Early fall. It’s still warm and there are plenty of opportunities to visit the Rivertowns’ outdoor treasures. One of our most treasured is the O’Hara Nature Center, located in 400-acre Irvington Woods at 170 Mountain Road, just off the Saw Mill Parkway.
Over the last five years, resident horticulturists CJ Reilly and Peter Strom have worked with the Irvington Recreation and Parks Department to design the ten demonstration gardens that work harmoniously with the environment, preserve water resources, and increase biodiversity by providing natural habitats for pollinators.
Members of the Garden Club of Irvington enjoyed a recent tour. Here are a few highlights:
After an introduction to the ONC’s history and programing, Barbara Defino, an active member and past president of the Garden Club, received an award for her devoted and ongoing support. Flanking her are CJ Reilly and Peter Strom.
The ONC building is a model of attractive, energy-efficient, green design. Custom bookshelves were made from a sassafras tree that grew in Irvington Woods Park.
Before the tour, Peter Strom carefully relocated a confused bumblebee to its rightful home, a Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens).
The tour was led by the ONC’s Education Director CJ Reilly, a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, where his field of study was data visualization and educational development — skills he uses for the benefit of all visitors. “This is an example of true community partnership,” he said, explaining that the Village of Irvington, the School District, the Eagle Scouts, the Parks and Recreation Department, members of the Garden Club, and many volunteers have worked together to conceptualize, build, support, and maintain the facility and the grounds. It is also an example of bringing new life to a community devastated by a tragedy: the crash of TWA Flight 800, which killed three members of the O’Hara family.
This structure, a “bee hotel,” supports a diverse array of solitary cavity-nesting bees and wasps. Dried plant stems such as hollow Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and Cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum) stems are saved from the gardens and repurposed into nesting material. Here is a link to CJ’s educational materials that explain the process in detail. (More photos and details to come in the next post.)
During our visit, a grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia Mexicana) returned to the hollow Joe Pye Weed it filled with grass and other reserves for its brood inside.
CJ described the 25 heirloom grafted apple trees in the ONC, including all nine varieties that were grown at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.
He then introduced the step-by-step educational materials that guide ONC visitors through the apple-tree grafting process. Similar materials, which explain horticultural processes in detail, are posted throughout the site.
The ONC has two outdoor classrooms for the school and community educational programs it hosts.
You don’t have to be on a tour or in a program to enjoy these facilities. Just walk in, it’s free… and enjoy the beauty around you. (And perhaps stop to read the educational materials or admire an insect in its rightful habitat.)