Friends of Blackstone show off new pollinator garden

Friends of Blackstone show off new pollinator garden

Dave Newton, left, John Marsland, center, and Vincent Mancini stand in front of the new turtle-shaped pollinator garden at Sycamore Landing, 100 New River Road in Lincoln, last Saturday afternoon. (Breeze photos by Melanie Thibeault)
More projects in the works at Sycamore Landing site

LINCOLN – A new pollinator garden at Sycamore Landing in Lincoln is nearly complete after volunteers spent three weeks in August constructing the turtle-shaped garden bed and planting native species, as part of a bigger project to create a calming space for the community.

Earlier this year The Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone received a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant to create a peaceful community gathering spot that’s steps away from the Blackstone River, consisting of raised bed pollinator gardens, native shrubs and trees, and a comprehensive way to control invasive plants at its Environmental Center’s 12-acre property, located at 100 New River Road in Lincoln.

At the property last Saturday, John Marsland, president of the BRWC/FOB, told The Valley Breeze that he’s happy with the garden, saying it looks “like a piece of artwork.”

The turtle, made of mahogany from a local business in Lincoln, was designed by Vincent Mancini, a local artist and member of BRWC/FOB, who said he was honored to be a part of the project. Marsland noted they used rocks from the Blackstone River to place under the turtle in spots to level it.

Mancini said he connected Marsland with Nancy Brown-Garcia, the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s chief deputy historic preservation officer, who shared the Native American perspective on the environment. Marsland, who wanted to represent that with the project, came up with the idea of creating the garden in the shape of a turtle, not realizing that the creature is a symbol of the Earth in Native American culture, Mancini said.

“It really looks great,” Mancini said of the finished product, adding that the whole project “goes beyond the more traditional work (the BRWC/FOB) has done.”

The property is located near the Blackstone River Bikeway, but Mancini said people don’t need to canoe, kayak, or bike to enjoy the surroundings. “I hope people take the time to come down,” he said. “It’s a beautiful location.” The garden is located within a fenced-in 30-foot-by-60-foot area located adjacent to the Education Center building. In the garden are 15 to 20 different native species that attract pollinators, including catmints, beebalms, and showy goldenrod, said Dave Newton, a University of Rhode Island Master Gardener and board member for the Cumberland Land Trust, who helped with the planting.

Right now what’s in bloom are summer to fall season plants, Newton said, adding that he suspects about 80 to 90 percent of those plants will survive the winter months. He said the goal is to get flowers coming at different times and intervals, and there’s still room to add some early spring pollinator attractants in February or March, he said.

Newton said just for fun he sprinkled in some Eastern prickly pear, which isn’t normally seen in Rhode Island but produces an electric yellow flower that attracts green bees. He also added little blue stem, which is a native clump grass, as something that pollinators can land on and hide in from predators, he said.

While the bees, some from a beehive on the property, were immediately on the flowers, the garden is not just for them but for all pollinators, Newton said, noting there’s a hummingbird that loves the bright red cardinal flowers. “I’m happy with how it turned out,” he said.

As they were planting, Newton said people were walking by and “applauded our efforts. They thought it looked fantastic.”

Marsland agreed, saying the response from the community has been positive.

“I think John’s done a marvelous job trying to bring more community to the area,” Newton said.

Plants were donated from the URI Master Gardener program, Rhody Native, and individuals in the Blackstone Valley, Newton said, adding that they purchased some from Briggs Nursery in North Attleboro, Mass., and from Attleboro Farms, which gave them a discount on their purchase of perennial plants.

Marsland said they also plan to add a couple of memorial benches to the space, dedicated to Ray Pado, a past board member, and Marsland’s father, Lenny Marsland.

The grant will also fund future educational events at the site, including some hosted by Brown-Garcia, Marsland said.

A partner in the project, Girl Scout Troop 399 Manville members were at the site last Saturday helping to rake a smaller rectangular garden where they’ll plant milkweed by the spring to attract monarch butterflies as well as removing invasive knotweed.

Kristin Scribner, leader of the troop, said the girls have been excited about the projects going on at Sycamore Landing, noting that there are several who want to work on their Gold Award projects there.

Hanna Young-Ondrasek, a junior at Lincoln High School, said she would like to create a meditation garden at the property as part of her Gold Award project to help people deal with stress.

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Vincent Mancini, John Marsland, and Dave Newton, in back, along with members and leaders from Girl Scout Troop 399 Manville stand around the new pollinator garden. The troop was at Sycamore Landing in Lincoln last Saturday to help with removing invasive knotweed plants among other tasks.