In 2020, the Garden Club of America challenged garden clubs around the nation to spearhead projects celebrating the 200th birthday of Frederick Olmsted, the father of American Landscape architecture. The Garden Club of Norfolk accepted this challenge. There were a variety of ways in which we could pay tribute to Olmsted, but the most appealing one was to follow in his footsteps. Olmsted believed public parks were important for an individual’s health and wellbeing. He also believed public parks were the great social equalizer because public parks welcome everyone. Olmsted’s vision was to design beautiful spaces using the best of what Nature produces to create a place of respite for the human spirit. Thus began our Olmsted Initiative. We set our sights on enhancing land along the Elizabeth River Trail at Jeff Robertson Park in West Ghent.
If you are interested in offering donations towards the Olmsted Initiative, we are currently fundraising for educational signage for the Tribute Garden. We recently partnered with the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation and other community members to purchase, through donations, the first tri-level hydration station in Norfolk, which is located at the site. This hydration station provides a water source for the many walkers, joggers, and bike riders who travel on the trail (over 469,000 in 2020) as well as provides a pet fountain to hydrate our furry friends.
Our goal at Jeff Robertson Park is to inspire our community to “go native” in their own backyards. As greenspace in Norfolk is at a premium, it is important that we all contribute to transform all available public and private land with plants of ecological value. The Garden Club of Norfolk hopes our projects at Jeff Robertson Park will encourage others to join our family of partners listed below, as we could not do this project without them.
Some of our amazing community partners who deserve so much thanks:
- The Elizabeth River Trail Foundation
- Norfolk Dept of Parks and Rec
- Norfolk Water Quality & Green Infrastructure
- The Norfolk Tree Commission
- Keep Norfolk Beautiful
- Va Tech Hampton Roads Agriculture Research & Extension Center
- Heritage Landscaping, Inc
- Lancaster Farms
- Norfolk Master Gardeners
- Bartlett Tree Experts
- Serco, Inc
- Painted Fern Landscape Architecture
- Tree Diaper Zynnovation
- Girl Scout Troops 305 and 231
- The Garden Club of America Partners 4 Plants
- All of our numerous military and community volunteers
The Three Phases of the Olmsted Initiative
Phase 1, also known as Bluebird Arboretum, occurred in 2021. It involved the rescuing of 6 native trees from invasive plants as well as the planting 15 native trees at the southwestern portion of the park. We wanted to expand the tree canopy across from the Weyanoke Bird Sanctuary by offering a mixture of fruit and nut trees that attract pollinators and local wildlife as well as trees to capture carbon, stormwater, and host endangered species. Click here for a detailed list of trees planted in Phase 1.
Phase 2, the Olmsted Tribute Garden, is an ecological corridor of keystone native trees, shrubs and perennials layered along the northwestern side of Jeff Robertson Park. It is also one of the largest rain gardens in Norfolk. This garden, which is over 2/3rd the length of a football field, serves several purposes: 1) aids in carbon capture and controlling stormwater runoff 2) provides habitat and sustenance for our native pollinators, particularly bees, and local wildlife 3) showcases the beauty and value of our native plants. Phase 2 is almost complete with the last expected planting scheduled for Spring 2024. In the interim, we are raising funds to install educational signage about the importance of these native plants at this site. Please consider donating! Click here for a detailed list of shrubs and perennials planted in Phase 2.
Phase 3, the Retention Pond, is still in its infant development but our desire is to remove invasive plants and create more of a beautiful natural setting east of Bluebird Arboretum.
In the News/Awards
The Elizabeth River Trail Foundation mentions the Olmsted Garden and the first Hydration Station – December 2023 Notes from The Trail
The Elizabeth River Trail Foundation thanks the Garden Club of Norfolk for their help raising funds towards the first hydration station along the trail – September 2023 Trailblazer Newsletter.