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Sunday, September 2, 2012

FROGS supports Green Spring Gardens

Plant sales support FROGS projects.

Green Spring Gardens is one of the nicest parks in the Annandale area—if not the entire region—and for that, we can thank the tireless and generous volunteers in Friends of Green Springs Gardens (FROGS). 

FROGS raises funds through year-round plant sales, spring and fall garden festivals, dues from its 1,400 members, and donations. “We turn just about every single cent we raise back to Green Springs,” says FROGS President Clint Fields. “Anything the county can’t afford, we buy.” Recent purchases include a tractor and irrigation system.

Clint Fields
“The days when taxpayers pay for places like this are gone forever,” Fields says. “In the future, parks will depend much more on public-private partnerships to get the job done. That’s the reality of the economy.”

FROGS’ current major activity is a renovation project in the Green Springs’ horticulture center to reclaim a classroom. When the Green Springs staff outgrew its space a few years ago, it converted classrooms into offices. 

But then the Fairfax County Park Authority built a free-standing garage for maintenance vehicles, so FROGS is converting the former garage into offices, which would free up the classrooms. The new office area is expected to be completed in about a month.

FROGS paid for the entire $90,000 project. “It’s not something we intended to do,” said Fields. “The property belongs to the Park Authority. But one of our main purposes is education,” so having classrooms is a priority. It’s an example of a project that wouldn’t happen if Green Springs had to rely solely on the county budget.

The new garage, in the background, means the old garage (above) can be converted to office space.
Ten percent of Green Spring’s $1 million annual budget comes from FROGS. The nonprofit organization raises about $12,000 to $18,000 from its annual fundraising campaign and about $50,000 to $60,000 from its fall and spring plant sales.

The park’s annual Fall Garden Day, hosted by FROGS, will be Sept. 22, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with live music, a silent auction, children’s activities, a beekeeping demonstration, and lots of plants for sale.

FROGS maintains the Green Spring library.
FROGS volunteers propagate the plants sold at Green Springs, operate the library in the horticulture center, and deliver educational programs based on the Fairfax County Public Schools curriculum to students who come to the park on field trips. 

Fields is a teacher in the children’s education program, one of FROGS’ top priorities. He would like to expanded Green Springs’ education programs and build a larger children’s garden. Unfortunately, there’s a gravel road running through the area where the garden would be, so the road might have to be relocated and that would require a revision of Green Spring’s master plan, a time-consuming process.

A demonstration garden for a townhouse.
FROGS has a 15-member board of directors, and “it’s truly a working board because everybody does something,” Fields says. Most of board members are active gardeners, and some, like Fields, have achieved “master gardener” status.

Fields is the former director of Friends of the National Zoo, and other FROGS board members are also highly accomplished. The former president, Thornton Burnett, is the co-owner of the Concepts and Contours horticulture design/construction company, for example. Sarah Monroe started her own garden design business, and Betsy Washington is a professor at George Washington University and a conservation activist.

Green Spring has several demonstration gardens to give local residents landscaping ideas. There’s a swale garden showing which plants grow best in a water collection area, several designs for townhouse gardens, a farm garden, and a mini-orchard. There is an area with several small ponds—full of turtles and fish—fed by Turkey Cock Run, the stream that inspired the name, Little River Turnpike.

The gazebo at Green Spring needs restoration.
The Green Spring property had been farmland when it was deeded to Fairfax County in 1970 by the Straight family, the last private owners of the Green Spring Historic House, which was built in 1778. That building is open to the public and is used for lectures and teas run by the Park Authority.

The Straights hired Beatrix Farrand, one of the most famous landscape designers of her time. The Garden Club of Virginia contributed funding to restore an original stone wall and boxwoods that were part of Farrand’s original design.

One of the Park Authority’s goals is to increase land holdings for parks and recreation, Fields says. Green Spring was expanded several years ago when a couple of elderly homeowners deeded their properties to the park, But other nearby homeowners sold their land to developers, and there are now a handful of unsightly mcmansions looming over the park. The only thing FROGS can do about it is plant trees to block the view, Fields says.

The greenhouse is especially nice to visit in the winter.
As FROGS nears its 20th anniversary next year, Fields would like to see the group evaluate what it’s accomplished, identify projects for the 10, 15, and 20 years, and figure out how to fund them.

FROGS members get  discounts on purchases at Green Spring and local nurseries, a newsletter, and invitations to members-only events. A one-year membership is $20. To join, visit the FROGS website
Or call 703/642-5173.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a well-done article especially pointing out how important it is for all of us to support FROGS (Friends of Green Spring)as County/Park Authority funds do not provide anywhere near what is needed to keep this horticultural Park as beautiful as it is. Stop by for a visit..attend the Sat. fall event on Sept. 22nd from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. And, please, join FROGS, if you're not already a member. You won't be disappointed.