Sykesville wins state grant for landscaping of Town House; Native garden is planned for building's front yard


The flagpole and the lone dogwood gracing the front of the Sykesville Town House are about to have the company of blooms, shrubs and wildlife.

The town recently won a Maryland 2000 grant for nearly $5,000. It will use the grant to pay for designing and landscaping a native garden in the front yard of the municipal seat.

"It is more than enough to get us started," said Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols. "We are also counting on donations."

The garden will be filled with plants indigenous to Maryland, those that can survive dry summers and snowy winters and those that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

"We have selected plants that are drought-resistant and many that can take care of themselves," said Nichols. "And there will be nothing invasive, nothing we can't contain in this garden."

In writing the grant application, Nichols included plans for a walkway, a bench and educational materials.

The educational component and the involvement of children in the project were deciding factors when the state gave the award to Sykesville, said Christine Duray of the Maryland 2000 program. More than 85 municipalities applied for funds; 22 won grants.

"What stuck out about Sykesville was how the community was really pushing the idea of an environmentally sensitive garden," said Duray. "They were enthusiastic about this project and making it a catalyst for other bay-friendly gardens. We were also pleased to see Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts involved."

Nichols has tentatively scheduled a "kick-off" ceremony for 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 and has enlisted local Scouts to help with the groundbreaking. If the drought eases, the children will also do some fall planting -- as late as November. Most of the gardening will probably wait for spring, she said.

Among the projects to receive state awards were a sculpture garden in Frederick, landscaping for a Visitors Center in Cambridge, and a sensory garden for the disabled in Annapolis.

"We have everything from sensory to historic gardens," Duray said. "Sykesville is also restoring its Town House to the original colors. This is just a great example of how a small community works together."

The 90-foot-long garden will be along the front porch of the Town House and include shrubs, small trees, annuals and perennial flowers. Nichols can count off the names of many varieties, some she has never seen outside of catalogs.

"We have selected pearly everlasting, and I can't wait to see it," she said. "Doesn't the name just want you to plant a whole field?"

The Girl Scouts might add a few touches, she said. The children would like to see stepping stones imprinted with leaves of Maryland trees and maybe a fountain.

"We will be planting for wildlife," said Nichols. "We have developed a garden plan just for plants indigenous to Maryland, ones that can survive the climate here."

She also wants to attract wildlife, but of the smallest variety. Nichols is working with a landscaper and selecting plants that will draw hummingbirds and butterflies.

"Butterflies are relaxing and beautiful, and they can cut down on pollution," she said. "So often, we see gardens full of beautiful flowers and not a single butterfly. You have to plant what attracts them."

Nichols hopes the project will be the first of many Maryland gardens in the town, she said.

Nichols also will develop gardening guidelines that will be kept in the Town House. A plaque placed in the garden will help visitors identify the plants.

"All they have to do is get a handout in the Town House, and it will tell them exactly what to plant and how to maintain a garden like this," she said.

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