The Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse is in the midst of major rebirth and redirection.

The Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse 'goes native'

Boiling Springs, Pa.    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

With spring upon us, many people are dreaming of flowering gardens and landscapes teeming with life.

That’s exactly the vision Kim Patten, greenhouse gardener at the Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse hopes to fulfill with the greenhouse's new native-perennial nursery.

Why natives?

“All plants are incredible, but not all are created equal,” says Patten. “The plants native to a place are uniquely suited to grow there and have vast sets of relationships that support the diversity of life in that place.”

Patten, who joined the staff at the Diakon Wilderness Center—where the greenhouse is located—last fall, developed a relationship with Jan Getgood and Ernie Johnson, proprietors of Meadowood Nursery, a long-standing regional native-plant nursery, as they were preparing for retirement.

Following the closure of their business, the Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse acquired their inventory with the plan to continue as a resource for conservation groups and individuals looking to enhance and restore landscapes with native plants.

"People should know their purchase not only improves the environment, but also helps to assure better futures for at-risk youths."

“We’re really delighted to continue Meadowood’s work by making these plants more widely available,” says Patten. “A plant can be a beautiful and functional part of the landscape, providing food and shelter, supporting diversity, filtering pollutants and absorbing storm water. Plants have lots of jobs to do and our native plants are best adapted to perform those jobs here.”

But the effort is not just about the plants.

Patten plans to involve students enrolled in the Diakon Wilderness Center’s programs for at-risk youths in all aspects of plant production at the new native plant nursery.

“The students will be involved in making a positive difference in their environment and in their communities, building on that narrative of stewardship that is central to Diakon’s mission,” she says. “What they learn here can certainly help prepare them for the workforce, but it also helps prepare them for life.”

Even better, proceeds from greenhouse operations help to support Diakon Youth Services' mission to transform the lives of adjudicated youths and their families. "People who purchase plants should understand that they are not only improving the environment, but also helping to assure better futures for at-risk youths," says Patten.

The greenhouse will offer more than 150 varieties of native perennials—flowering plants, ferns, shrubs, vines, trees and grasses—for rain gardens, meadow plantings, pollinator gardens, streamside plantings and more.

Of prime importance, Patten says, is that the greenhouse is "a teaching nursery. The goal is to have students involved in all aspects of the business. Right now, they are learning the basics about plants and plant care, helping with potting plugs and spring divisions."

The overall focus is to provide youths with "the opportunity to build skills and knowledge that will improve their future employability and workforce readiness."

The greenhouse will hold a public plant sale Saturday, May 9, in which one-quart, two-quart, and gallon-sized herbaceous natives will be available for $6, $9 and $12, respectively. Additional open hours will be held on select Saturdays and by appointment throughout the rest of the growing season.

“We’re not purists, but we do believe how we plant matters,” Patten adds. “Even adding a few native species can help diversify our landscape and support the wildlife that we all like to enjoy.”

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