By Emily Stifler

On a sunny morning in early September, Jessie Wiese was headed down to Ophir School to water plants in the new garden.

Wiese, an ecologist, has lived in Big Sky for three years and was inspired to coordinate a native garden at the school when she noticed an area that hadn’t been reclaimed and was growing noxious weeds after a construction project.

In October 2010, Wiese applied for a school beautification grant from Lowes. The school received $5,000 in January, and Wiese has coordinated the effort ever since.

So far, with the help of a landscape committee and volunteers, Wiese has coordinated installation of an interpretive path and a butterfly garden, with significant help from Ridgeline Forestry. Last year, kindergarten, first and second graders painted rocks to line the path. This fall, fourth and fifth grade students will help plant transplant larger perennial wildflowers, wildflower seed and native grasses.

“We were trying to get the elementary school kids invested in the project so they help maintain it in future years,” Wiese said.

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There will also be a phenology garden, which Wiese explains is a great place to do ecological studies on seasonal changes during the growing season.

If you want to get involved in the project, contact Jessie at jessie.wiese@gmail.com.