MGANM Sponsored Projects

Boardman River Nature Center Native Display Gardens

After completion of the GTCD (Grand Traverse Conservation District) Nature Center building nearly ten years ago, a large group of Master Gardeners gathered to adorn the surrounding grounds with hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees creating native display gardens. The landscape plan, designed by local landscape architects Anita Silverman and Eric Takayama, called for plantings native to the area with the stock that was available at the time. The beautiful stone and rock beds, rain gardens and sun/shade orientation were all considered in the design.


How these gardens have been maintained and sustained over the years is a story that involves very little financial investment but much perseverance. Until just recently, when a monetary budget was introduced,  Martha Dively and I have worked with volunteers and master gardeners to weed, add compost and mulch the gardens. Conservation District employees have also assisted us with some pruning and irrigation set-up. Plants were not moved or thinned, no new plantings were introduced and some beds were left to fend for themselves. 


Two years ago, Martha and I realized that we would never realize the master gardener mission of community education by just mulching and weeding.  In discussions with the Conservation District Board members and District employees, we determined we could start raising funds for garden maintenance.  We now rescue plants from our own gardens, as well as from building sites in the area, and sell them at the Districts yearly native plant sale.  We have also applied and received grants to redo and revitalize some of the garden beds.

Working with the Invasive Species Network, we have begun placing extensive signage throughout the gardens.  These signs identify the flowers, shrubs and trees as well as give other information about their growing requirements.  We have begun offering garden tours every Monday evening, preceding our work bees, and are reaching out to high school students in the area to work in the gardens for credit.  


At our native plant sale May 20, we were able, for the first time in all of these years of garden maintenance, to use the gardens to demonstrate how the plants being sold look and act in their natural environment.  We saw gardeners exploring the beds, reading the signage, and then asking lots of questions. We nearly sold out of hundreds of plants.  Needless to say this is a dream come true for both Martha and me.


With all of this positive growth there is one caveat.  Our Monday evening and Wednesday morning work bees have not been well supported. This spring has been especially light on help. We know there is a lot of competition for volunteers. ( Martha and I must enjoy what we do because we always show up.) A heartfelt thank you to Jeanne Hunter and Joanne Johnson. They have been tireless volunteers and really worked hard to get the gardens in shape. Also, the newly established Wild Ones group have taken on the butterfly garden so look for creative new energy there.  And we are so grateful for the work of the Conservation District employees; especially Tricia Forgrave and Tom Vitale, who sometimes volunteer on their own time.

Take some time to meander the path around the building before or after your next meeting.  You might notice a flower or shrub that could fit in your garden design while encouraging pollinators at the same time.

Becky Mang

Martha Dively

To get involved, contact Becky Mang: or Martha Dively, or contact us at

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