The cold, rainy weather didn’t stop the Moab Bee Inspired Gardens Initiative from planting a new pollinator garden at Rotary Park on Saturday morning, April 26.
“This is actually perfect planting weather,” Grand Conservation District chair Kara Dohrenwend said. “It’s a little uncomfortable for us, but it’s great for the plants.”
This pollinator-friendly garden is the second in a series of similar installations. Just east of Rotary Park, a forest garden was recently planted with a beehive in the center.
Dohrenwend said she has been working to establish these gardens for quite some time.
“There are native pollinators of all kinds,” she said. “It’s very important to maintain those populations by providing places that help them pollinate our fruit and vegetable gardens.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), much of the food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds.
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of its food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce, according to the USDA. These pollinators gather, carry and deposit pollen from flower to flower, which in turn is used to produce a fruit or a seed.
“We’re promoting all pollinators with these plantings,” said Rhonda Gotway of the Grand Conservation District. Gotway’s primary interest, however, is in bees.
“I was a gardener before I was a beekeeper,” she said, “but I’ve always realized the benefits of bees.”
Gotway said the bee-inspired garden will consist of various plant species to promote the pollinators’ habitat structure.
“Pollinators aren’t always using just the flowers,” she said. “They use trees and other plants as well.”
Dohrenwend said the idea of the new garden at Rotary Park is to provide pollinator plants that will flower during all seasons. And she believes this location is ideal.
A longtime Moab resident and the owner of Wildland Scapes (WLS), Dohrenwend has many years of experience in landscape architecture and ecological restoration and revegetation.
“The willow species is one of the earliest to bloom,” she said, “and there are willows down by the creek that can provide for pollinators as early as March.”
Other plant species at the garden included Missouri evening primroses, Rocky Mountain penstemons and honeysuckles, which bloom all summer long. Each was being zoned strategically, whereas to benefit from lawn overspray.
Dohrenwend said she hopes to see the garden eventually extend from the basketball court to the frog statue near the sidewalk.
“We’re bringing a pollinator garden into what people might consider a manicured landscape,” she said. “The idea is to welcome the birds and the insects.”
As for the potential increase in bees, Dohrenwend said people who tend to fear them can rest assured.
“Bees don’t really swarm at you unless you mess with their home – and this isn’t their home,” she said. “They’re going out to Milt’s here. It’s like a buffet for bees and insects of all kinds.”
The Moab Bee Inspired Gardens Initiative plans to continue working with the City of Moab and the Moab Rotary Club to expand the garden.
“This is a great park,” Dohrenwend said. “The Rotary Club does a lot of hard work here, and I’m excited that the city was open to having the garden installed here as well.”
The plants and materials for the garden, which were funded by the City of Moab, were provided by WLS at a discounted price. Most of the continued efforts, however, will be volunteer labor.
“We’re working together as a community to maintain the garden,” Dohrenwend said. “It’s fun to get out and get our hands dirty, and I think the more we come out and do this, the more people will get into it.”
The Youth Garden Project (YGP), Community Rebuilds and Utah State University (USU) have also shown their support for the pollinator garden.
“The whole point of this is to make it a public venture,” USU Extension Sustainability intern Jeremy Lynch said. “It’s great to see it all coming together.”
Lynch, who worked at the garden alongside Dohrenwend and Gotway on Saturday, is hoping to incorporate the planting of pollinator-friendly species in other community projects as well.
“We’re establishing a rain garden at the USU campus, which will focus more on water harvesting, but will still incorporate these pollinator species and hopefully more edible food species as well,” Lynch said.
“It’s great that people in the community are coming together to share a common interest in gardening,” YGP Garden Manager Jess Oldham said.
Oldham, who says she is eager to see locally sourced perennials at the garden, will also be promoting the pollinator plants at YGP’s upcoming plant sale.
The annual sale, which will feature a large variety of plants from WLS and Castle Valley growers Pam Hackley and Alice Drogin, will take place at YGP from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 1 and 2. It will continue on Saturday, May 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“In the past, we’ve sourced plants from nurseries in the Provo area,” Oldham said. “It’s exciting to have them all locally grown this time.”
Oldham suggests that potential buyers check out this year’s offerings at www.youthgardenproject.org and come prepared with a list of needed items, as the event sees lots of traffic.
“There will be also be plenty of knowledgeable people there to answer questions,” Oldham said. “Anyone interested in pollinator gardens should definitely stop by.”
Gotway said there will be handouts available at the WLS Plant Nursery as well.
“We drafted lists of different plant species that do well locally for native pollinators and honeybees alike,” Gotway said. “I think half the battle is that most people don’t know what to plant for pollinators. These lists show not only what species are good for our area, but also the different bloom periods as well.”
According to the Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization that works to protect invertebrates and their habitats, native plants are the best source of food for pollinators because plants and their pollinators have coevolved.
“Our vegetables do much better with native pollinators,” Dohrenwend said. “Bringing this into our daily lives is so essential to our food.”
Grand County bee inspector Jerry Shue also sees great potential in the pollinator gardens.
“I think the coolest thing is how all of this came together,” he said. “All these different community groups were somehow on the same page with establishing these gardens.”
Shue, who took time Saturday morning to help plant the garden at Rotary Park, is looking forward to seeing more community involvement in these projects.
“Some people may not care about bees, but they do care about their gardens,” Shue said. “I think it will be fun to have these pollinator gardens around town, and we’re hoping to have interpretation and uniform signage on them as well.”
Although the Moab Bee Inspired Gardens Initiative is in the developmental process, its members are eager to get planting. And Gotway encourages others to participate.
“We’re trying to get the word out in hopes that these sorts of things spring up all over town,” she said. “And we want to invite anyone to join in and be part of the initiative.
“Here in Moab, we’re so far removed. We have to take care of ourselves, and planting these gardens is a great way to do that.”