Posted by: Bridgett Hernandez

  • 09/07/2021

Member Spotlight: Stephanie Bailey

By Bridgett Hernandez

The location of ACRES Land Trust’s office in the Tom & Jane Dustin Nature Preserve means every window offers an amazing view: bald eagles soaring over Cedar Creek, wildlife moseying by, changing seasons on full display.

Because my office window puts me at eye level with our native garden, I have a front row seat to what’s blooming, from wild geranium and columbine in late spring, to milkweed and coneflower at the height of summer.

Since much of my work as ACRES Communications Manager involves looking at a computer screen, it brings me joy to look up and see bumblebees, butterflies and hummingbirds flitting around the garden. For this beautiful view, I have volunteers like Stephanie Bailey to thank.

I recently sat down with Bailey, a Master Gardener, to chat about her volunteer experience. She and other volunteers have been helping ACRES reestablish the native garden after the recent construction improving office accessibility, including a new sidewalk and handicap parking.

ACRES native garden volunteer Stephanie Bailey

Bailey first learned about ACRES while exploring the trails at Bicentennial Woods with her five boys, now ages 15–24. Having grown up on a farm in the prairie state of Kansas, she found wonder in northeast Indiana’s wooded landscapes.

“I just loved finding ACRES. It was like a treasure,” Bailey said. “To me, the forests up here are magical.”

In 2014, when ACRES issued a call for volunteers to create a native garden at the ACRES office, Bailey volunteered to take on the project.

The first step was clearing former beds. Bailey and other volunteer gardeners used newspaper to cover the ground to prevent weeds from coming up. Martha Ferguson, owner of Riverview Native Nursery, helped Bailey pick out 15 kinds of native plants for the ACRES garden.

Bailey explained that native plants provide not only visual interest but also shelter and food for pollinators and other wildlife. Native plants’ root systems increase the soil’s capacity to store water, thus reducing runoff and preventing
erosion and flooding.

And natives require less maintenance. “The only time we’ve ever watered was when they were first getting established, but once they’re established, it’s just pulling out weeds,” Bailey explained.

Among Bailey’s native garden favorites are blue lobelia and false blue indigo. After the flowers die out each winter, their return each spring always surprises and delights her: “They go from nothing to beautiful and big, really quickly. It’s just amazing to me how that happens. It’s like a miracle every spring,” she said.

Bailey also said she’s grateful for the opportunity to learn and experiment in the garden. “With native plants, you can start out with an original plan, but the plants will do different things you don’t necessarily anticipate,” she said. “Life in
general is like that. You [think you] have control over some things, but not really.”

This year, volunteers spent 30 hours caring for the garden beds and planning their expansion. We’re excited to see the “new” garden take shape!

Thank you, Stephanie Bailey, and native garden volunteers Kris Connerly, Nancy Conrad, Laura Colpitts, Charles Enea, Diane Jones, and ACRES Office Manager Natasha Manor for your hard work, including braving the heat and mosquitoes this past growing season!

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 ACRES Quarterly, mailed to members each season. The 20-page Quarterly features ACRES news, stories and events. You can subscribe by becoming an ACRES member with a donation of $20 or more. Click here to learn more!