MONTICELLO — What was once an experimental garden for Robert Allerton is now a training ground for young gardeners, as well as a pollinator-friendly area at Allerton Park.
On May 4, a total of 22 students and three adults from the Monticello Middle School Garden Club spent about 1½ hours planting almost 2,000 flowers in the garden, located near the bulb and peony gardens.
“It gets the kids outside, away from technology, and helps them enjoy nature,” said Monticello Middle School teacher Cindy Heiniger, who formed the garden club about eight years ago.
Allerton Park Supervisor Peter Lichtenberger explained the Annual Garden was once a test plot for Robert Allerton, who built the mansion and estate near Monticello starting about 1900.
“Historically, the Annual Garden was the one in which Robert Allerton’s head gardener would plant new plants to see what he liked, and what might be suitable elsewhere in the gardens,” Lichtenberger said.
“These days, I have been focusing on designing and planting various annuals that are specifically pollinator-friendly and are good host plants for many butterfly species.”
That includes some perennials that fit the bill, like milkweed and butterfly weed, which attract monarchs, along with parsley, dill and fennel plants which are favored by black swallowtails.
“Many of the annual flowers we planted such as blue and red salvia are used as nectar sources for hummingbirds, which will start visiting the garden by June,” Lichtenberger added.
This is the second year Heiniger’s garden club has helped with the annual garden. Her crew also keeps busy at the middle school with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens, as well as maintaining a naturalized wildflower area.
“It (helping at Allerton)gives our students some training as we plant our own gardens and pots at MMS,” she said.