Greenbelt Restoration Project: Service-Learning Sessions 5 & 6

Session 5

The primary task for the 5th service-learning session was to clear away the leaves, wood chips and weeds from all of the spots where new native trees, shrubs and ground covers would be planted on November 13th. Prior to the work party, Shirley and I had placed a green or pink flag at each of those locations.

Two staff members from Carlson Center, the University of Washington program that coordinates the University’s service-learning programs, came to our site that day. They wanted to talk with Shirley and me about how the students were helping to meet Green Seattle Partnership’s goals, to see our site, and to watch and talk with the students. They stayed with us for about an hour. I enjoyed their visit.

After a break, the students continued to clear the areas where native trees, shrubs and ground covers would be planted the following week.

Session 6

The 6th service-learning session took place on November 12, the afternoon before DocuSign, a corporate group, would be coming to plant everything. In-between the 5th and 6th sessions, the plants had been distributed to the locations where they would soon be planted.

Every year, each new plant is marked with a soft flagging tape. The tape may be attached to the plant itself or may be on a nearby stake. The tape is different for each planting season. Blue and white checkered tape was used for the Nov 2017 to March 2018 planting season and red with black polka dots for 2018-19. This season the tape is a light blue. You can see it on many of the plants in the photos above.

[The same tape is used in all Seattle Parks, so if you know the colors that were used for each season, you can go to any park and know what season a particular plant was planted.]

The flagging tape had been placed on all of the larger plants prior to the 6th session. When the plant is small, though, there may not be a branch that is strong enough for tagging. In those cases, we put the flagging tape on a stake and then put the stakes in the ground near the plants when they are planted. (The photo to the left shows one of the stakes.)

During the first part of the 6th service-learning session, three of the students made 100 of these stakes. While they did that, one of our staff members raked some of the paths on the site and another student put the stakes in or near the pots that contained small plants.

After a break, the four students who attended that day divided into two groups. Each pair planted a hemlock tree. Once the tree was planted, they put a ring of wood chips around it. The wood chips help retain moisture and reduce weed growth.

After planting the trees, the students hunted for areas where flags had been placed since the previous session and cleared the ground around those flags.

By the time this service-learning session was over, the land was ready for the next day’s planting work party!

Pearly Everlasting Update

Pearly Everlasting Flowers

I have been fascinated by Pearly Everlasting shrubs since I first saw them when I took a class at Seattle’s Discovery Park in November of 2017. They are the plants with white flowers in the background of the photo below.

I put 10 Pearly Everlasting shrubs on my 2018 Greenbelt plant order. When they arrived, in November 2018, they were in small containers. Each pot held one or two stalks. There was a small cluster of white flowers at the top of each stalk.

During the winter, the stalks withered away. I wondered if the plants had died. I was excited when I noticed new growth emerging from the ground on January 27, 2019.

This is what the plant looked like on March 26.

The plants grew fast. By May 14, they were this tall. I thought they were beautiful.

Imagine my surprise on June 10 when I found that all of the stalks on one of the plants had collapsed; they weren’t strong enough to support the weight at the top.

I thought it may have happened because the area where these four Pearly Everlasting plants were planted used to be a compost pile, so the dirt is very rich. Maybe the shrubs grew too fast. Overtime though, all of the Pearly Everlasting shrubs on our site collapsed in a similar fashion.

When it first happened, I wrote one of the Green Seattle Partnership Program Managers and asked if this was normal. She said she hadn’t heard of it occurring before but would check with other people. She was told it happened because there weren’t enough stalks; when there are more, the stalks will support each other. Hopefully there will be many more stalks emerging from the ground next year.

Even though the plants collapsed, they kept growing. In some ways, it was as if each stalk was a separate plant. On June 15, I saw a flower beginning to bloom at the end of one of them.

June 20

June 27

The photo I chose to use at the top of this post was taken on July 5.

And this is what one of the plants looked like yesterday, July 26.

It will be interesting to see if enough stalks grow next year so that they are able to support each other, and the weight of their flowers. I wonder if they will be thicker and more sturdy. I also wonder when the plants will look like the shrubs I saw in 2017. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the mystery.

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Green Seattle Day: November 3, 2018

Each year, the Green Seattle Partnership sponsors a Green Seattle Day. On that day, work parties are held in parklands all over Seattle. Sarva and I decided to volunteer as team leaders at Cheasty Mt. View Park. Several other GreenFriends members and their friends joined us.

The number of people who registered for the work party amazed me. There were seven in our GreenFriends contingent, but 126 volunteers in the whole group.

One of the leaders encouraged the participants to plant from a place of gratitude. She suggested that the volunteers name their trees … and that they talk to the trees as they put them into the earth. As I wandered through our section, helping people with the planting, I heard many participants doing that.

After some of our GreenFriends group planted this tree, they decided to give it a kiss.

The 126 volunteers planted 800 trees, shrubs and ground covers during the first hour of the work party.

We spent the rest of the work party removing invasive blackberry and ivy vines. Again, it was phenomenal to witness how much can be accomplished in a short period of time.

We put vines we cut onto drying racks so that they don’t touch the ground and re-root. There were several drying racks in the area where we were working but they were soon full. Before long there were big piles of cuttings around the site.

Some of the volunteers built a new drying rack and then we moved the piles of cuttings to the new rack.

Before long, the three-hour work party was over and we prepared to leave.

What a wonderful morning it had been. The work party was such a good example of the adage “Many hands make light work.”