By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening
With Oklahoma State University master gardener classes starting in late January, Mandy Blocker met with the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Mark Wilkerson, to discuss how they can work together.
“When the master gardener classes are completed in the spring, the members of the class need meaningful projects where they can earn the 40 volunteer hours required for certification,” Blocker said. “We are going to have a horticulture hotline at the Extension Office where they can volunteer, but some of them will want outdoor hours, too.”
Blocker and Wilkerson met last week at the new “Papilion, a place for butterflies” in Honor Heights Park to discuss ways their two organizations could collaborate. They decided that the perfect solution would be to create a new community garden in Chandler Road Park. (The park is near York Street and Chandler Road, where Okmulgee Avenue jogs a bit and becomes Chandler.)
“When that park was built, it was intended for adults in wheelchairs and children, so the raised beds were put in,” Wilkerson said. “With the master gardeners adopting a community garden there, we can develop plans to include concrete sidewalks, new fencing and additional beds. That way it will still serve citizens who need raised beds in order to grow their own food.”
The Oklahoma AgrAbility Project (http://ok.gov/
agrability) provides education and assistance to those who have a disability or debilitating injury that limits their ability to perform essential farm and garden tasks. Blocker said she can foresee integrating AgrAbility education and support into the Chandler Road Community Garden.
If you are interested in participating in the master gardener classes and have not already called, you can be added to the list by calling Blocker at (918) 686-7200 or sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The construction project at Honor Heights Park is complete except for installing the butterfly house,” Wilkerson said. “The area of the fenced gardens and event lawn measures 120 feet by 200 feet. The event lawn itself is 120 feet by 40 feet.”
The butterfly house will open during the Azalea Festival in April, although it probably will not be warm enough for butterflies and flowers until Mother’s Day, Wilkerson said.
Thousands of tulips are being planted this week inside the Papilion’s fence, so it will be a dramatically beautiful scene by spring.
Wilkerson said the event lawn and the gardens will be divided and surrounded by boxwood hedges and flowering plants.
The water feature inside the pavilion has a continuously recirculating filter, making the above-ground pond useful for water plants and perhaps koi in the future.
The screened hoop house for butterflies will be a seasonal structure, open from Mother’s Day through the fall, when butterflies hibernate.
Wilkerson said that the raised beds in the garden are surrounded with decomposed granite, creating a natural feel to the space. Decomposed granite is used in driveways, sidewalks and public gardens and is compacted to meet handicapped accessibility specifications.
The parking spaces in front of the building (the former bath house) are being converted to a driveway where bus drivers can drop off groups of visitors. A new sidewalk will lead to the gift shop, where tickets for the gardens will be sold.
Wilkerson anticipates opportunities for volunteers at the Papilion. His ideas include conducting workshops, possibly opening a theater where short movies would be shown, using the outdoor pavilion next to the building as an outdoor classroom, and having volunteer garden ambassadors help visitors learn about plants and butterflies.
The event lawn is planted with zoysia grass and will be available to rent for weddings, parties and gatherings.
Information: Muskogee Parks and Recreation, (918) 684-6302.