The Dirt: The not-so-secret garden

Sara Martin just received one of six Excellence in Teaching awards from Haywood Community College. It's easy to see why: The biology professor's enthusiasm for the college, the kids and her subject is contagious.

Early blooms: Designed to attract wildlife, the new garden at Haywood Community College will be a bird-and-butterfly sanctuary. Photo by Martin Bagwell

As part of the College Advisory Council, which meets monthly to develop leadership among faculty and staff, Martin volunteered to head up a garden project. The campus already boasted rose, dahlia, rhododendron and rain gardens, but this would be a bird-and-butterfly sanctuary designed to attract wildlife.

For her part, Martin would like to see the entire campus become a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (, which is working to draw attention to habitat preservation.

As development gobbles up more and more areas that were formerly home to native species, the National Wildlife Federation is encouraging people to provide food, water and nesting areas by creating suitably designed gardens. Besides supporting wildlife, you're keeping them out of the rest of your garden as they search for food.

The plants for Haywood's bird-and-butterfly garden are all native species, selected with monarch butterflies and hummingbirds particularly in mind. Flowers such as coral honeysuckle, low-bush blueberries, trumpet vine and milkweed were chosen precisely because, unlike exotic foreigners, they're already part of our native wildlife's diet.

The garden project was also a chance to educate Martin's environmental biology students about wildlife habitat — as well as the students in the forestry department, the fish and wildlife program and the horticultural program. The school is home to a rather extensive program in natural resources, so the garden fits right in.

But to get the garden going, funds were needed. The school's president, Rose Johnson, suggested that the garden be a celebration of the people of Haywood County. The result? Donations continue to be accepted from the college community and Haywood County at large. All donations are recorded and, in keeping with the garden's theme of celebrating the community, each plant is labeled with the name of the contributor. Plaques display everything from the name of a beloved teacher to the unknown (as of yet) name of a first child. Baby Willis had to suffice for that plaque, at least for now.

Yet the garden also needed an outline. The Landscape Design I class (taught by John Sherman), which is part of the horticultural program's curriculum, took up the challenge by staging a competition. The class project was to design the garden, and a board was chosen to review the submissions. The winner was Josie Purbrick, who submitted a more formal design complete with paths, benches, and birdbaths.

Every community effort also needs some publicity. As part of her senior project, student Tamara Smith created a brochure outlining plans for the garden, including a list of hoped-for plants. Donors can purchase mountain laurels, rosebay rhododendrons, and coral honeysuckle for $30, or purple coneflowers and mountain mint for $10 (prices include the cost of maintaining the garden). Donations are accepted and managed by the Haywood Community College Foundation. (Please contact Martin at 627-4687 or if you'd like to participate.)

Not to be left out, the carpentry shop, headed by John Mark Roberts, built a trellis for the garden, while Martin, a blacksmith, designed and built a butterfly bench. The garden isn't just limited to butterflies and birds, after all — people are welcome to come, sit and enjoy as well.

The garden will be used by the college to teach Haywood's students about native wildlife, their natural habitats and needs. While this is a useful teaching tool, the garden will ultimately do what all gardens do — provide a respite for animals and humans alike.

Cinthia Milner lives in Leicester.

Haywood Community College's garden is desgined to be a bird-and-butterfly sanctuary that will to attract wildlife.

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One thought on “The Dirt: The not-so-secret garden

  1. Donna T.

    What a wonderful treasure this garden will be for Haywood Community College and for all of the residents of Haywood County. Kudos to Ms. Martin for her well-deserved award and for her desire to create a bird and butterfly sanctuary. I can’t wait to visit!

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