Source: Sherman Publications

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‘Weed factory’ or beauty?

by Susan Bromley

August 29, 2012

Ortonville- The Heritage Garden is getting a one-year reprieve.

The village council voted 6-0 during their Aug. 27 meeting to keep the garden's current configuration and provide mulch to garden volunteers as needed for one year, at which time the state of the garden will be reevaluated.

Councilmember Tom Peters held up images of more manicured gardens provided to the council by gardeners at the meeting.

"You think you could make it look as nice as this next year, rather than a weed factory?" he asked.

Accomplishing that goal will require some help.

The native plant landscape, located next to the Old Town Hall at the corner of Mill and Church streets on village property, was planted in the spring of 2007. The garden was established with a five-year grant from the Farm Bureau that stipulated plants native to the area must be used. The garden contains several varieties of black-eyed Susans, sedge (a low, grass-like evergreen plant), native columbine, switchgrass, blue stem and potentilla.

However, it has also been overtaken by quack grass, an invasive species which Native Landscape Team Member Rick McAvinchey said is not easy to remove as it entangles itself among the native plants intentionally placed in the garden.

Native landscapes are a growing trend across the country. The Heritage Garden requires no watering, fertilizer or pesticides and is beneficial to wildlife including birds, butterflies and insects. The garden was designed in keeping with the type of garden that would have been planted in the 1800s, giving it historical and environmental significance, but it has also drawn complaints locally due to its unconventional, non-manicured look.

Celia Ryker, member of the native landscape team, acknowledged that this past season has been particularly difficult in keeping the garden under control due to a lack of volunteers, extreme heat this summer, and last winter's mild conditions.

"Once we have more help we can keep the non-native plants out," she said. "We're getting exactly what I wanted— people are noticing. But we can make it better."

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Native Landscape team or learning more about the Heritage Garden is encouraged to call Lois Robbins at 248-969-2518 or email