GE Volunteers at Ann's Place

“That’s a lot of dirt,” is what many of the GE Capital volunteers must have been thinking when they arrived at Ann’s Place on the morning of September 29. On a bright and clear day, over a dozen volunteers started a two-day project that was focused around planting 7,000 daffodil bulbs.

“We don’t call it dirt,” our horticulturist Erik Keller would admonish his charges. “Dirt is what you walk on. Soil is what you plant in.” And so started the project that would transport thousands of daffodil bulbs and 20 yards of a compost-top soil mix into the wash basin next to the labyrinth and arbor that GE Capital had installed the prior year. Erik decided to bring soil in as the base of the wash was composed of rocks and boulders. “You do not want to try to dig any of that up,” he said.

Before the bulbs were planted they needed to be mixed so that the dozens of varieties would be equally scattered when planted. A trio of GE employees took charge of this task and kept track of how many bulbs were used to ensure that they would not run out before they finished planting the nearly 125 feet of trench. After the bulbs were set in a light layer of soil, another 6 inches of soil would be placed on top of them. By lunch time, nearly 3,000 bulbs had been planted.

The GE employees with perhaps the toughest job were those assigned to wheelbarrow duty who delivered an endless stream of compost and top soil from the far end of the parking lot. They came in shifts with always a smile and a load.

By the end of the day, the trench was filled with bulbs—6,300—and ready for seeding with native fescue grasses. GE took the remaining 700 bulbs and eventually planted them on adjacent sides of the entrance at Ann’s Place.

But daffodils were not the only job on the docket. One of the more thankless (and sometimes unnoticed) tasks is weeding. Because Ann’s Place has a organic garden, the usual landscaping practices cannot be used and it takes old-fashioned manual labor to keep weeds down and the grounds looking lovely.

One of the challenges we have with weeding is certain plants, like the native golden rod, are not considered weeds on our site as they attract a wide variety of native birds and insects. “A weed is a plant that you don’t want to have in your garden,” said Erik.  “Sometimes our volunteers become over enthused and remove some of the things we want to keep.”

Another task for the group was to remove invading strands of phragmites (common reed.) Physical removal of the plant is problematic as any little piece will become a new reed in the following year. To combat this a few volunteers took to an uncommon gardening tool: a blunt syringe filled with horticultural vinegar, an organic herbicide. By injecting the roots with vinegar, the plant will die and the surrounding ground will be unharmed. “This is really cool,” said one of the volunteers when showed this technique. “I’m going to try this at home.”

Another task was to replace certain plants that had died during the year as well as start a new perennial garden in the front of the property. Native grasses were planted in the front of the property as well as beautyberry bushes, which display bright purple berries in the fall and winter, and St. Johnswort, a short flowering shrub that produces a popular herb.

On the left side of the building GE planted nearly 50 hellebores and coral bells both of which do well in the dappled light of the area. Hellebores, known as Lenten (or Christmas) roses, are early bloomers and deliver lovely flowers at the sign of the first thaw. Keep your eyes peeled this Spring for their blooms.

GE also removed a dead tree, created new stone borders, planted a native grass border, reseeded the lawn, fertilized bushes, removed invasive trees and bushes from the property and raked and cleaned different areas. 

This two-day effort was bittersweet for both GE Capital and Ann’s Place, however, as the current divestiture and sale of the group will make this effort their last. GE Capital has been volunteering at Ann’s Place since 2012 and as a remembrance Ann’s Place has created a plaque honoring their efforts, which will be displayed on our mantel. We invite you all to view it as well as the efforts that were made by GE Capital over the past few years.