OTTUMWA — The library’s landscaping could look a lot different by the end of the weekend, but volunteers will be the key.

Alicia Houk said the Ottumwa Wildflower Project will begin work on two projects at the library at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. One will create a prairie themed area north of the main entrance. The other will use plants adapted for woodland areas to the south of the entrance.

The area south of the entrance has been a challenge for the library for some time. Large trees provide a lot of shade during the summer months, but it also makes it difficult to establish grass underneath. By shifting the focus to plants that like shade, Houk said organizers hope to create an attractive look while providing pollinators with native plants.

“What we are hoping to do is get a natural plant garden area. That’s going to, hopefully, look like a woodland,” she said. “It’s kind of two goals, beautification and habitat creation. Basically we’re putting flowers back in the landscape.”

The wildflower project began in part as a response to the decline in pollinators like butterflies and insects. The decline in monarch butterflies has been particularly dramatic, with estimates showing a drop of more than 80 percent in some areas. They rebounded strongly at their winter grounds in Mexico this year, but conservationists aren’t sure whether that will continue.

So far, the project’s work has included projects with the city for public areas and with the library. Houk praised both as being easy to work with, and said the support has been remarkable.

On Tuesday, limbs laid out paths through the woodland area by the library, showing paths that will be retained. People often cut the corner to the library’s ground floor entrance, and Houk said organizers felt it was important to find a way to accomplish their goal without restricting how people approach the site.

While Saturday is the target date, next week is a backup in case of rain. It might be needed. Saturday has a chance of showers, so volunteers will need to watch the forecast.

“If it’s just a drizzle, we’ll still be out there,” Houk said.

In the long term, Houk thinks the plantings could become a community resource for those who want to create similar garden spots by their homes. The plants could produces a seed library, where people could get their own, which would compliment the program the library introduced this year to offer checkouts for garden tools.

That all depends on Saturday, though, and whether the volunteers turn out.


Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.