A garden reborn

Grady Library assistant and her mother use green thoughts, hard work to give facility’s landscape new lease on life

THE OSCAR GRADY LIBRARY GARDEN (top photo) was little more than a weed patch when Debra Jo Becker and her mother, Jill Becker, (bottom photo) decided to create a garden for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. They hope to continue expanding the garden in future years. Photos by Sam Arendt
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

The landscape of the Oscar Grady Public Library in Saukville has improved more than a little in the last year, as a patch of mostly weeds has metamorphosed into a haven for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

That’s thanks to library assistant Debra Jo Becker and her mother, Jill Becker, who volunteered to take on the task last year.

“It hadn’t been maintained in a while,” said Debra Jo, who lives in Grafton but was raised in Saukville. “There were only two of the original perennials left. The weeds had taken over everything else.”

The idea sprouted that maybe beautifying the 14-foot-wide circular patch might be a project worth tackling.

“It was my idea initially,” Debra Jo said. “I mentioned it in passing to my mom. I told her, ‘Maybe we could do this together.’ We saw the opportunity and saw it needed a little attention and got permission.”

Jill, who lives in Saukville, agreed and the two went at it.

“We dug up all the weeds by hand and started planting natives last year and again this spring,” Debra Jo said.

It took the pair roughly 15 hours of hand weeding and digging up thistle, numerous grasses, sumac and other invasive weeds.

“There were too many full bins and trips to the village yard waste site to count,” Debra Jo said.

Gardening had been a lifelong pursuit of Jill Becker, her daughter said. Debra Jo said she had been gardening flowers for six or seven years, but as a child had little interest in helping her mother in the garden.

“In fact, that type of work (weeding) was my least favorite activity,” she said.

What the two women were interested in was creating a garden for pollinators and started planting with that goal in mind.

“We both have a fair amount of self-gained knowledge on native plants in Wisconsin,” Debra Jo said.

“For myself, it was my interest in insects and the plight of the monarchs (butterflies) and what can I do to help them.”

This summer, displays of goldenrod, rose milkweed, butterfly weed, mullein, anise  and hyssop could be seen in the garden. 

They hope to do more.

“We don’t have a solid plan as yet to what we will be planting,” Debra Jo said. “We have to look at when they will bloom. It’s kind of a shoot-from-the-hip project that has a lot of fluidity.

“We want to make sure we have some flowers in bloom every season.”

Debra Jo, who also works part-time as a special-education paraprofessional at Grafton High School and as a respite caregiver, said the garden could offer opportunities to teach children and adults about pollinators and flowers.

Library Director Jen Gerber is excited about the possibilities.

“This garden is a beautiful addition to our library and for the community,” she said. “I hope it inspires other residents to create their own pollinator garden.”

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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