Orange day-lily. Rose of Sharon. English ivy. All of these beautiful, eye-catching plants can be found adorning numerous homes throughout Bexley. However, aside from their beauty and prevalence, each of these plants has another thing in common: they are not native to Ohio.
Senior and president of the high school’s Garden Club Josh Bahar observed these non-native plants scattered throughout Bexley. Now, along with the rest of the club, he aims to incorporate more native species into the community with the creation of a new wildflower garden.
The construction of the new green space, located in the middle school’s front lawn, began and was completed by Bahar and other members of the club April 30. The plot, he said, is about seven by 30 feet and will hold around a dozen species of native wildflowers including bee balm, blazing star, sharp lobed liverleaf, dutchman’s breeches, jack-in-the-pulpit, two types of milkweed and more.
“We put down cardboard to kill the grass underneath, then we put soil, wet compost and manure and then we repeated it and put the plants in there,” he explained.
Bahar said that he had the idea for the garden at the beginning of this school year and decided to write a grant to the Bexley Education Foundation to fund this project. He added that his love for gardening began at a young age when he attended his former elementary school, Columbus Jewish Day School.
“We did a lot of gardening, and we also had this thing called sit spots and we would just sit alone outside and reflect,” he said. “I think I’ve always just felt comfortable in nature, and I want other people to feel that way, too.”
While Bahar said he feels like many people experience a similar comfort from nature, they often must travel to parks or other designated wildlife spaces to experience it. Therefore, a major reason for constructing the wildflower garden was to provide community members with easy access to nature.
However, his reasoning was multifaceted. Beyond aiding with accessibility, he said that his goal for creating this garden was to draw attention to Ohio species’ beauty.
“A lot of [plants in Bexley] are ornamental that people put out to make their houses look nice, but a lot of these are introduced and undermine the plants that already live here,” Bahar said. “The point was to make a space where people could see that the plants that are supposed to live here are just as beautiful as the flowers people plant.”
Additionally, he said he hopes the garden will be able to add local biodiversity.
“Every part of the ecosystem is always interacting with each other, so the flowers are going to bring insects, which will bring birds, which will spread the seeds and then there will be more plants,” he explained.
Family and consumer sciences teacher and Garden Club adviser Marybeth Motasem said that while the club has traditionally been small, they make a big impact on the community.
“Despite only having about eight active members, we grow over 100 pounds of food each year,” Motasem said. “That food either gets used in my food classes or gets donated to the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.”
She added that Bahar’s dedication has been integral to many of the club’s achievements.
“Without him, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we are,” she said. “Throughout the summer, it is not unusual for Josh to show up at all hours to weed, water and harvest the garden. His natural leadership abilities throughout the years have truly helped me maintain our garden.”
However, the Garden Club’s membership, Bahar said, is comprised primarily of seniors, making its future uncertain.
“It’s up to the other younger members to see what happens, but because the wildflowers in this garden are native, they require very little maintenance,” he said. “Hopefully this garden can be Garden Club’s legacy.”
As for recruitment for next year, Motasem explained that the younger members of the club are working to build interest amongst their peers while Motasem herself has been promoting Garden Club to her classes.
Bahar said that taking a leadership role in the club and working on the wildflower garden has been an extremely meditative, fulfilling endeavor that has brought him closer to his environment.
“The whole point is that the Earth knows how to be beautiful, and I just want to show that,” he said. “In order to do that, though, we just have to put trust into the Earth.”