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Flower Gardens Flourish at Northern Essex

Submitted by on June 20, 2017 – 7:08 pm

Jason Warren, who started as a Project SEARCH intern, has been hired to maintain the new perennial gardens on the Haverhill campus.

Butterflies and hummingbirds are the newest visitors to Northern Essex Community College’s Haverhill campus thanks to some beautiful, new gardens.

These winged creatures have already visited the recently created butterfly garden planted in the island on the west side of the Harold Bentley Library. Eventually all three islands surrounding the library building will hold drought-resistant perennial plants. In addition, the garden at the entrance to the college will be expanded by four feet to accommodate butterfly attracting perennials.

The landscape undertaking is a partnership between Northern Essex and Project SEARCH, an internship program for adults with cognitive disabilities run by Opportunity Works, a Newburyport-based organization that provides work opportunities and services to people with disabilities throughout the greater Newburyport region. Opportunity Works now has a facility, across the road from NECC.

“I have already received a lot of positive comments,” said Maggie Lucey, the staff associate in NECC’s facilities department and NECC liaison with Project SEARCH, “People say ‘This is so lovely’. They are excited about the transformation and beautification of the islands.”

Jason makes sure the new plants receive adequate hydration.

The butterfly garden includes Miscanthus morning light (grasses), Cape breeze grasses, Nepeta purrsian Blue, Liriope big blue, and Buddleia plants. The two islands in front of the library will also hold Miscanthus (grasses) as well as Nepeta giant catmint (which grows to about three feet), Sweet woodruff, Happy returns, and Sedum lemonjade.

Several members of the NECC community participated in this project, along with Lucey, including several members of the facilities department. Lucey was recently awarded the “Opportunity Award” from Project SEARCH for her “generous commitment of time, support and inspiration” to the program. “These interns are so joyful to come to work,” she said. “It has been the most rewarding thing for me to work with them. They are just a joy. They give us a different lens to look at life.”

While Paul Tomasz, NECC grounds foreman, dug out the sod with a backhoe and tilled the soil, Project SEARCH interns Jason Warren and Wildredo Jaiman, under the tutelage of Steve Shepard from buildings and grounds, dug the holes and planted the 150 perennials from Knapp’s Greenhouses in West Newbury. Knapp’s manager Judy Roberts designed the islands.

“Judy’s idea was to see flowing grasses, butterflies and hummingbirds. We planted perennials for ease of care, they are drought resistant and need less watering than annuals,” said Lucey.

Warren has been hired as part- time, summer intern who will maintain, weed and water the islands.

A “Live Your Dreams” sculpture by Haverhill sculptor Dale Rogers, now graces the campus in front of the library.

In addition, the interns spread the bark mulch around the plants. Shepard recently received the “Outstanding Mentor” award from Project SEARCH “for his outstanding dedication and leadership” to the interns.

When Steve Fieldhouse, Northern Essex’s plumber saw the interns struggling to water the young plantings with portable water containers, he made arrangements for a spigot to be installed on the outside of the Student Center so a 50-foot hose could be attached to make the occasional watering easier.

The ultimate goal of the internship project is to help the interns train for employment. Already one has secured a job at a local country club in the fall.

While the butterfly gardens are new initiatives, the community vegetable garden at the north side of the campus, which was planted last year, will continue this year with tomato and garlic plants.

Adding to the beautification of the campus is a majestic “Live Your Dreams” sculpture created by Haverhill metal sculptor Dale Rogers. The sculpture will be mounted permanently on a platform and surrounded by perennials.