Latin for Gardeners: May 2018

Alison Milligan, Class 7 Master Watershed Steward, writes monthly articles about natives to share with Master Gardeners. When she first started "Latin for Gardeners" two years ago, Alison wanted to encourage people to learn the Latin names of natives so they could request the right plant when out shopping. Thank you, Alison, for sharing your knowledge with us!

May’s Native Maryland Plant
Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medik.
(am-meh-LANG-kee-er kan-uh-DEN-sis) 
Common Name: Serviceberry, Shadbush


Each year I anxiously await the blooming of the Amelanchier canadensis in my garden – when it blooms I know spring is finally here. The delicate, pure white, 5-petaled, slightly fragrant flowers attract early pollinators and appear before the oblong, finely-toothed leaves.  In mid-summer the blooms will be replaced with delicious berries that birds and squirrels will vie over.  Shadbush is the common name because Amelanchier canadensis flowering coincides with the annual migration of shad in New England rivers.
As you look out at Maryland’s landscape this month, within your neighborhood and along the highways, you’ll see the very invasive Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) - also blooming white. However, if you’re lucky and you look with a discerning eye you might spot an Amelanchier canadensis. This lovely native tree has three-season interest and plays an important role in providing nectar and pollen for early spring pollinators.  If you have a moist-wet area with partial-shade this is a nice understory tree.  You’ll enjoy the early blooms and you won’t be able to ignore the myriad of birds that come for the berries in June.


NOTE: Callery pear was introduced as an ornamental in 1964 and has since invaded North America and Canada, outcompeting native plants and trees.

~ Alison Milligan – MG 2013

Remembering Ron Bowen

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Many of you have heard by now that our county has lost a great visionary leader. Ron Bowen, former Anne Arundel County Director of Public Works and co-founder of the Watershed Stewards Academy, passed away Sunday evening after a long illness.  

When I first met Ron in 2005, I had no idea that he would change my life…and yours. The message below is a first attempt to share with the WSA family a bit about this amazing man, and the legacy he leaves for all of us. I know that many of you have your own memories of Ron and I invite you to share those thoughts and memories with all of us through our Facebook page and/or through direct correspondence with his family, through his wife Linda. Ron’s full obituary can be found here

Yesterday, I met with Stephen Barry and Ginger Ellis, the other two WSA founders, to remember Ron. Together, the four of us spent hundreds of hours dreaming up the Watershed Stewards Academy and through that process really got to know a lot about each other.  As we talked about Ron this week, three ideas surfaced over and over again about this man’s incredible legacy. 

First VISION.  Before WIPs and TMDLs were part of our lexicon, Ron was laser focused on clean water. Before other Public Works Directors understood stormwater pollution as their problem, Ron was busy leading a thorough assessment of watershed conditions and laying the foundation for what is now the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. He invested in outside the box solutions and championed Coastal Plain Outfalls and Regenerative Stormwater Conveyances. He recognized that government could not solve this problem alone, and co-created the Watershed Stewards Academy to connect everyone who “lives, works and plays” in Anne Arundel County to be part of the solution. His focus was on engaging communities through local leadership. 

Second, “Not my Job” was not in his vocabulary. As the Director of Public Works, Ron had a wide range of responsibilities…utilities, roads, waste water, but he was never too busy to help a resident with a problem. He spent countless evenings walking communities, looking at problems and finding solutions. He embodied “public servant” in a very literal sense.  Although Ron had risen to a high-ranking position with many responsibilities, he never made you feel as if his time was more important than yours, or that your issues were less significant.   His example of public service trickled down to those who worked under him, and his staff rose to meet his standard of excellence.  

Last, he believed strongly in Communication, Coordination and Collaboration. He worked hard to break down the silos and barriers between government departments and to create systems that connected government with citizens, organizations and businesses. During the creation of the Watershed Stewards Academy, Ron was insistent on a model that fostered an ongoing dialogue and collaborative spirit between government and citizens. 

For those who do not know it, below is the story of how WSA was started. I have Ron to thank for bringing this amazing organization and each of you into my life. We all have Ron to thank for the pathway to clean water that he paved, and that we are now following together. 

Please join is in remembering Ron and in continuing his legacy of passion for the environment and making clean water a reality. 


