Western News – Western’s Bee Garden is buzzing with community volunteers
The short strip of rich land that is home to 1,300 plants — including hyssop, aster and three species of milkweed — is an ambitious start for a new pollinator garden on Western campus.
But the western one Friends of the Gardens (FOGS) aren’t nearly ready to put the trowels away and stop there.
The group of volunteer students, staff and alumni grew 30 species of plants in a west greenhouse and planted them last week between two car parks east of Middlesex College.
As this garden grows, they hope to expand its borders with an increasingly diverse range of native plant species that will provide a food source for a variety of insects and birds.
Blanca Mora Alvarez, a biology lab assistant who works with butterfly species, founded the garden project last September as an offshoot of regular FOGS volunteer work.
“Western has nice lawns and nice grass everywhere,” Mora Alvarez said. “But when we go looking for certain species of butterflies, sometimes we have to go out of town to find the habitat they like. That’s why I thought a campus garden could attract all kinds of pollinators. We provide native plant species, then we can enjoy the beauty of insects and also enjoy the beauty of flowers. »
Western Facilities Management provided the land and Western Biology provided access to its greenhouses, while many others donated time and money to purchase seeds and supplies.
“For me, it’s therapeutic to work with plants,” said Matheus Sanita Lima, FOGS member and PhD student in biology. “I was born and raised on a farm and, although I don’t study plants, I feel like home.”
Volunteers include undergraduates, alumni, and staff and retired staff from across campus.
“There are many species of pollinators that depend on plants for food and shelter and these gardens are extremely important for improving biodiversity and improving their survival,” said entomology student Zach Balzer.
Flies, butterflies, bees, wasps, honey bees, native bees, and hummingbirds all need these plants for food, just as plants need them to help spread their species.
The deep roots of sustainability
Home to bee colonies, Western has been named by Bee City Canada as the first bee-friendly campus in the country. Environmental sustainability is also one of the pillars of the new strategic plan, Towards Western at 150.
Western recently was ranked first in Canada (and third in the world) among universities working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
A new rain garden next to the Physics and Astronomy Building, and a similar one planned next to the Music Building, include native plant species and pollinators.
But the roots of university sustainability run even deeper.
Western has had two more pollinator gardens: one now dormant near the North Campus building; and another, Joan’s gardena backyard oasis that houses mostly trees and shrubs and thrives in the biology and geology building.
When the founder of FOGS Frances Howey, BA’60, retired from Advancement Services, wanted to find a way to continue contributing to Western. “I was interested in gardening and watched the St. Marys Cement rock garden here (behind the biology and geology building) and I thought, ‘Gee, this could use a little work.’ It was not difficult to find other volunteers. It also helped that we had an honorary patron in (philanthropist and noted Western supporter) Beryl Ivey.
That was 27 years ago, and their behind-the-scenes work has quietly and colorfully grown.
Read more: What to plant in your own pollinator garden
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Butterfly Milkweed (tuberous milkweed)
White Heather Aster (Symphyotricum ericoides)
Goldenrod (Solidago Juncea)
New England Star (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Wild bergamot (Sea bergamot)
Red Beebale (Monarda Didyma)
Foxglove Beard-Tongue (Penstemon Foxglove)
Golden Alexander (Ziziz aurea)
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Wild onion nodding (Allium cernuum)
Dense, Pointy Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
Pearly Immortal (Anaphalis margaritaceae)
Oriental purple echinacea (purple echinacea)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckie hirta)
Outdoor plant – yellow (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Rocky Mountain Verbena (Strict verbena)
White Turtle Head (Hairless Chelonea)
Meadow Street (Thalictrum pubescens)
False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Grassland Smoke (Geum triflora)
Milk-vetch (Astragalus canadensis)
Square Stem Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens)
Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Dotted mint (bergamot)
Prairie Red Clover (Dalea purpurea)
FOGS holds a sale of perennials, biennials and shrubs each year and hosts gardening workshops, conferences and garden tours.
It has disbursed over $50,000 in scholarships to support undergraduate science students.
Improve insect habitat
Volunteers include Sarah Lee, who, before retiring from the biology department, would give up her lunch breaks to volunteer in the greenhouses. She quickly found a community of people who shared her passion for gardening and is now a mainstay of FOGS.
Harry Kim, who studies medicine and was a beekeeper when he lived in Montreal, said the bee population was declining around the world, in part due to habitat loss.
They sometimes walk four to five kilometers to pick up flowers, so it makes sense to create spaces on campus to help them out, Kim said.
“Joining this initiative helped me learn what bee plants look like,” Kim said.
The gardening team even left gaps between the plants to house native bee species that burrow into the ground for shelter.
Kim waters the plants in the greenhouse once a week and wants to build a bee hotel.
“I hope efforts like this can keep the bee population growing,” he said.
Mora Alvarez said new members are always welcome, regardless of their role in the western community. “The success of a pollinator garden – because even perennials need maintenance – is finding and keeping enthusiastic volunteer gardeners,” she said.