled path through the center represents the Greenbrier River, and the planters we’re positioning throughout the space will kind of be the “islands in the stream,” Walker chuckled.
First things first, the existing shrubbery was given a thorough trimming by local volunteers. Walker and Bartlett then began the tough job of clearing out the old to make way for the new.
Old soil and weedy mulch is being replaced with fresh soil and mulch, and the walkways will be covered with gravel, which has been donated by Appalachian Aggregates.
Eight short whiskey barrel planters – all of which have been “adopted” by local organizations –will hold a variety of flowering plants.
The sponsors of these planters provided the funds for the plants and will be responsible for their ongoing upkeep.
Boy Scout Troop 33 adopted two barrel planters.
Three 4-H clubs – the Brushy Flat Bush Wackers, Minnehaha Braves and the Buckeye Winners – adopted planters.
Monongahela National Forest – as another aspect of their ongoing partnership with the Town of Marlinton – also took responsibility for a planter, which will be filled with plants of particular interest to pollinators.
Last spring, the federally endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was found in the pollinator garden at the Marlinton Ranger Station.
The hope is that the little garden, and other green spaces in town, will provide a welcoming habitat for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and other pollinators.
The forest service provided pollinator plants and shrubs and native trees for other projects in the Town of Marlinton, including the pollinator and rain gardens at Discovery Junction.
Ranger District’s intern Michael Zsembik and the District Ranger Cindy Sandeno took an interest in the project.
Sonny Shaw and sons, Jeff and Kevin, built the long flower box, planted with perennials and annuals, which sits in front of the 4th Avenue Gallery.
When they installed the flower box, they moved several large river rocks from the Depot into the little park to be incorporated into Walker’s design.
“It’s going to be something to really be proud of,” Bartlett said, smiling.
Joining the existing shrubbery – which includes yew bushes, a baby red bud tree, burning bushes, several evergreen shrubs and red twig dogwood – will be a succulent hedge, a wildflower bed, torch lilies, the pollinator plants and a year-round planter featuring winter crocus, saffron crocus and wild tulips and painted gourd bird houses to welcome avian residents.
The Marlinton Lions Club sponsored a beautiful bench which sits on one side of the garden, with a plaque identifying the organization.
There’s room for a second bench, which Walker hopes will be provided by a donation from another local organization or family.
Of course, there are more anticipated expenses for purchasing mulch and a few more plants for the space.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who has pitched in to make this garden possible,” Walker said.
“It’s fun looking forward to what it will look like next year and in the years to come.
“I like to think of all the nice activities we can have out here – the community art activities and art shows – it’s just going to be a pretty place to get together.
“This has turned into a real community effort, and we’re hoping the whole community will come and enjoy it.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the garden can reach Anne Walker at 304-653-8879.