Over 700 attend “Gardening For Life Project Celebration” at PCHS

Published 12:59 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Inaugural event features Dr. Doug Tallamy


By Anita Saulmon

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COLUMBUS–Four local women are effecting change in a powerful, green way and inviting the community along for the ride.


Their yearlong efforts resulted in an inaugural free event at Polk County High School, the “Gardening For Life Project Celebration,” which culminated in a keynote presentation by Dr. Doug Tallamy and attracted more than 700 participants.

Tallamy is an internationally recognized entomologist, ecologist, conservationist and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.”  A professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Wilmington, he also is the co-founder, along with Michelle Alfandari, of Homegrown National Park, a grassroots effort to measurably and profoundly increase the amount of land dedicated to native habitat, one yard at a time.

Dr. Doug Tallamy signs books for guests at the March 4 Gardening For Life Project Celebration inaugural event at Polk County High School in Columbus. (Photo by Chris Bartol)

He is sounding the clarion call to protect our food web by planting native plants, which are the only plants that provide habitat – shelter, food, water and space – for our native fauna, without which our food web eventually would collapse. Tallamy clearly outlines how everyone, whether you are a tenant with only containers or property owners with vast acreage, can contribute to the solution by providing critical habitat.


Featured at the event were more than 20 native plant vendors, educational exhibits, resources, and organizations promoting healthy habitats. Courtesy of the event organizers, there were free giveaways of wildflower seed packets as well as bare-root oak tree saplings purchased through the N.C. Forest Service. 


The Gardening For Life Project (GFLP) is the brainchild of a passionate group of four local Tryon women – Donna Wise, Vard Henry, Karen Bird and Corrie Woods – but it started with a seed planted by Wise, chair of the Governing Board at The Congregational Church, UCC in Tryon. Their Justice team was charged with the mission to bring a speaker to the area and concluded that justice for Mother Earth should be considered. 


Wise noted, “Dr. Tallamy’s message that individuals can make hands-on, positive changes turned my relationship with the natural world upside down. As a result I wanted to share his message with the Foothills community so that others might have the same experience and pass it on.  My challenge to you is learn more, trust your intuition, follow your heart and help heal our wounded planet!”


Last year the core group assembled a committee of equally determined, like-minded individuals, each taking responsibility for an arm of the event.


One such arm worked with the school system on a sister project, “Seeds in Schools.” Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, co-founders of Weiler Woods for Wildlife, and their team of staff and volunteers present lesson plans about habitat, biodiversity and wildlife’s underdog species in Polk County after-school programs. Having students decorate wildflower seed packages with native flora and fauna was a natural connection. The young artists each took home a seed package to create their own pollinator gardens, and the remainders were given to event participants.

Project team leader Corrie Woods summed up the day by saying, “The magic of our March 4th event was the result of so many folks contributing and showing up in so many ways-from Tallamy’s message of hope and challenge, to the more than 60 talented volunteers, to our extraordinary partners and exhibitors, to the more than 700 people who came to be a part of the day. And it doesn’t stop there. The conversation IS continuing and action is happening throughout our community. Three cheers! We are indeed Nature’s Best Hope!”

Doug Tallamy said, “I have been hosted by many groups, and many have gone overboard welcoming me. But no group has come close to you folks in Tryon. If only we could bottle up your enthusiasm and sell it…no, give it away! Our environmental problems would be over.”