Volunteer Program at the Zoo

For more than two decades on Monday mornings from early spring to late fall, Master Gardeners have been tending various gardens at ZooMontana as part of the Master Gardener Program, where participants volunteer time in horticultural related community activity to earn certifications or maintain good standing. For more information on volunteering at the Zoo, please call Amy Grandpre at 406.256.2828 or email her at agrandpre@co.yellowstone.mt.gov

SENSORY GARDEN

This garden was the vision of Jane Reger. She was inspired by her husband who was losing his eyesight. She started a by-invitation-only horticulture committee in 1991 to create an educational garden to appeal to all the senses (sight, taste, smell, and texture). Starting with a flat plot of land which was dug six feet deep to form berms and memorial plants donated by visitors and supporters, the garden was (and still is) tended by volunteers from various local garden clubs and Master Gardeners. The garden now is filled with colorful flowers, plants, trees, a waterfall, and a fountain, and is a popular spot for picnics and weddings.

Julie Halverson, a Master Gardener since 1994 and a member of Sow and Grow Garden Club, has been volunteering at the Sensory Garden since its inception. She worked with Jane and Dwayne Bondy, a botanist/horticulturist at the zoo who designed the master plan for the garden. Julie said Jane would be so proud of how the Sensory Garden vision has been realized and how it has blossomed.

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Julie Halverson

Working together with other Master Gardener volunteers throughout the years, Julie observes, “Maintenance is always an issue. There is a constant need of regular volunteers to maintain the gardens throughout the season. Too many Master Gardener volunteers come to fulfill their required hours to get certified and stop after that.”

As a testament to how much Julie’s generous contribution to the garden is appreciated, a Quick Fire hydrangea was planted on the south berm by the Yellowstone County Master Gardener Association in her honor when she was stricken with cancer a few years back. You can almost always find Julie at the Sensory Garden on Monday mornings.

CREVICE GARDEN

Located between the children’s playground and the bald eagle aerie, this garden became the latest creation at the Zoo’s grounds in September. Claimed to be Montana’s first proper crevice garden, it is spearheaded by Sharon Wetsch and Teresa Bessette. The crevice garden idea came to Sharon at a garden conference she attended and she shared the vision with Teresa who procured the plants through ‘Plant Select’ in Fort Collins, CO at Colorado State University.

Crevice gardening is a technique of gardening where small hardy plants from the mountains or high elevations are tucked between closely-spaced rocks to create

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Teresa Bessette and Sharon Wetsch

miniature landscapes. Flat stones are partially pushed down into the soil vertically to create narrow channels that provide excellent drainage and help move moisture more deeply into the soil while keeping the soil around the plant crown dry so that they become drought tolerant.

The design of the garden utilizes flat stones repurposed from other projects at the zoo and driftwood collected from the Pryor Mountains by volunteers. The garden focuses on native plants and their viability to be grown locally such as cosmos, daisies, ice plants, wildflowers, sedums, and succulents.

CHILDREN’S GARDEN

This garden has been tended single-handedly by Teresa Bessette for the past seven years. Each year Teresa plants flowers of interest specifically for children (unique color, shape, texture), adds whimsical garden ornaments, swaps decorations according to the season, and builds colorful bird houses which she hangs from the oak tree. Originally, the site had a pond (the elephant statue is a holdover from it) and a few trees.

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Children’s Garden at Zoo Montana

Upon seeing the large tortoise, zebra, monkey, and giraffe statues also in the area, she decided to convert the area into a Children’s Garden. She has since created a charming fun garden consisting of a central berm with a featured design that changes every year and five planting beds with numerous colorful flowering perennials, annuals, grasses, shrubs, and trees, amidst benches and stone seating for children and adults to enjoy.

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The Flag Garden

FLAG GARDEN

This garden is located on a slope at the main entrance of ZooMontana and was adopted by the Shining Mountain Chapter of Daughter of American Revolution (DAR) in 2015. Fay Danielsen, a member of the DAR, finds tending the Flag Garden personally meaningful. She became a Master Gardener in 2016. Appropriately, the garden focuses on a patriotic red, white, and blue color theme throughout the season with annuals and perennials like geraniums, salvia, daisies, and roses. A couple of issues that the garden is facing due to its location: making sure it gets enough water especially on hot days and gophers.

HOMESTEAD GARDEN

In 2018, a trio of volunteers, Beth Adams, Sherri Porter and Lisa Salisinski, adopted this garden as their own. Located by the Homestead House and Homestead Barn, the garden has been neglected and overrun by grass and weeds. The ladies weeded the area

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Homestead Garden

underneath and around the catalpa tree and planted heirloom flowers and perennials that grow well in the shade. In addition to clearing the path along the garden shed and the sidewalk towards the rabbit hutch and chicken coop, they also weeded and edged the south and west parts of the koi pond and took on watering the potted plants by the Homestead School House entry.

