Conservation = Do Your Part

Nantucket Garden Club’s Coastal-Resilient Native Plant Garden at the Saltmarsh Senior Center


The Nantucket Garden Club’s Conservation Committee decided to create an educational native plant garden in front of the Saltmarsh Senior Center starting in the spring of 2022. The Saltmarsh Center is on the harbor on town-owned land. The front garden of about 1200 sq. ft. had become overgrown and infested with invasive plants. The soil is sandy, so fast-draining. The space is often flooded by northeastern storms in winter. The site is mostly sunny.

A landscaper gave us advice to start, and a crew helped us clear the space. Members spread organic compost in late April 2022 and planted a small Beach plum tree. We cut back existing Inkberry shrubs and added new ones. We added Clethra shrubs along with several Sweet ferns.

We planted four grasses: Little bluestem, Purple lovegrass, Side oats grama, and around the perimeter, American beach grass. We planted plugs of native perennials, but many were eaten by rabbits. During that summer, we filled in with potted perennials that rabbits do not like, nearly all Nantucket native. We regularly met on Thursday mornings to plant and to weed Black swallow-wort, an invasive vine that is toxic to butterflies. We left the new plants standing through the winter, not cutting them back until spring. The summer of 2023 we added more native perennials: Bee balm, Boneset, Joe Pye weed, Milkweeds, Asters, and Cup plants.

Our educational sign provides that coastal resilient gardens are appropriate adjacent to beaches, dunes, coastal banks, waterbodies, or within areas prone to flooding. Our garden features low maintenance native plant species that have adapted to the climate and soils of Nantucket. The plant material is hardy, strong-rooted shrubs, perennials, and grasses, able to tolerate both wet and dry conditions and occasional saltwater flooding. Once established, native species do not require watering, fertilizers, or pesticides. Their deep roots filter water as it flows into the harbor, and the plants support wildlife, including pollinators, beneficial insects, birds, and small mammals.

Passers-by often stop to read the sign and comment on or ask questions about the garden.