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Purchase College Native Flower Garden is open

Students, faculty, and staff worked together to design, build, and plant a native flower garden on the Purchase College campus.

Students, faculty, and staff have been working for the past school year to revitalize the old student garden space behind the dance building and turn it into a native flower garden. On May 8, 2019, over 30 people came together to help build and plant the garden (and celebrate with cupcakes and crafts).

History of the garden project:

This process started in the spring of 2018 when the Green Team (a student club on campus) first started talking about planting native plants in the old garden space. A more formal coalition of students, faculty, and staff met in September 2018 to determine the mission and scope of the project.

The garden had been used a vegetable garden in the past, but had always failed because of lack of water supply and the fact that students were often not around during the summer when it needed the most care. The group decided that a native flower garden would have many benefits, but also need less upkeep and so was a perfect choice for the space. We came up with the following reasons why we wanted to focus on a native plant garden:

Benefits of the garden project:

  • Native plants are important to pollinators in particular and our ecosystem in general and are increasingly being pushed out by development and invasive species. Establishing a native plant garden will help provide habitat and food for pollinators as well as a variety of native species.
  • Creating this garden will not only provide important habitat for native species but will also set an example for our community for the importance of good stewardship of natural resources. We believe this will provide a good legacy for future generations of the Purchase College community.
  • The garden will be maintained by students, faculty and staff and so will provide important community building and interaction among members of the Purchase Community. It creates opportunities for on-campus community service, which will help students who don’t have the means to travel long distances for internship opportunities.
  • As part of our sustainability goals, this garden will provide native habitat while also reducing the amount of mowed lawn space on our campus. It aligns well with other sustainability projects already established on campus, including the Rocket composter, which will provide compost for the garden. 
  • The garden will provide important educational opportunities in the form of class and senior projects across a variety of majors. We believe this is an excellent opportunity for engagement across disciplines.
  • This space will also be designed to be used by students, faculty, and staff as a place to spend time in nature and offer a sense of community. We want to design it with benches and tables to allow it to be a place to work and congregate.

Development of the garden plan:

Throughout the fall, the group met to go over ideas and tour local gardens for inspiration and guidance. In particular, Carol Capobianco and others at the Native Plant Center (Westchester Community College) and Donna Lassiter at the Pruyn Sanctuary (Saw Mill River Audubon) were so kind to show us around their gardens and answer a million questions. Donna continued working with our students as a Cornell Westchester Extension Master Gardener and she was instrumental in helping us pick out plants and design the space. In the end, we settled on creating 20 beds to house 10 different species of flowers (allowing for pairs of each species of flower). We focused on creating a garden that could be used for both recreation and research. We included spaces for picnic tables and an ADA-accessible walkway (both of which will be added this summer). With help from a PSGA Green Fee grant, the students were able to buy the lumber, soil, plants, and equipment needed to start the garden this year.  

The final product:

Thanks to all the students and staff who turned out to help rototill, saw, assemble and move compost over the course of 3 different work days to get the garden ready to be planted. We hope everyone on campus takes some time to go enjoy the garden. If you aren’t on campus but want to know what is going on this summer, you can follow the garden on Instagram: @purchasecollegegarden.

A special thanks to Jon Matkowski and Alivia Zimmerman, Purchase undergraduates who put a ton of time and love into this garden. It would not have happened with their perseverance.