A dedicated team of volunteers took to the hills of Port Jefferson last Saturday morning to help the environment by planting a Long Island native plant garden. 

Three years in the making, the idea originated at a Go Green Fair by co-chairs Naomi Solo and John Lutterbie. The garden, located on village property at the corner of High Street and Spring Street, is a collaboration among Port Jefferson School District’s environmental club, the Green Team, Port Jefferson Village, Stony Brook University’s Humanities Institute and the village’s annual Go Green event.

“Between the university, the Go Green Team and the village, we are [finally] doing it,” said Village Gardener Caran Markson. “Luckily Margot [Garant] our mayor, is so pro beautification so she matched what the Go Green team fundraised for and here we are.”

Designer Sue Avery, from the Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), used the funds to purchase the plants at the group’s annual plant sale in Riverhead last week.

The garden sits on a triangle piece of property in full sun and includes Joe Pye weed, New York ironweed, bee balm, common milkweed and butterfly weed and native grasses, anchored by bayberry plants on each corner. Because the garden is on a slope, Avery also created a rain garden with wet loving plants at the bottom that will catch all the water runoff.

“These are all native plants, native to Long Island, so once they get established they are very low maintenance,” said Avery. “Also they are habitat plants for our native pollinators, for monarch butterflies, so it is really a pollinator garden as well, and a lot of these will self-seed and fill in so it will turn out to be a low maintenance garden.” The group also planted goldenrod, which, according to Avery, is “very valuable for the monarchs for their fall migration.”

The garden, which will require periodic watering, mulching and weeding, will be maintained by Markson, Lauren Hubbard of the Maritime Explorium, Solo and Avery.

In the spring, the volunteers will come back and “cut the grasses down, see what is coming up and what has self-seeded,” said Avery. “It will be an example of how to sustainably manage a traffic island, a municipal place,” she added.

Inspired by this event, Markson has expressed interest in planting native plants throughout the village “because they are self-sustaining and they are wonderful for the environment.”