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Saving “Buddie” Ford Nature Center’s Pollinator Garden

On Saturday, July 17, Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) and local volunteers gathered at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center to restore the pollinator garden.

ARMN member Valerie LaTortue organized Saturday’s event restoring the pollinator garden at the “Buddie” Ford Nature Center. (Grace Billups Arnold)

Alexandria, VA – On Saturday, July 17, Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) and local volunteers gathered at the Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center to restore the pollinator garden. The garden is located next to the Dora Kelley Nature Park, a local wildlife hub. It will be an education center for the West End community and a refuge for pollinators, birds, and local flora and fauna.

ARMN member Valerie LaTortue led the restoration effort. “The “Buddie” Ford Nature Center reached out to me in early May,” she says. “We [the ARMN] took on the project of restructuring the pollinators garden to make it 100 percent native here in the West End. Today we called in volunteers to help define the paths in the garden and pull out all invasive plants. We want all invasive plants out because they spread. We are in proximity to Dora Kelley; we want to take that education into the park.”

Valerie provided flyers to identify each plant, whether they need weeding, and how to weed them. Each plant was marked, so volunteers knew which ones to save and which ones to pull out.

It was all hands on deck to restore the garden. (Grace Billups Arnold)

Along with identifying plants for removal, ARMN helped define the garden paths for easier access and teaching ability. The “Buddie” Ford Nature Center wants the pollinator garden to become an educational garden, accessible to all.

Along with the pollinator garden is a potted vegetable and herb garden on the deck off the Nature Center, with vegetables and herbs free for the taking. Right now, you can see tomatoes and peppers and leafy greens beginning to sprout. Valerie hopes that this garden will offer a gathering place for not only local wildlife but also local residents.

“I came out and looked around and saw it was a daunting task,” says Valerie. “So I asked for help. The nature center made it easy to get things going by supplying everything we need. The ARMN who are here today have been really helpful, as well as the whole community.”

An herb and vegetable garden is accessible on the deck next to the Nature Center, full of tomatoes and peppers and leafy greens for the taking. (Grace Billups Arnold)

Volunteers from ARMN and Alexandria got their hands dirty on Saturday morning. One volunteer said, “I am a master gardener, and our ethos is that we volunteer to help. I thought this was a great project, so that is why I am here. I have devoted a lot of time to it already.”

One of Valerie’s main goals with the garden is to make it accessible to anyone and everyone.

“I want this place to be open to the community and to all,” says Valerie. Expect the new garden to be open and blooming by this fall.

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