Public gardens are welcome additions to any community.
An outstanding example of a public garden maintained by the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Butler County is at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Road.
Since 2011, under the direction of Peg Campbell and Eileen Tallarico, the Master Gardeners have designed and maintained this public garden.
The garden is a combination of pollinator and herb gardens. All plants are labeled for identification. Master Gardener volunteers can answer questions and provide information about the plants and gardens.
The pollinator garden was planted to showcase the importance of pollinators to our environment. Garden signs educate the public about pollinators.
On a sunny day, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators are in action. A combination of native and non-native plants fill out the pollinator garden.
Native plants include: coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), blazing star (Liatris spp.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), perennial sunflower (Helianthus spp.), false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Examples of non-native plants are: peonies, hydrangea, spider flower and evening primrose.
The herb garden is arranged into four sections, each of which illustrates the use of herbs for sensory, culinary, medicinal and dye purposes. Walking paths invite visitors to get close to the herbs for an additional experience.
In the sensory section, visitors may carefully pinch off a plant leaf and crush it, releasing its fragrance. When in bloom, flowers provide a pleasant scent.
Some herbs have interesting leaves or a unique feel. Look for basil, thyme, artemisia, scented geraniums, lavender, lamb's ears and others. Many of these herbs perform double-duty as pollinator magnets.
The culinary section contains an interesting selection of edible flowers and herbs.
Edible flowers include borage, calendula and nasturtiums. Common herbs used in cooking, such as basil, rosemary, dill, chives, garlic, mint, oregano and thyme are in abundance.
Of interest is lovage, which tastes like celery, and French tarragon, which has an anise/licorice flavor. Herbs add flavor to dishes without adding calories or salt.
Medicinal herbs have been used for centuries. Some are still used today, under the direction of a qualified herbalist or medical specialist.
Among the medicinal herbs are these three examples.
Elderberry is a shrub whose berries have a high level of antioxidants. Commercially-available elderberry juice is marketed as a health supplement, and elderberry jelly is delicious.
Chamomile is a low growing groundcover with daisy-like flowers that bloom in the summer. Chamomile is ingested or applied externally for relaxation.
The colorful calendula or “pot marigold” is used in creams, teas, tinctures and oils to soothe irritated skin. The flowers have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Always check with your health care professional before ingesting or using herbs.
Herbs and plants have been used for centuries to dye cloth. Today, fabric artists use plants to color wool, yarn and cloth.
For example, the color yellow can be produced by using parts of calendula, German chamomile, goldenrod or yarrow. The culinary herb, rosemary produces a yellow-green color.
Pollinator plants and herbs are very interesting and many are easy to grow. Visiting the Cranberry Township Municipal Center gardens may inspire you to add new plants and herbs to your home garden.
This year, the Cranberry Township gardens will be on the Southern Butler County Garden Club Tour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 14. Tickets are available by visiting www.southernbutlercountygardenclub.org. Master Gardener volunteers will be in the gardens to answer questions and provide information.
Call the Master Gardener Garden Hotline at 724-287-4761, Ext. 229, with questions about pollinator and herb plants and other gardening practices.
Peg Campbell lives in Cranberry Township and helps maintain the pollinator and herb garden at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center.