History of RCWO’s Native Plant Education Garden (NPEG)
In 2012, RCWO began transforming a ¼ acre English style garden into a native species pollinator habitat garden. This thriving garden can be found at 920 Cherry St., Grand Rapids and is property of the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF). The location is highly visible to both foot and street traffic in a vibrant urban area comprised of both business and residential properties. Direct business neighbors include The Green Well Gastro Pub, The Grove and Cheri Inn restaurants, Brewery Vivant, Maru Sushi and many more. Monthly summer concerts are held in the garden and pedestrian pathways and benches within the garden encourage frequent visitors.
The unique nature of this urban garden helps bring attention to the historic ICCF structure and raises awareness of this nonprofit organization’s mission to assist low to moderate income families find affordable, well-built housing. They have allowed RCWO members to re-plant and maintain the gardens on a volunteer basis.
Initial work involved removing some non-native species of shrubs and perennials and replacing them with native species. Each year since then, additional species have been planted by the volunteers and to date there are over 90 different plant species. RCWO applied for and received two grants that allowed us to develop educational signage to help visitors learn about the importance of native species for pollinators.
Volunteer work days are scheduled and guided by the RCWO Garden Chair and are posted on our website on the Volunteer page. Generally, there are 1–2 shifts scheduled per month and a shift lasts about two hours. Duties may include pruning, weeding, seed collection, planting, spreading mulch or labeling plants. These garden sessions are fun, educational and provide a great opportunity to socialize with other people interested in native gardening.
In July, RCWO holds an open house and native plant sale which draws a large number of attendees into the garden. This event allows us to connect directly with the community to offer education and raise the funds needed to continue our care for this special urban space for pollinators; showcasing the fact that native landscaping can be beautiful and functional. Increasing biodiversity in our landscapes brings back native insects that, in turn, support the web of life that we depend on for all aspects of a healthy environment.