The Heart of Uwchlan Project comprises three gardens in Baird Park, the campus location of the Uwchlan Township offices. The campus is a historic farm site with ponds and a park. The gardens include a milkweed garden designated as a Save Our Monarchs monarch habitat garden along the meeting room wall; a riparian streamside garden on the stream below the lower pond; and a wetland garden at the end of the parking lot. The gardens are enrolled on Douglas Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park program. In addition, a nature learning trail was marked out through the park with education stations using the flora and fauna.
The Heart of Uwchlan Project arose out of Toni Gorkin’s Pennsylvania master naturalist education; it was approved by the Uwchlan Township Environmental Advisory Council and has the support of the Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors. The Heart of Uwchlan team has been small, about six volunteers, due to COVID, but its members include two master watershed stewards and now another PA master naturalist. Hours are logged to the PA Master Naturalist and Master Watershed databases. The sites of the gardens were chosen in consultation with the leadership of the township’s parks and grounds maintenance and the township manager.
The goals of the Heart of Uwchlan Project are to:
• Introduce native plants and enhance the biodiversity of Baird Park
• Support SustainableUwchlan goals and EAC initiatives
• Provide education for the public of sustainable gardening practices through examples
The Uwchlan EAC has conducted education, including webinars, events such as “Monsters, Masks and Milkweeds,” and demonstrations of winter seed sowing in plastic jugs. The practices employed in developing the gardens include “lasagna gardening” (applying cardboard, leaves and mulch through winter) to prepare weed-free sites, live-staking with suitable cuttings at the Streamside and Wetland Gardens, and winter seed sowing. Last winter over 60 plastic jugs of native plant seeds were sown to undergo winter stratification. Hundreds of plants were used to fill out the gardens and made available to the public. The Heart of Uwchlan team has harvested seeds from the garden and made them available to interested gardeners.
The milkweed garden has thrived and hosted monarch caterpillars as well as many pollinators. Its location along the side of the meeting room has made it a successful point of interest for the public attending meetings and using the park. Initially it was just milkweeds, but other native perennials have been added to support adult butterflies and pollinators with nectar and to enhance the color of the site. Swamp milkweed, common milkweed, and butterfly weed have done very well there.
Educational signage highlights the streamside garden. Plants include swamp milkweed, blue vervain, red and black chokeberry, alder, boneset, asters, cupflower, and other perennials.
The wetland garden has demonstrated very well “right plant in the right place” in an area that was too wet to be mowed. It not only reduced the lawn area, it allowed some native plants (ironweed, sedges) to regenerate naturally in addition to the ones planted. The plants selected were specifically adapted to wet areas, such as swamp milkweed, swamp goldenrod and phlox, obedience plant, native iris, river oats, boneset and blue vervain. A grove of trees was planted to develop into an understory, including redbuds, river birches, a swamp oak, and buttonbush. At the center of the garden is a sweet bay magnolia to provide an accent point.