By Laurelle Walsh
The TwispWorks Native Garden has doubled in size in the last month, thanks in large part to the efforts of seven AmeriCorps members: The National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) Class XX Gold 2 team.
“We would not have been able to do this expansion without them,” said native garden founder Rob Crandall on Friday (May 9), Gold 2’s last day at TwispWorks. “This is kind of a sad moment.”
The Gold 2 team — led by Morgan Becker of Douglas, Wyo., with Katie Goodwin of Boston, Mass., Tess Kremer of Stow, Mass., Eric Mills of Midlothian, Va., Brielle Holden of Bridgeton, N.J., Nyisha Webb of Kansas City, Mo., and Tanner Commons of Crystal River, Fla. — finished up their work in the Methow on Monday by doing trail maintenance for the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.
After that they expected to work for a week at the North Cascades Institute on Diablo Lake before heading back to their home base in Sacramento, Calif.
During their five-week sojourn in the Methow, the Gold 2 team lent their muscles, brains and cheerful natures to projects at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center, Classroom in Bloom, Red Shed, Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.
Before coming to the Methow, the team worked with Habitat for Humanity in Kalispell, Mont., where they framed and finished the exterior of one house and the interiors of two other homes.
“It’s a powerful learning experience, and a good place to learn a lot of confidence,” said team leader Morgan Becker.
Each NCCC member, aged 18 – 24, works 1,700 hours plus 80 hours in independent service projects over their 10-month commitment. In return they gain work skills, receive a small stipend, housing, meals, and are eligible for an education award at the end of their service.
The Gold 2 team’s service commitment will culminate in July with a graduation and awards banquet.
A teaching garden
The TwispWorks Native Garden is located literally out the back door of the Methow Valley Interpretive Center. With artistic iron gates, meandering gravel paths and plant identification plaques, the garden beckons visitors to enter, walk around and notice the greenery.
“The over-all idea is for this to be a teaching garden,” said Crandall, owner of Methow Natives plant nursery and Interpretive Center board member. “We want people to be able to get some hands-on experience with native plants and learn the natural history of the Methow Valley. It should dovetail with the work of the Interpretive Center.”
Work on the garden began in earnest last year, starting with fencing the area and sculpting the hardscape, followed by planting native trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs. The one-half acre garden is roughly divided into habitat zones — riparian, or stream-side, shrub-steppe, subalpine, and forest zones — planted with botanical representatives that were propagated at the Methow Natives nursery.
Serviceberry and chokecherry trees will eventually provide shade to the Interpretive Center’s picnic table, and young aspens and conifers will grow up to shade the northeast end of the garden, creating habitat for other shade-loving forest plants, Crandall said. Shrub-steppe plants will eventually be “weaned off” irrigation, due to their natural drought tolerance. Many plants that have been in the ground only one year are already in full spring bloom.
The most prominent feature of the TwispWorks Native Garden is a round pit house, built in the Salish style by students at the Paschal Sherman Indian School in Omak, led by their principal Ray Leaver. An opening celebration for the pit house will be held in June, Crandall said.
“We want to make this a home for native people to learn about cultural plants,” said Crandall, stressing the ethnobotanical importance of plants such as chokecherry, Indian hemp and bitterroot to the native peoples of the Methow and Okanogan region.
Crandall’s goal is to get the entire garden planted by this fall so he can turn his focus to the next phase: interpretation.
“I would love to have people be able to look deeper, use a magnifying glass to look at the plants or go on a scavenger hunt,” Crandall said. “I want it to be a place to facilitate learning about plants at many levels.”
Although he’s not ready to “turn people loose” on weeding and garden maintenance, Crandall will eventually be looking for people who want to train with him to maintain the garden, as well as help collect seeds and cuttings from the wild to propagate more plants, he said.
Other partners in getting the native garden to this point are the Native Plant Society, the Wenatchee Valley Community College botany class and the Independent Learning Center. Garden gates were designed in a traditional basket pattern by Carolyn Schmekel and built by the Liberty Bell High School welding class.
“I have hundreds of hours into planning this space,” Crandall said. He estimates around $15,000 has been spent on the garden so far, as well as hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and donated plants.
“We have made a major commitment to this garden,” Crandall said. “And I feel pretty confident this will attract people to TwispWorks,” he added with a smile, welcoming a curious family as they entered the garden through the gate.
For more information on the TwispWorks Native Garden, email Crandall at email@example.com, or call (509) 341-4060.