Curtiss Park Pollinator Garden – Saline, Michigan
One project that was really important to us was creating more opportunities for Pollinators to thrive in Washtenaw County. Pollinators include birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and bees! Basically, any animal that can carry pollen from one plant to another to help fertilize the plants. As humans we rely on pollinators for more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops. Also, who doesn’t enjoy seeing gorgeous flowers, grasses, and plants out in the wild? So with that goal in mind, we set out on our pollinator garden journey.
The first step in the process was deciding where we wanted to plant our garden. We thought about it a lot and decided that a public space where many people could enjoy the benefits of the garden, and also have access to volunteer at it would be best. We looked at some of our favorite locations around Washtenaw County and ended up choosing Curtiss Park in Saline, MI. This park has lots of space and we wanted to add to it with the beauty and educational function of a pollinator garden.
So we had our space picked out, now what? Well, we needed funding. Our director, Elizabeth Keller, started doing research into grants, scholarships, fundraising, anything that would allow us to complete our goal. She found out that the Southeastern Michigan Butterfly Association had small grants available for native butterfly gardens. We applied for the grant, made some connections with the community of butterfly enthusiasts, and we were chosen to be a recipient! We then reached out to the Saline Parks and Recreation Commision to set up a time to propose our ideas and collaborate with their team to pick the perfect location in the park. We attended a parks and recreation meeting, and our proposal was enthusiastically accepted. The parks and recreation committee were excited to help and in no time we had a great spot picked out and were ready to get the space ready for planting.
We decided that it would be best to try and involve the community in this project so that later down the road they could really make the garden their own and help it to thrive. Elizabeth set up an information table at a local coffee shop, Carrigan Cafe, and spent an afternoon talking to interested residents of Saline. The Parks and Recreation department set up a park beautification day a couple of weeks later and Wandering Washtnew participated in that to not only do projects around the park, but also to pull weeds, remove sticks, and in general get the garden area ready for the plants. We had friends and family, and some residents of Saline helped us out with this and it made the project a lot more manageable.
Throughout this whole time, we had been doing research and collaborating with gardener and butterfly enthusiast, Mark Bourne. He helped us to pick out plants and flowers and would have the best chance of surviving in this particular spot. One obstacle that we faced is that Curtiss Park floods every year in the Spring. The river overflows into the park which is basically a big basin and our pollinator garden would be submerged in water for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Mark helped us to choose plants that enjoyed the water, could thrive in these conditions, and would be a good balance for the pollinators, particularly butterflies and moths!
After we readied the area for planting, we started purchasing our plants. We got the majority of our plants from Barson’s Greenhouse in Westland, MI. This greenhouse is a great resource for anyone looking for Pollinator Garden plants. We also bought a bunch of Swamp Milkweed from Carosello Farms in Pinckney, MI. Ouf final list for plants this first round included, White Turtlehead, Swamp Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Mountain Mint, White Aster, Bee Balm, Golden Alexander, Columbine, and Wild Strawberries for ground cover. Elizabeth and a Saline Resident, Christina Bromley, spent an afternoon getting all the plants in, watering them, and making sure they were secure!
After that, it was time to enjoy the garden, make sure it was well watered, and delight in seeing the Pollinators finding it and buzzing around! That first summer and fall went really well and we achieved our goals of adding beauty, creating a haven for pollinators, and providing an opportunity for education regarding conservation and gardening!