“Water is the driver of nature.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Water and plants are inextricably connected; you can't have plants without at least some water. Without plants, we would have no food or oxygen.
Wellfield Botanic Gardens’ Water Celebration Garden was designed to celebrate the relationship between water and us; its layout, its artwork and its interpretive signs are all tied to the water theme.
Wellfield got its name based on its location on the site of the city's largest and oldest water well field. Citizens of Elkhart have been getting their drinking water from the aquifers underneath the flowers, paths and ponds since 1884, when the first well was dug. As you walk around the gardens, you pass by some of the 13 wells still active at this site. The big water storage tanks were built in the 1950s, and they make good landmarks for people coming to the gardens.
Gardening in a well field makes one mindful that we need to respect the places we live and work in to prevent unintended harm to our interconnected natural world. Anything water-soluble we put on the surface of the ground has the potential to percolate into the ground water, our aquifers and therefore our drinking water. All of Wellfield’s buildings are constructed with this in mind, and our planting and horticultural practices are designed to protect the groundwater.
If you regularly walk in the gardens on Tuesday or Thursday mornings, there is a good chance you have seen volunteers weeding. Mulching to reduce weeds and hand pulling those that get through means we avoid using chemical weed killers, which may leach into the groundwater.
Compost tea and organic materials that promote healthy soil are used to nourish the plants when possible rather than chemical fertilizers, which easily pass into the groundwater.
Another way we protect the groundwater is the buffer zone planted along the bank of the English Cottage Gardens. Buffer zones are areas planted near bodies of water to help filter unwanted chemicals out of surface water and reduce runoff, among other things. Why not check it out next time you visit the gardens? The Annual Garden or the bridge by the Pergola Garden are both good viewing places and have signs explaining the benefits of using native plants along pond banks.
I would not have been able to write this blog four years ago, as I did not know all of this information then. Spending time as a volunteer has taught me a lot. Listening to the horticulture managers talk about plants and gardening practices is an education in itself. I was also lucky enough to be part of the team that developed the interpretive signs for the Water Celebration Garden.
Do you know what percentage of the earth is covered by water? Do you know what percentage of that water is fresh water? Do you know what percentage of fresh water is available for use by all living things?
You can learn the answers to these questions by looking at the signs in the Water Celebration Garden.