Spring has sprung and Green Towson Alliance wants to encourage the community to choose native and natural when beautifying our outdoor living spaces.
Native plants and trees have been growing in our region since before European colonization. Most insects can only ingest plants they have co-evolved with for thousands of years. Most butterflies and moths can lay eggs only on specific plants. Caterpillars and other insects are vital food for songbirds, and nearly all birds feed insects to their fledglings. Our yards and gardens have a role in the circle of life.
Green Towson Alliance is kicking off its second annual Native Garden Contest (nativegardencontest.com), and any gardener who lives in a Towson neighborhood and incorporates native plants, trees and shrubs in their yard is welcome to enter. An entry can be a specific garden bed or the whole yard. Do you have a rain garden designed to reduce lawn runoff? Or a garden that features mature or recently planted native trees? Have you replaced grass plots with native plants? Start snapping pictures to share!
Participants will be asked to upload photographs of their garden when the contest opens for entries on June 13. Green Towson Alliance’s Homegrown National Park Workgroup will visit the entries and announce finalists on July 16.
“Being a judge for the contest last year was an amazing experience,” said Lauren Stranahan, a workgroup member and Knollwood resident. “It gave me the opportunity to see the spaces that others in the Towson area have been working on for, in some cases, decades.
“To know that there are others with the same goals gave me hope for the future. Our goal is to celebrate those who are already gardening with native plants and trees while also educating folks about the importance of these species to our local ecosystems and encouraging them to plant native species as well.”
Once entries are in, the public will be invited to vote online for their favorite garden. Last year, there were 27 contest entries and more than 440 online votes cast. The 2021 winners were homeowners in Rodgers Forge, Greenbrier, and Loch Raven Village. Burkleigh Square won a special award for its community garden.
“For me, personally, gardening with native plants is the small thing I can do to have an impact on the planet,” Stranahan said. “We are experiencing a mass extinction that feels overwhelming, and I think people often feel helpless in the face of something that huge and frightening. I may not personally be able to bring back old-growth forests or heal coral reefs, but I can support local species like the Baltimore Checkerspot, our state butterfly, by planting white turtlehead.”
Since 2015, Green Towson Alliance’s dedicated members have been working tirelessly to restore our ecosystems. They’ve planted hundreds of trees, cleared tons of trash from local streams, removed invasive vines strangling mature trees in our parks and woodlands, and advocated for good environmental policy in Baltimore County. Learn more about them at greentowsonalliance.org.