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Silver Spring Methodist Church, Maryland

Featured Site Created By Rob

Wildlife gardens are not just for yards. Gardens can be created anywhere there is space and a motivated person or group. This Methodist Church community in Montgomery, Maryland has come together to create lovely habitat gardens for pollinators and birds. With leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm, each year this site grows its capacity to provide habitat while offsetting their impermeable surfaces by capturing rainwater in cisterns and rain gardens. Recently, they were certified as a Garden for Wildlife site with the National Wildlife Federation. Read more about their process for inspiration.

What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?

Raind Garden Church

Photo © Rob
The first step was to survey the site and compose a set of garden locations. This occurred in the Fall of 2014 in preparation for planting in the spring of 2015. The goal of the work was to take over the management of areas that historically had annual plants or vegetables and were under-utilized. The plan was to use plants that attract butterflies. The selections of plants came from Better Homes and Gardens. We grew over 1000 plants from seed using a horticultural process and planted them in the spring of 2015. In that first year, the gardens attracted five different kinds of butterflies.

Then plans were made for 2016 but, this time, with a focus on native plants intermixed with familiar annuals. Again, we put in over 1000 plants. In 2016, we decided to seek certification as a Garden for Wildlife Habitat. We also applied for a grant for a cistern. We got our certification and held a workshop at our site when our Certified Wildlife Habitat was memorialized. The cistern was delivered in the Fall of 2016 but was not operable until 2017, when we secured a pump with some extra funding.

In our 2017 planning, we sought three sources of funding for two rain gardens and an improved drainage system. Over 1500 plants were added including those purchased with grant money. I developed a technique to perform the cold stratification of the native plant seeds. In addition, we created a birdhouse trail. The drainage system is still not built and has been delayed.

Church Certified

Photo © Rob

The plan for 2018 involves completing the necessary drainage for one rain garden. We hope to secure funding to complete two additional conservation landscapes and to add interpretative signage. The signage will cover birds, butterflies, caterpillars, native herbs, shrubs, and trees. Some plants will be purchased and others grown through horticultural processes. The improved cold-stratification techniques are producing a higher germination rate of the native plant seeds. We may also request a second cistern from one of the funding sources.

What are some successes that you've seen since the improvements were made? (alternatively, "What are you most proud of, or excited to share about this site?")

IMG_1770

Photo © Rob
With the pollinator gardens (in purple/pink on our habitat map) and rain gardens (in orange on our habitat map), along with the forest fringe areas, we use 10 percent of our total land-use for conservation. If the drainage system is built we will manage more than 10 percent of our total area for stormwater runoff.

Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?

On our site we have some invasive, deep-rooted, smothering plants. We have used the paint-on herbicide approach. We’d prefer not to use chemical herbicides but felt we needed them to get a handle on the invasive plants.

What is your favorite bird or wildlife spotting?

Our butterfly diversity has gradually increased from five different species (2015), to 11 (2016), to 16 (2017). We had an exciting Pileated Woodpecker sighting in 2016. In 2017, we spotted hummingbirds using the cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). I spotted a chipmunk a few days ago. The amount and diversity of wildlife using our gardens appears to be increasing.

Check out this great video with images of the work that has been done on this site: