Towson's Green Thumb: Annual Native Garden Contest Showcases Breathtaking Local Yards


The Greenbrier Community Garden clinched the top spot in the "Seeds of Change—Community Garden/Park" category. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

TOWSON - Towson's vibrant gardening community celebrated its annual Native Garden Contest with a showcase of stunning native gardens that beautify the neighborhood and support local ecosystems.

The contest, organized by the Green Towson Alliance, aims to promote planting native plants, shrubs, and trees, that have thrived in the mid-Atlantic region since before European settlement. Native vegetation is critical to supporting local ecosystems, including the butterflies, moths, bees, songbirds, and other wildlife integral to our communities.

Competing gardens were first vetted by the Green Towson Alliance Homegrown National Park Workgroup members, after which finalists were put forward for public voting. Winners are selected for six distinct categories, each emphasizing different stages or types of native plant gardening.

To learn more about the contest or view photo galleries of the winning gardens, visit the Green Towson Alliance's website

Breaking Ground—Small: Ben Aylesworth

Ben Aylesworth's winning garden. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

Ben Aylesworth, a recent homeowner, bagged the "Breaking Ground—Small" category title by transforming a once barren corner of his backyard into a bustling butterfly habitat. When he initially moved into his home, Aylesworth embarked on a quest to convert a bare, mulched section into a vibrant green space. By using a custom plant kit from an online native plant nursery and referencing a template as a foundational design guide, he meticulously shaped a garden that's now in its second thriving season. Aylesworth's garden, situated between his driveway and the back alley, serves as an oasis for pollinators in an otherwise green-deprived area. Towering joe-pye weed and New York ironweed set the backdrop, while goldenrod and other native plants fill the space, attracting bees, birds, and rabbits.

Breaking Ground—Large: Amanda South

Amanda South's winning garden. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

A dedicated gardener, Amanda South clinched the "Breaking Ground—Large" title with her intricate native plant garden in the Riderwood community. Having committed to native plants five years ago, South's current garden displays her accumulated knowledge and passion. From a captivating large pollinator garden in the front yard to additional plots on the sides and even near the mailbox, every corner of her property boasts native species. Drawing inspiration from Doug Tallamy, South has carefully chosen trees and flowers that promise to attract unique butterflies and moths. Plants like bee balms, swamp sunflowers, and honeysuckle vines dot her garden, each contributing to the ecosystem she's nurturing. South's gardening techniques also emphasize sustainability, ensuring that her plants and the wildlife they support coexist harmoniously.

Gaining Ground: Adreon Hubbard

Adreon Hubbard's winning garden. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

Adreon Hubbard, a previous finalist, demonstrated significant improvement this year, securing her win in the "Gaining Ground" category. Hubbard showcased her adaptability and dedication by converting a substantial portion of her front yard into a "No Mow" area brimming with native groundcovers. Tackling a severe stormwater issue head-on, she implemented practical solutions that manage the runoff and augment her garden's aesthetic appeal. With her curated selection of native plants, shrubs, and vines, Hubbard's yard feels like a journey through nature.

Homegrown National Park®: Lisa Fritsch

Lisa Fritch's winning garden. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

Lisa Fritsch's foray into native plants began in 2019 and has since blossomed into a winning "Homegrown National Park®" garden. Fritsch's outdoor space, a blend of shaded and sunny areas, exudes tranquility and offers a sanctuary to local wildlife. Her commitment to native plants and continual experimentation has culminated in a garden where pollinators, from butterflies to bees, thrive. With favorites like golden alexander and elderberry, each corner of Fritsch's garden narrates a story of her passion for native plants.

Seeds of Change—Tree Stewardship: Nancy and Skip Horst

A dogwood tree on the Horst's property. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

Nancy and Skip Horst's commitment to tree stewardship, spanning nearly three decades, stands testament to their love for native plants. Their one-and-a-half-acre property, painstakingly cultivated since 1995, boasts diverse native canopy trees, with a centennial dogwood taking center stage. Each tree, from the massive black walnuts to the protective oaks, signifies the couple's dedication to nurturing and preserving local flora.

Seeds of Change—Community Garden/Park: Greenbrier Community Garden

The Greenbriar Community Garden. (Credit: Green Towson Alliance)

The Greenbrier Community Garden clinched the top spot in the "Seeds of Change—Community Garden/Park" category. Initially emerging in the 1980s as a poignant memorial for departed neighbors, the garden began its journey as an informal space cherished by the community. A pivotal moment arrived in 2009 when Shirley Carl and her husband, Dick Carl, staunch Garden Club members, collaborated with NeighborSpace. This partnership was instrumental in transforming the garden into a permanently protected community sanctuary.

With their foresight and appreciation for native plantings, the Carls infused the garden with native species. New incorporations like goldenrod and moss phlox found their space amongst the existing trees and shrubs, enriching the garden's biodiversity. Over recent years, the Garden Club and community members fortified their environmental commitment.

Marking its 60th anniversary in 2021, the Greenbrier Garden Club made significant additions: planting a winter king hawthorn and accompanying it with inkberry and sweet spire shrubs. With an ambitious roadmap ahead, the Greenbrier Garden Club is also considering applying for the prestigious Audubon certification, elevating the garden's stature in environmental conservation circles.

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