This article by Brenda Harvieux appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Northern Gardener.
Former master gardener research plots at the Washington County fairgrounds have recently seen a vast expansion and reimagining. Now 13 display gardens, collectively known as the Fairest Garden, the space is a much-loved destination.
“We don’t have a financial sponsor,” says Mary Green, who leads the Washington County master gardener project with Jackie Ellis. “The garden has grown so much recently because of the community’s passion for it.”
Fairgoers enjoy the garden and the educational demonstrations and tours the master gardeners provide. The garden features signs with QR codes that link people to current plant lists. The Teaching Cottage is a large shed that’s used for 4-H education, classes, events and storage too. Outside the structure, a home landscape demonstration garden shows homeowners how to plan their landscapes. The pollinator and native plant gardens and the official monarch waystation (monarchwatch.org) provide important food and habitat for pollinators.
“We planted pollinator plants but didn’t have any pollinators,” says Mary. “As soon as we stopped using chemicals, we got a wealth of pollinators and the other wildlife that comes with a balanced ecosystem.” Now they encounter insects, birds, reptiles, deer, turkeys, bunnies and even a fox that has been seen hunting in the garden. The fox caught a turkey and left it for the gardeners as a thank you gift for all of their hard work.
The Fairest Garden will be on the Learn and Grow with Us Garden Tour July 20. You can see more about the garden and Mary’s journey in this program from TPT’s Prairie Sportsman program.