Watershed Stewards Academy

In 2003, Arlington Echo began to partner with the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works  to install ecosystem restoration projects to address stormwater issues. These innovative solutions represented a paradigm shift away from “collect and convey” toward mimicking nature to clean, cool and infiltrate stormwater. As school children and their parents toured these sites, planted native plants and learned about stormwater, they began to understand their role in Bay restoration. Communities began to ask what more they could do to help restore their creek, river or the Bay. As Arlington Echo and DPW began to work with these communities, they quickly understood that they were outnumbered by people wanting to take action.  Each of these communities needed someone to work with them, but there were not enough staff resources at either Arlington Echo or DPW to capitalize on all of the enthusiasm. 

In 2005, Ron Bowen and Ginger Ellis of DPW began meeting with Stephen Barry and Suzanne Etgen of Arlington Echo to brainstorm ways to turn this growing awareness into action.  Over the next 3 years, and hundreds  of hours, the Watershed Stewards Academy concept was born. After pitching the idea to David O’Neil (then of CBT) and Verna Harrison (then of Keith Campbell Foundation), we secured three years of funding for program development. Soon Carrie Decker of DNR approached us about funding WSA with a small pot of NOAA Coastal Communities funding.     In December 2008, an Arlingtion Echo staff person, Suzanne Etgen, was dedicated to this work. With grant funding funding in hand, support from the County and the Board of Education, and a dedicated director, WSA was born.

In December 2008, about 40 partners – consisting of RiverKeepers, landscape architects, local government leaders and environmental activists - were engaged to assist in the formation of the key components of the program: Certification Curriculum, Tool Box for Sustaining Action and Consortium of Support Professionals. In March 2009, WSA began training our first class of 32 Master Watershed Stewards. 

Since the spring of 2009, WSA has certified over 200 Master Watershed Stewards representing over 100 communities and 25 Houses of Worship from Brooklyn Park to Herring Bay. Together, this army of trained and equipped leaders have installed over 2300 projects from rain barrels to stream restoration and reached over 134,000 neighbors with environmental education and technical assistance. 

Steward Spotlight: Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell, Class 10


Why did you become a Master Watershed Steward? 
Since I took an Ecology course in my first year of college and read Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’, I have been an advocate for sensible environmental policy and practice.  The Watershed Stewards Academy offered an opportunity to interact with others and become part of the Environmental Activist community.  Being passionate about trees, plants and wildlife is a calling and a noble mission.  It is important to share ideas and strategies with like-minded people.  WSA has given me that opportunity.

What was your capstone project?
My original Capstone project was to develop minimalist woodland management techniques for watershed woodlands.  After 6 months of effort this project was stalled by the bureaucracy so we went to Plan B. This was a Dry Creek Meadow landscape with a Rain Barrel water-feed.  This went well and was completed on time and under budget.

How did you hear about WSA?
A friend of mine, Jesse Brogan, is a Master Watershed Steward. After talking with him and some online research, I attended a WSA orientation program and enrolled for Class 9 soon after.

Why is restoring the waterways important to you?
The waterways are the life-blood of the planet.   Clean water is essential to life as we know it. Everything we value in life is tied to the water.  Everyone has a responsibility to keep the water clean.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned during the certification course?
I found the local political process and the acceptance of practical solutions to be divisive and competitive.  Collaboration between people, even on an agreed issue, aka Environmental Management, is fragmented when it comes to engaging whole communities.  There are many Bay/Watershed organizations and groups all competing for the same funds and people.

What was your favorite project you worked on after becoming a Master Watershed Steward?
I have been promoting the ‘Minimalist Garden’ concepts developed from my WSA projects.  My goal is to create a profitable business while cleaning-up the watersheds.

What is "Minimalist Gardening"?
Minimalist gardening is a way to manage natural debris. Zen, common sense, arms, legs and hands are used to nurture the landscape. Properly stacked and organized forest litter breaks down faster as it provides habitat for plants and animals. This technique has reconnected me to the natural world. The first step is to define the paths. Then find plants and natural landscapes as you walk the paths through the brush and around the trees. Use the natural building material that lies all around to control erosion, create habitat and highlight the trees and plant beds.

What advice do you have for our Class 10 Steward Candidates?
The Environmental Movement, of which WSA is a part, must be a collaborative effort that is sustainable.

How do you plan to continue engaging the community in your environmental efforts?
I will continue to write articles and poetry about the environment and present it in various media venues.  I am also working to establish a woodland management and Minimalist landscaping enterprise.


Interested in learning more about Minimalist Gardening? Contact Bill.

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