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Getting garden ready for winter

The native plant garden at the Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library has been safely tucked into its bed for the winter.

On Nov. 15, a crew of nine Carroll County Master Gardeners and two volunteers spent the morning trimming, raking, transplanting and weeding to prepare the garden for the season of cold. Although the native plants are perfectly suited for growing in this region, the garden still requires some care.

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"The garden is self-sustaining," said Andrea Kowaleski, of Eldersburg, one of the Master Gardeners. "It's self-fertilizing and self-watering. It's not self-maintaining, though."

Planted in May of 2007, the garden has been an ongoing, cooperative project of the Master Gardeners and the library. "One Saturday a month, from May to October, we have 'Work with a Master Gardener' [at the library]," Kowaleski said.

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During those work sessions, library participants can learn about the care and needs of native plants from the Master Gardeners who work with them each month. The gardeners working on the native plant garden project have decades of gardening experience.

"I've been a Master Gardener for 10 years, and most of us have been Master Gardeners for a long time," Karen Trigger, of Eldersburg, said.

Not all of the plants had gone completely dormant for the winter. Black-eyed Susans were still blooming, and the beauty berry plant was covered in bright, lavender berries.

The beauty berry specimen in the garden has a special tie to history, having come from the gardens at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. Pat Brodowski, the head gardener at Monticello and a former Carroll County Master Gardener, gave the plant to be planted in the library's garden.

Many of the other plants had shed their leaves and had gone dormant. The gardeners and volunteers moved through the garden in small clusters — some groups weeding and mulching with leaves, others pruning the shrubs and small trees.

Frequently, a quick conference would be called, as several gardeners looked at a plant to see which branches should be removed from a tree. One shrub was dug up to be planted elsewhere.

"Nothing is thrown out," said Kowaleski. "If things get 'too happy,' they get moved to another garden."

"Too happy" is Kowaleski's euphemism for plants that are overgrowing their space. Plants that aren't thriving in the garden are also moved to other garden areas that might suit them better.

The Eldersburg library garden is a major project for the county's Master Gardeners. "We get a budget now through the Master Gardeners," Kowaleski said. "We have to take care of the mulching of the garden."

The garden also contains memories for the Master Gardeners.

"That variegated dogwood is a memorial planting for [the late] Rhoda Wilmsen," said Kowaleski. "It was put in almost two years ago. It was her favorite plant."

About half of the gardeners working on Nov. 15 were from the Eldersburg area. Others came from Westminster, Finksburg, Mount Airy and New Windsor to volunteer their time in the garden.

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Kowaleski offered up praise for the library's support of the garden and its gardeners. "The library is really good at taking care of the Master Gardeners," she said.

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