Masterful Volunteer Making a Difference

Courtesy of Skidaway Audubon 

Sixteen years ago, Sparrow Field was an overgrown, abandoned sod farm. Today, thanks to the efforts of people like Shirley Brown, the field and gardens are a haven for nature lovers, bird watchers, and gardeners, and a living classroom for the study of plants and insects. 

Brown was one of 10 Landings residents who completed a Master Gardener course through the University of Georgia Extension Service in 2013. To help earn required volunteer hours, the newly minted group proposed that the garden at the field, located off Bartram Road, serve as a certification site for Master Gardeners. The garden berm that separates the field from Magnolia hole #6 initially was established in 2009 under the auspices of Skidaway Audubon, with input and labor from The Landings Garden Club, Marshwood Golf Supervisor Tyson Helsel, and other residents interested in promoting a wildlife-friendly area. 

“This more than doubled the number of volunteers working at the garden and gave us the opportunity to build a more expansive program,” explained Brown. “We researched host plants for butterflies common to this area, including the native milkweeds on which monarch butterflies are dependent on for breeding. At one time, we grew eight species of milkweed along this 150-yard berm garden.” 

Today, nearly 100 species of flowering plants are growing to attract pollinators of all sorts, thanks to the tireless efforts of the many volunteers, which include members of Skidaway Audubon and The Landings Garden Club. The extensive grounds ensure proper social distancing yet allow for friendly conversation and opportunities to learn more of Mother Nature’s secrets. 

“Working in the garden is a great time to socialize with friends of similar interests,” said Brown. “In addition, it is an opportunity to learn more about the science of the interdependence of plants and animals, which furthers an appreciation of the natural world we live in. There is always something new and interesting to see at the garden. Nature is endlessly exciting.” 

For anyone interested in developing their own garden, Brown recommends talking to neighbors to see what works for them and visiting the pollinator garden, as each plant is labeled. She cautions that if ordering plants online, request plants by their scientific names to assure you get what you want, as common names can be misleading. 

Brown lists reading and photography among her hobbies, but it’s clear that learning and growing is her lifelong passion. She taught English and science in secondary schools in West Virginia for 27 years. In 1991, upon moving to Savannah, she enrolled in nursing school, earned a BSN, then went on to become a Certified Rehab Registered Nurse, working with St. Joseph’s/Candler, and later at a continuing care facility. 

Moreover, Brown never had a green thumb. She only took up gardening when she moved to The Landings in 2001 with her husband of 55 years. The couple have two daughters, seven grandchildren, and a calico cat named Knick-Knack. 

Master Gardeners complete 42 hours of classroom training on topics including landscape design, plant propagation, and wildlife control, which qualifies them to volunteer at the UGA Extension Service. Do you have a question about your lawn or garden? Email your questions and related photos to a Chatham County Master Gardener ( 

Skidaway Audubon receives generous donations from The Landings Garden Club and from Landlovers for maintenance of the many features at Sparrow Field. Visitors are always welcomed. For more information about Sparrow Field, or to become a Skidaway Audubon member or supporter, visit


Master Gardener Shirley Brown looks for beneficial caterpillars at the pollinator garden at Sparrow Field. 

This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

Visit to read the original article.