The vision of the Demonstration Gardens took shape in a casual conversation among Master Gardeners. Their desire was to have a place to show people:
types of gardens
plants that do well in St. Charles and surrounding areas
pest and disease problems
basic gardening methods
The Master Gardener organization (first class was in 1998) was young in both participants and funds, so the initial step was to design and create a perennial flag pole garden with plants donated by Master Gardeners.
In the fall, Master Gardeners came with plants and shovels in hand to establish the beginning plot. A small strip between Building C and the parking lot was turned, amended and planted with sedum.
A holding area was developed on the west side of the main extension building for plant donations that would be used in the flagpole garden. Due to high traffic in front of Building C, the strip was replanted with daylilies as the sedum had died out.
In the spring, the organization agreed to the idea of native gardens where soil conditions and location would make other types of gardening difficult. A rain garden now exists where water used to stand year round due to parking lot runoff.
Additional expansion of gardens centered on natives. Plot area vegetation was killed to make way for the future butterfly garden and prairie areas.
Gardens maintained. Amendment bins were designed and filled with top soil, mulch, compose and wood chips.
Since the initial conversation six years ago, the organization had grown in participants and funds. The commitment to the original vision was strong and the organization agreed to: redesign the flagpole garden with a focus on Plants of Merit. Raised vegetable beds were installed, compost bins were constructed, a formal herb garden was created and the native garden was expanded with a butterfly garden and prairie plot.
A group of Master Gardeners volunteered to get together and plan how all this was to come together. Out of that a discussion an overall Demo Garden lead was appointed and a lead for each garden was established. A site plan for the gardens was begun with areas reserved for future expansion as time and money allowed.
The work for 2007 included adding a small orchard and vineyard, additional raised beds for holding perennials grown for plant sales, and a bulb garden. The paths between the gardens were edged with landscape timbers and wood chips placed over landscape fabric to keep down weed maintenance.
Entrance Sign garden completed and planted with four seasons of color to attract visitors to the gardens. A swale along natives was dug to help with parking lot flooding washing out the natives. First produce from the pantry garden was donated to local food pantry. A lasagna garden was built during a MG class in the Fall and dressed up with old highway concrete to edge.
An orchard fence was constructed to ward off hungry wildlife. The pantry garden had another year of contributions to the food pantry. Shade garden was established on the North side of the driveway beneath two post oaks with a pathway and donated sitting bench. The beginnings of a treescape using donated native trees and bushes began. One of the treescapes was planted to demonstrate home gardening area. (Flutter-by garden began). In addition, a walkway framing over 100 named daylilies was dug, amended and planted for next year's spring color.
A Goony bird found a home near the entrance to the C building. On the other side of the doorway a rose garden was built. Plans for a handicapped accessible garden began with a design for an Enabling Garden . Donations of a large concrete water culvert, concrete finishing, lumber for raised beds and fruit trees rounded out a great community effort. Area scouts completed two eagle projects within this garden. With the death of the 2 post oaks, the shade garden becomes cottage garden
Flutter-By garden is replanted to combining both native and perennial butterfly nectar and food plants. Donated iris rhizomes find a final resting place in a new iris bed. After much talk about the purchase and construction of a greenhouse, a grant was written and submitted with no interest shown. Members decided we could build our own with reasonable costs. A second hand greenhouse was advertized, purchased and torn down by MG’s and transported to the site. A contractor was hired to move dirt and level an area above the flood plain for a site for the greenhouse. Fall of 2011 annual beds were dug and created for 2012 planting.
Greenhouse - the hopes of having it complete for grown out seedlings for the plant sale were dashed by delays in construction. Seedlings were then transported to a member's greenhouse in Foristell and St Paul and then transported for the plant sale. Water lines were installed into the greenhouse area and back of C room and a gas tank installed for heaters. Establishment of a Plant Propagation area adjacent to the orchard as a growing area for native trees and bushes for the sale. Herb beds are redesigned. Raised beds were constructed for berries in orchard area.
Annuals were placed in the three annual beds after the plant sale. Buffalo grass test plot installed along Brown road and a major lawn renovation program was completed in the fall. Award program for hours of service was instituted with hourly pins and a native tree planted on site for those over 1,000 volunteer hours mark for the year.
Greenhouse completed and first set of plants were grown out in the facility. A pergola was constructed for both shade and as an outside classroom. Foundation plantings were redesigned and expanded around the building featuring annuals, perennials, bulbs and bushes. Iris beds were redesigned to eliminate water sitting in the site. Cold frames built along south side of building for overwintering perennials and natives
Planned raised beds were completed to include square foot gardening and cover crop displays. Pergola plantings completed. Paths expanded around the total area in anticipation of the State Conference tour of the facility. Bird garden became the design of the MG class of 2013. New this year were vertical plantings around the garden.