Monday, September 5, 2011

On Labor Day, celebrate those who labor with love

According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

In 2011, the “contributions and achievements of American workers” are often much different than they were in 1882, when the holiday was first celebrated. Now, more and more companies are doing their part to help make the planet a better place, not just by contributing money, but by going outside and “getting dirty” in an effort to help make a positive difference.

There are many companies that go “over and above” to contribute to the well-being of the Metro DC area. But because this is a “green” garden blog, I decided to talk about the garden project initiated by D&R International of Silver Spring Maryland, an environmental consulting firm that serves businesses, government, and nonprofits.

In June 2010, to mark their 25th anniversary in business, D&R contacted the Montgomery County Department of Parks with their idea to create a demonstration Xeriscape garden in the park across from their office. Their idea was not only to create a more environmentally friendly garden, but to use it as a way to help teach and inspire others.

Located at the corner of Spring Street and Georgia Avenue, the gateway to the Silver Spring business district, the planned Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at Woodside Urban Park would serve as a teaching tool for educators, school groups and the general public. Xeriscape gardening is a wonderful way to protect the planet because it requires less water and is an environmentally sensitive approach to gardening in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

For five months, D&R worked closely with the Parks Development Division on garden layout, plant selection, and other details. On October 30, 2010, D&R staff and their families joined members of the Parks Department and other Woodside neighbors to plant over 500 low maintenance, drought-tolerant, native plants and shrubs. The resulting 1,200-square-foot garden now features a wide array of native species that require little water, no pesticides or fertilizers, attract wildlife, and beautify this small corner of the world. Bray & Scarff, a local kitchen and appliance retailer, provided financial support for the project. GreenLink, a local landscape company, donated the shrubs.

On May 24, 2011, D&R held a dedication ceremony for the garden, which is the first government-business volunteer garden project in Montgomery County. Speakers included Montgomery County Department of Parks Director Mary Bradford, Montgomery County Department of Recreation Director Gabriel Albornoz, and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin.

“The Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at Woodside Urban Park is a living symbol of how cultivating change together can create a more beautiful environment and a healthier community,” said D&R President David Steiner. “This project allows us to connect to the local community and highlight the importance of resource conservation on a larger scale. We also hope this effort will serve as a model for other companies looking to give back to the community.”

Senator Raskin also commented about the value of companies partnering with government. “In cultivating this magnificent garden, D&R is turning back to the community to make it more beautiful, more green, and more peaceful. This is a model of what a real public-private partnership should be.”

After the first year, the plants will require very little water, which is appropriate for a region that experiences frequent droughts. D&R planted the garden, developed educational signage, and will provide ongoing maintenance. Most of the maintenance for the Demonstration Garden is weeding, which D&R staff carry out on their lunch hours or before work about once a week. Less weeding will be required next year as the garden fills in.

This Friday, September 9th, at 6:30 p.m., there will be a tour of D&R’s demonstration Xeriscape garden. Landscape Architect Ching-Fang Chen will be on hand to talk about xeriscaping techniques, including plant selection, garden design, and maintenance. The tour is sponsored by D&R International.

Why not stop by and say thank you to some of the people that are helping to make the area a little more environmentally friendly. Perhaps their labor of love will help to inspire one of your own.

To attend, RSVP to Susan Conbere at To learn more about the garden, you can visit their Facebook page, here.

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