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54 Fairmount Avenue 
Chatham, NJ 07928

Native Gardening: Environmental Commission Demonstration Projects

Photo credits: Tom Salvas, Caitlin Boyle, and Susie Robertson

The Chatham Borough 2023 Native Garden Demonstration Project

The Chatham Borough 2023 Native Garden Demonstration Project is a collaboration between various entities in Chatham Borough; namely the Community Services Department, the Environmental Commission; Town & Country Garden Club of the Chathams (T&CGC) (A local chapter of the National Garden Clubs which provides opportunities for local residents to enjoy the love of gardening, floral design, civic and environmental responsibility); and Dirt Diva Gardens, (a local full-service garden design company).

The T&CGC undertakes several annual projects at prominent Chatham locations, including the Library, the Red Brick Schoolhouse, the Raptor Trust, together with the planting of spring bulbs and wildflower gardens in areas throughout the Borough and Township. Each year, the Club identifies overlooked areas in town and the Club’s volunteers work with the Community Services Department and the DPW to beautify them with plants. This year, the newly created reflective space at Garden Park was identified as one area worthy of attention for the Club’s 2023 Chatham Downtown Beautification project.

Garden Park features new basketball courts, renovated tennis courts, and a contemplative space with benches and a summer awning enhanced by beautiful kiosks detailing the area’s history as a former rose growing farm and natural pond. The hardscaping and benches were installed in 2022, but there was no money left from that municipal project to fund any plants or landscaping.

Another beautification project selected by T&CGC was a neglected memorial “rock” garden situated outside the town’s Library at Memorial Park. This bed is in a prominent position downtown but is currently bare of plants and prone to children climbing on the memorial stone. In its present condition, it does not honor the WW1 and WW11 servicemen to whom it is dedicated.

For several years, the Environmental Commission has been promoting the use of native plants, reduction of impervious ground cover, and low water planting in its site reviews for new construction in the Borough and are enthusiastic partners in an annual native plant sale organized by the Great Swamp Water Association. Additionally, the EC regularly hosts workshops, webinars, and presenters from organizations such as the Native Plant Society of New Jersey at its annual Sustainability Fair. The EC has been looking for a permanent site to plant some demonstration gardens to provide information and education on the use of native plants in areas readily accessible to residents, professional landscapers, and municipal grounds people.

Several EC members assist T&CGC at its regular “invasive plant” eradication mornings, where they do battle with invasive plants choking out New Jersey’s own flora at some of the historic sites in town, such as the Red Brick Schoolhouse. Given the work both entities are doing to promote this approach to gardening, a collaboration on a project involving native plants and pollinators makes sense.

T&CGC Club member, Caitlin Boyle, owner of Dirt Diva Gardens, offered her design services pro bono to put together a comprehensive landscaping plan for both gardens at Garden Park and Memorial Park. Joseph Treloar of the EC, a self-taught native plant expert, worked with Caitlin Boyle to select the plants.

Janice Piccolo of the Community Services Department has coordinated the voluntary efforts of the various parties to bring the creation of these two new gardens to fruition. Throughout March, presentations were made, and comments sought from various local entities including the MyChathamNJ Advisory Committee, Shade Tree Commission, the Library, Recreation Advisory Committee, and Historic Preservation Commission. On March 13, 2023, Mr. Treloar, Ms. Boyle, and Ms. Joyce of the T&CGC presented the garden initiative to the Council, where it was welcomed enthusiastically. The volunteers were thanked for their donations of time and talent, and a Resolution passed authorizing the writing of a grant for funds towards the costs of plants.

The objective of these two demonstration gardens is to present, promote and educate the public about the benefits to our environment of gardening with plants native to New Jersey. We hope to showcase how beautiful, hardy, and interesting native plants can be, as well as educate residents about the environmental benefits of “going native”.

Information will be provided via QR code markers at the two gardens which will link to the Borough’s EC page which shows a photographic history of the project, lists of plants native to Morris County and New Jersey, in addition to information showing that our native birds, pollinators and wildlife thrive when the plants they need to feed, nest and breed are readily available.

The plants selections, landscape designs, and photographs of the current status of the Parks are linked on this page. The gardens were installed on April 28, 2023 installed by six shifts of volunteers from by T&CGC and EC, assisted by the DPW working for two hours each as part of the Borough’s annual Clean-Up Day. Watering, weeding, and maintenance of the gardens is being coordinated by the Borough in conjunction with T&CGC. A formal ceremonial ribbon-cutting will take place in spring 2024 when the QR plaques will be installed.



PLANT LIST                                                                                 

MEMORIAL PARK – Library Approach