Ellicott City: A sneak peak at the new Miller Branch Library's Enchanted Garden

In little more than a week, the widely anticipated public grand opening of the new 63,000-square-foot Charles E. Miller Branch & Historical Center is scheduled for Dec. 17. Individuals and families are welcome to attend.

The opening celebration starts at 9:30 a.m. with a performance by the Mt. Hebron High School Dixieland jazz band. At 9:45 a.m., Stacie Hunt, the Howard County Library Board of Trustees Chair, will begin the ceremony with a welcome followed by remarks from Howard County Library President and CEO Valerie J. Gross, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, state Sen. Jim Robey, Del. Guy Guzzone and the presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop 757. Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, the new library will be open with ongoing tours and activities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The beautiful new state-of-the art library — it is nearly triple in size of the original branch which will now be used to house administrative staff — will also feature The Enchanted Garden, "a sustainable, community-based teaching garden that will focus on health, nutrition, and environmental education".

It is believed to be the first library teaching garden in the nation — and it's in our own backyard!

As a member of the Miller Branch Enchanted Garden committee, I had the privilege recently of taking an advance tour of the new garden.

Located on a quarter-acre parcel adjacent to the library's children's area, the garden is a tranquil, beautifully designed space that houses more than 65 plant varieties, most of which are native to our area.

The garden name was inspired by the beloved Route 40 Enchanted Forest theme park whose magical characters live on at the Clark Elioak's Farm.

Every nook and cranny of the garden is filled with something special. A stately bronze statue of two great blue herons — a common symbol of Chesapeake wildlife — greets visitors as they enter through the garden gates. Inside the garden, winding paths take guests passed water features, rain barrels, raised themed garden beds (Peter Rabbit, pizza, stir-fry and multi-sensory) that will house vegetables, fruits and plants, cozy sitting areas, a shaded stone patio under a pergola with tables and chairs, tree stump benches and gathering and composting areas.

Educational signage will teach visitors about the environmental and nutritional value of the plantings and garden features.

With the exception of a small stone patio, a key element throughout the garden is that almost all the surfaces areas are permeable. Adding to this effort are bioswales — landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water — and rain barrels. The garden's storm water management features provide excellent examples of sustainability practices that can be applied in our communities.

"Less water run off to sewers is better for the health of the Chesapeake Bay," said Rita Hamlet, Library System development specialist.

Library staff along with the garden's education curriculum committee members have designed a series of classes and activities for all ages to compliment the garden experience. Garden classes will begin in the spring and may include topics such as meditation, exercise, weather, nutrition, cooking, health, gardening, weather and birds.

The garden is a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year. If you attend the library grand opening or during a regular library visit, take a moment to stroll through The Enchanted Garden — its a magical place for all ages.

Congratulation to the Enchanted Garden community committee members who worked to design the garden and programming including Library staff Hamlet and Kelli Shimabukuro, Miller Branch manager Susan Stonesifer and representatives of Howard County Public Schools, Howard Community College, University of Maryland Extension, Master Gardeners, Clarks Elioak Farm, Howard County Economic Development Authority, Green Building Institute, Howard County General Hospital, Center for Watershed Protection, Howard County Recreation and Parks and the community. In addition, the Horizon Foundation was an integral part of the establishment of the garden through their generous grants.

Parents who are interested in learning about student Individual Education Plans, commonly known as IEPs, might consider attending Howard County's Family Support and Resource Center's free workshop "The Ins and Outs of IEPs" tonight, Thursday, Dec. 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Central Library.

Designed for parents new to the special education process, this workshop will help guide caregivers through the IEP basics. Kim McKay of Parents for Parents will give attendees advice on how parents can be active members of their child's IEP team and provide parents with valuable community resources. To register for this free workshop, call the center at 410-313-7161.

Mo Dutterer of Silhouette Stages invites the community to its popular Cabaret Nights Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at Slayton House. It's a fabulous night of entertainment featuring the songs, skits and routines of professional and amateur performers from the Washington and Baltimore area.

Get into the holiday spirit with holiday-themed tunes and skits including "Oh Holy Night," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "Where Are You Christmas?," "Baby, it's Cold Outside," "Sleigh Ride" and "Santa Baby" to name a few.

Tickets are only $10 per person (includes food and drink at intermission) and can be purchased at the door. For more information including directions to Slayton House go to the Silhouette Stages website at http://www.silhouettestages.com.

Santa is coming to town.....at Turf Valley Resort! Kids can hand deliver their wish list to Santa during "Sunday Santa Brunch" at Alexandra's restaurant at Turf Valley Dec. 11 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The brunch buffet is filled with speciality items for both adults and kids to enjoy. Brunch prices are $30.95 for adults, $15.95 for children ages 4-12 and free for children younger than 4 plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant at 410-480-2400.

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