This page only begins to tell the story of the Native Plant Garden that has been built and maintained for many years by students and volunteers around the greenhouse of the Natural Sciences Building on the University of Montana Campus in Missoula. The garden was renamed in early 2015 in memory of two of the principal founders. The role of MNPS members in saving and maintaining this garden has been key to its being available to us today. If the garden is to continue to be celebrated 40 years from now, no doubt the volunteer efforts of MNPS members now and in the future will be key.
Celebrating the Native Garden’s 50th birthday, the UM produced this short video.
Here are links to a beautiful graphic depiction of the current garden layout around the Natural Science Building. Garden Brochure suitable for printing and folding; and Garden Brochure best for viewing on the computer.
“A Native Journey,” by Ryan Newhouse, Montanan, Spring 2004. This article discusses the role of Klaus Lackschevitz and Sherm Preece in founding the garden and Jean Parker and Jean Pfeiffer in saving it. Also documented is Kelly Chadwick’s key role in preserving and expanding the garden.
“The Gem of the Montana State Arboretum: Missoula’s Own Native Plant Garden,” by Barb Riggs, June 23, 2010. An excellent college paper reviewing the value and history of the garden.
“Native Plant Gardeners Honored,” by Kelly Chadwick, Kelseya, Summer 2005.
Here is an excellent article the appeard in the Missoulian and is reprinted here by permission:
Volunteers tend to native plants at UM garden
By Betsy Cohen Missoulian; used by permission
MISSOULA – It takes knowledge, patience and a sense of humor to nurture wild things in a civilized world.
Just ask the ladies – and the few bold men – who make up the old guard that watches over the Montana Native Plant Gardens at the University of Montana.
Lois Puckett, 78, has stories to tell about her rogue milkweed plants, so unruly they have run underground and far beyond the stone wall that was meant to contain them, only to appear together in a thick hedge against the Natural Sciences Building.
“You won’t see anything like it anywhere else,” explained an exasperated but cheerful Puckett. “It’s quite exotic really.”
And don’t get Peter Stickney started about his headache with the wandering yarrow – it has no sense of boundaries, explained the 82-year-old retired botanist.
These wise and wily gardeners are among a dedicated dozen who keep alive the wild flora of Montana at UM so that others may learn of their beauty and their ecological place in this vast state.
Because of their expert hands and with their undaunted coaxing, UM’s Natural Sciences Building is ringed by micro-habitats – everything from wet meadows to xeric steppe – that is home to more than 300 different species of plant.
Jean Pfeiffer, 84, nurtures a large section of the garden dedicated to high alpine plants and flowers.
“I used to spend so much time up high in the mountains but I can’t get up there any more,” she said, “so I’m trying to grow those plants here so I can still enjoy them – and so others can, too.”
Originally established in 1967 as a collaborative effort of faculty and students from the Department of Botany, Pfeiffer, along with Jean Parker, initiated a garden resuscitation in 1989 after the wild plants endured about a decade of neglect.
Tenacious like the hardy bitterroot, the two Jeans organized a volunteer force to take over the garden and to generate public appreciation and knowledge of the plants that make Montana unique.
“At the time all of this got started again, native plants were not what people wanted,” said Sheila Morrison, 74. “People thought of them as weeds.
“We were determined to show off the plants, and to teach people that they are attractive and valuable to our environments.”
Over the past 22 years, the group has collected wild seeds and grown wild plants to transplant into the gardens. They have given countless public tours of their handiwork, taught fledgling gardeners and served an outdoor classroom for budding botanists.
The greatest thrill of all, Morrison and Pfeiffer said, has been watching the greater Missoula community become more knowledgeable about native plants and to see more and more native gardens be planted across the city. It makes so much sense, Morrison said, because these plants are meant to live here.
Yet as the UM native plant gardens continue to grow and to inspire, the core group of volunteers who stepped up to maintain and further develop the various habitats two decades ago, are ready to hand off the work. “Our core group is on the verge of retiring and we need more volunteers,” said Alice Okon, the volunteer coordinator for the Montana Native Plant Gardens at UM. “We need new people to step up to help this wonderful work continue.”
While the longtime gardeners would like to give the heavy lifting to a younger set of green thumbs, they don’t plan to wholly give up their habitats.
“We will work with people and teach them about the plants,” Pfeiffer said.
Now is the time to get involved, said volunteer Kelly Chadwick.Thank you note to volunteers from Montana’s Governor
“We need people now, and we have so many knowledgeable people to learn from,” Chadwick said. “And the work is fun.
“There is a lot of experimental things that happen here because we are trying create different habitats,” she said. “We are always testing things and we are always learning.
“Wild things don’t grow the same way in a garden, and that keeps things interesting.”