While you weren’t looking, there have been some new additions to the UUCWC Grounds and perhaps you will discover them when you next visit the property. Thanks to a grant from UUCWC’s Endowment Fund, and a grant from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, along with Earth Ministry funds, the Earth Ministry Team and Grounds Committee planted 28 small trees and shrubs in the three parking berms to enhance the front yard and wildlife habitat of our property. The plantings provide screening between the parking lot and residents or drivers along Washington Crossing-Pennington Road.
In addition, we transplanted some of the perennials from the garden by the entrance and added some native perennials which will bloom in the spring and summer, thanks to Penny Rodgers, Steve Saddlemire, yours truly, and the Blue Chip landscaping/mowing crew under contract to UUCWC. We also planted a Redbud tree as a replacement memorial for Philo Elmer, former chair Grounds, Earth Ministry and Caring Committees, and some evergreen Christmas Ferns, Woodland ferns and Wild Geraniums were added to the Memorial Garden.
In keeping with Earth Ministry’s mission and our Green Sanctuary accreditation, as well as our UUA 7th principle to respect the interdependent web of life and protect natural resources, all these plantings are native to area and have high wildlife habitat value. Native plantings, as opposed to nonnative or invasive species, provide food supply, nesting areas and shelter for wildlife. These plantings were selected for their suitability to the sunny conditions and average soils that exist in the parking berms, fall foliage, fragrant and beautiful blooms for us to enjoy and to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and production of seeds and berries which will provide food for a variety of wildlife. Nonnatives provide little or no value to wildlife and are therefore undesirable. In addition, nonnative plants outcompete and displace natives, often completely taking over an area resulting in a monoculture. Having diverse plantings adds to the biodiversity and health of our environment in general and specifically our church property.
We’d love to take you on a mindful meditation and nature walk of our grounds when it is once again safe to do so. In the meantime, look for the Witch Hazel (Hamamaelis virginia) which blooms in the mid-late fall with a wispy yellow flower – you may see it now along with the nut-like seed capsule. Its Latin name Hamamaelis means “together with fruit”, referring to the current year’s flowers being present with the fruit from the prior year’s bloom. Yes, it is the source of the astringent Witch hazel you find in the pharmacy aisle. Other small trees include Serviceberry, Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Sweet Birch (Betula lenta), and Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). Shrubs which now enhance our landscape include several varieties of Viburnum including the American cranberry (Viburnum trilobium) – look for pretty red berries fall to winter and Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), which produces clusters of luscious burgundy-purple berries. Elderberry is not only good for wildlife, but it is an herbal remedy for people, used to boost immunity. Elderberry wine or tea sounds good to me! Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a hardy shrub having four-season interest (for us), and is “semi-evergreen.” In the springtime, clusters of white to light pink flower will decorate its branches. We have much to look forward to!
It may take several seasons for these young plantings to be fully established and provide the plentiful flowers and berries for us all to enjoy, and we hope that you will appreciate looking at the native plantings knowing UUCWC is doing its part “for the beauty of the Earth.”