Garden of the Piedmont Takes Root

Mar 8, 2021

With spring less than two weeks away, many people are planning their gardens.  Among them, more than a hundred volunteers who have been working on eight acres in Charlottesville. 

Sandy Hausman has a progress report on the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont.

Garden of the Piedmont Executive Director Jill Trischman-Marks poses by newly installed seating.
Credit RadioIQ

For more than a decade, volunteers have been planning the future of eight wooded acres and a stream adjacent to Charlottesville’s McIntire Park.  Job one, says Executive Director  Jill Trischman-Marks, was clearing the site.

“This was the former leaf dump and mulch pile for the city of Charlottesville.”

Which meant lots of invasive seeds were left here: garlic mustard, privet, bittersweet, kudzu.

And there was a fair amount of trash.

"Tires, mattresses – you know, the usual."

Marketing Director Ann AllevaTaylor says clearing the site was a big job – aided by dozens of volunteers, and when the Bartlett Tree Company offered its assistance, workers were delighted by what they found.  After tearing down hundreds of invasive vines, Trischman-Marks says they discovered two rare butternut trees.

"They had no idea what they were, and because they’re so rare here, it took them a moment to be able to identify what they were."  

Now, those trees are thriving – along with other native plants.

"What we have seen in that time is incredible diversity of the bird life on this property," says Trischman-Marks.  "There was a Great Blue Heron hunting on our little creek a couple of weeks ago.  It’s really exciting to see how the site is healing itself as we remove these invasive plants."

"Look!" she cried during  a recent stroll.  "There's a pileated woodpecker!"

They’ve put up thirty boxes for nesting birds, created rustic benches and gathering places, trails and a plan for the future which, in 2019, won an award from the National Society of Landscape Architects.

" There were 544 projects from around the world .  Thirty-six won awards, and the other winner in our category was the restoration of the Great Wall of China."

The group continues to ask for public input with a  survey on its website, and Ann Taylor is in full fundraising mode.

"The pricetag," she explains "is $25 million."

Taylor says the schedule for planting depends on how quickly they can raise that money, but for now the public is invited to walk the site, entering across from Charlottesville High School’s football field, and those driving by will soon see the first signs of a botanical garden with the planting of native wildflowers along Melbourne Road and the John Warner Parkway.