Spotlight on The Allen Public Library Courtyard Gardens
By Tara Roberts and contributors Kathy Schmid and Dee Tibbals, CCMGA Master Gardeners
If you have visited the Allen Public Library, chances are you have seen the handiwork of the Collin County Master Gardeners on display. Since 2015, CCMGA volunteers have beautifully maintained the North Courtyard gardens for all library visitors to enjoy.
The APL gardens are a collaborative effort between CCMGA and the City of Allen. CCMGA volunteers maintain the gardens while the City of Allen provides funds for planting and mulching each year, and plants are purchased from locally owned Puckett’s Nursery. CCMGA members also contribute plants for the gardens.
Leading the charge at the APL courtyard gardens are Dee Tibbals and Kathy Schmid, who have been garden co-leads for more than three years. Both graduated in the CCMGA Master Gardener Class of 2018.
There are eight garden beds in the library courtyard showcasing native and adaptive perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees.
The purpose of the gardens is to provide an educational experience using Earth-Kind® principles for everyone who walks through the research and demonstration gardens. CCMGA’s goal is to show patrons plants that can survive our harsh Texas growing conditions.
The courtyard garden beds are full sun and surrounded by concrete pathways and walls, increasing the intensity of the sun’s heat. Therefore, plants have to be very hardy to survive. Plant labels are used to educate visitors about the various cultivars, so homeowners can get ideas for planting in their own yards. The beds are hand-watered by CCMGA volunteers following a specific watering schedule immediately after planting and throughout the year as needed.
The garden also features benches between the beds to encourage visitors to sit and enjoy their beautiful surroundings.
Visitors often sit in the gardens to read or have a meal.
The courtyard gardens are designed for four seasons of interest. The gardens will be at their peak following Spring and Fall plant installations. Spring preparation and bed clean-up begins in February/March and planting begins in April. For Fall planting, CCMGA volunteers begin bed clean up in September and planting is completed in October. As with most Texas gardens, December and January are the months with the least amount of visual interest.
Throughout the year, CCMGA volunteers water, mulch, plant, trim and do general garden maintenance. Some volunteers donate plants to the garden as well. More than 800 volunteer hours are required annually to maintain the gardens.
“The library gardens are a beautiful and peaceful place to work. Patrons stop and express their gratitude for establishing and maintaining the gardens,” garden co-lead Schmid says. “It truly is an expression of our mission statement as a project. The people at the library make the project a worthwhile venture.”
In addition to beautifying the courtyard gardens, CCMGA volunteers also hold several educational lectures at the Allen Public Library throughout the year. In previous years, Gail Donaldson and The City of Allen Water Conservation Division were awarded the EPA WaterSense Excellence Award for outstanding outreach programs, including the Sustainable Landscape Series, the Water Conservation Block Leader Program, and the cooperative effort with Collin County Master Gardeners on the Earth-kind® Demonstration Garden at the Allen Public Library.
The bonus to viewing the Allen Public Library gardens for ideas and inspiration is that visitors can then head inside the library and find numerous books on Earth-Kind® gardening principles and gardening with native and adaptive plants and take that knowledge home to their own landscapes.
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