New Salvia and Native Plant Garden - Environmental Studies

At Ohlone College’s Newark campus, ambassador level Girl Scout Kristen Berling has designed and installed a salvia garden for her Gold Award service project. The garden features approximately 30 different varieties of salvias from all over the world, including twelve from California. The garden also includes other drought tolerant plants. When searching for a service project, Kristen was visiting the existing gardens on campus, and noticed there was a highly visible area on the campus in need of development and beautification. The idea for a drought tolerant and educational garden took shape and she began to envision the possibilities.

Salvia plants with flowers of various colors in the ground surrounded by mulch.

After working with Environmental Studies and Geography Professor Narinder Bansal to gain approval for and finalize the concept, Kristen decided on a salvia garden to save water and beautify the area. Xeriscaping (or establishing a dry landscape for) the land meant that the garden would be able to thrive using very little water. Her main goal was to help drastically reduce the amount of water the college was using to water the landscape to help fight the California drought, as well as benefit the student body and faculty through providing an area they can enjoy in between classes.

The garden also provides a stop for butterflies as they migrate across the continent every year, an increasingly vital part of the journey as more and more resources for the butterflies are being depleted. Often times, gardens are simply a great place to go if someone needs to relieve stress. College students have been noted to have some of the highest stress levels of any age group. People from the community can now come here to relax on the bench that was installed, read the signs to learn about the various types of salvias, or simply enjoy the garden as they are walking through.

The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn. Open only to girls in high school, it challenges girls to change the world, starting with your community. The service project has vigorous prerequisites that must be completed before the service project portion of the award can be started, and the project must have a lasting impact on the community in the long term. Currently, only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award.