CHRIS’S GARDEN

Just outside the Visitor Center doors is a garden previously known as the Triangle Garden. It is now called Chris’s Garden, in honor of Chris Chauvin, who volunteered in the Sensory Garden for many years until she passed away in 2017. A bird’s nest spruce is planted and a plaque installed within the garden in memory of her. The area showcases

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Chris’s Garden at ZooMontana

multitudinous daffodils and tulips in the Spring. Various Master Gardeners tend this garden and are revamping the area around the memorial Norway Maple to make it appealing all year round and yet accommodate the Zoo’s resident peacocks that rest there.

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4 X 4 Square Foot Garden Winners

This year the 4×4 Square Foot Garden not only went through major upgrades, but we also had a most vigorous competition. Everyone did such a great job and it was a most challenging competition for our judges, Debbie Werholz and Rosemary Power, to undertake. (Thanks so much, Debbie and Rosemary.) The winners of this year’s 4×4 competition are:

First Place $50 – Merita Murdock

Second Place $25 – Roy Wahl

Two Third Place $10 – Ron & Joyce Hendricks; Charlie Hendricks

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Extra special thanks go out to our other competitors: Rick Shotwell, Joann Glasser & Pat Morrison, and Rebecca Starr. You all gave those who viewed our gardens a beautiful representation of the options one can have in small spaces.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre

2018 Flower Show

The 2018 Flower Show, hosted by the Thumb-R-Green Garden Club, had the theme of “Under Montana Skies.” The flower show was held Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the D.A. Davidson Building, in conjunction with the downtown farmers market. Of course all the displays were super, but especially enticing were the underwater arrangements…what a fun twist on flower arranging.

Thanks to all the Master Gardeners who helped in making this yearly event easier for all involved: Ann McKean, Bess Lovec, Charlie Hendricks, David Fisher, Gail Tesinsky, JoAnne Bylsma, Joyce Hendricks, Linda Walters, Marion Grumett, Mary Davis, Merita Murdock, Ron Hendricks, Vonnie Bell.

Submitted By Amy Grandpre

 

Dan Walt Garden Tour

This year’s DanWalt tour ended up being on an unseasonably cool and wet Aug. 26th day. This special garden is now owned and managed by current Master Gardener Suri Lunde and husband Clint, who are doing a wonderful job carrying out what must have been a most all-consuming life choice. The gardens were beautifully kept. The hibiscus were in their prime (so huge), and the Love Lies Bleeding amaranthus had some strands over 2 feet long.

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An extra bonus were pears for all who were interested from the huge pear tree beside the pavilion. We did have rain showers to contend with, but Suri and Clint had us covered with umbrellas for all so the tour went on with-out a hitch. The traditional chicken salad lunch was delicious as always, and the cheesecake Divine. We then had a real surprise when Dan Jellison (former owner) showed up by accident just as dessert was finished. Of course he mingled and shared his sharp wit for many light hearted laughs. For those of you who missed or who would like to share DanWalt with family or friends, don’t forget the self-tour option. This garden is well worth visiting and sharing.

Submitted by Amy Grandpre

Gardener’s Market at South Park

Sponsored by Riverstone Health, this Thursday afternoon market is small enough to be kid friendly and big enough to have a good variety of produce, crafts, and flowers. Master Gardeners this year gave away free vegetable and flower seed packets as well as information. There was also a children’s activity each week with the favorite being to sit a spell and color fun garden themed pictures – can you find a puppy hiding in the vegetables? If you didn’t have a chance to work this event, consider it for next year or at least stop by to support these small-scale growers who are sharing their bounty. What’s not to love about a little girl selling posies?

Submitted by Elizabeth Waddington

Originally posted in the Oct/Nov/Dec issue of the newsletter. Webmaster apologizes for the late posting – check on this for summer 2019!

Swanky Roots Tour

On August 28th, Master Gardener Association members were treated to a tour of Swanky Roots, a new aquaponics business in Billings. Our tour was given by co-owner Veronnaka Evenson, who graduated from Montana State University in 2016 with degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Veronnaka and mom, Ronna Klamert, are owners/operators of this most clean and modern greenhouse business. (I was most impressed with the requirement of washing our hands and walking on a specially treated mat to be sure no contamination entered the greenhouse.)

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At this early stage of the business it’s mostly lettuce being grown, which is available for purchase if you happen to be out in the area…on the way to Oscars Dreamland. The future will include sales of fish and more produce items, as ongoing research and demand are determined.

As you enter the greenhouse, you see the large blue tanks that are holding the fish (which some of our group got to feed!). The fish water is then cycled to irrigate the plants that are grown through a Styrofoam type mat that floats in aerated bins of water from the fish tanks. The large greenhouse is filled with these long bins of water and plants, with the exception of an area along one side, which has larger plant material grown in a medium of expanded clay balls.

This was truly a unique, first-time tour for our group of a business such as this. We wish them well on this most ambitious business venture.