On the morning of Friday October 29, 2021, a group of students, along with Karen Berger, an associate professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department, and members of the Horticulture and Grounds team gathered at the Witmer House to install the University’s first ever pollinator garden. Pollinator gardens provide a habitat that is valuable for preserving pollinator species such as bees and butterflies. The 9 species of pollinator-friendly plants that were planted at the Witmer House can support 113 individual species of pollinator insects.
The pollinator garden project had been in the works since 2019, during which there was also an ongoing rain garden project. The rain garden initiative started with a group of students from EES 213, the Hydrology and Water Resources course at the University taught by Professor Berger. The group pitched its idea to President Sarah Mangelsdorf in December 2019 and got approval and financial support. After a slight delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the rain garden was planted at the Witmer house on August 19, 2020. The success of the rain garden motivated the team to continue working towards bringing the idea of the pollinator garden to life.
On January 21, 2020, Karen Berger, John McIntyre, manager of Horticulture & Grounds, Karl Rosengren, a professor of Psychology, and additional members of the grounds department met with Tom Snyder, director of programming and conservation action at Seneca Park Zoo to talk about starting the pollinator garden project. Tom Snyder oversees the Butterfly Beltway Program at the zoo and was thus able to bring in his expertise with pollinator gardens.
The pollinator garden, like the rain garden project, involved students since one of the goals was to be an educational resource at the University. The choice of the 9 species of plants to be planted were chosen by students Zein Tynon ‘24 and Anna Myakushina ‘23. With some input from Tom Snyder and John McIntyre, the students finalized the following species of plants this August: Little Bluestem, Lanceleaf coreopsis, Lemon mint, Wild bergamot, Butterfly weed, White wild indigo, Tall coreopsis, White prairie clover, New England Aster. It was finally time to plant the garden on October 29 (see pictures on the Facebook album here).
The Witmer House serves as the residence of Sarah Mangelsdorf, Karl Rosengren and their daughter, who provided immense support for the project. On the day of the planting, Karl Rosengren said, “It’s really inspiring to see students and the grounds crew working together to take a spot that was really ugly and turn it into a beautiful, sustainable garden.” The compost used in planting the garden came from leaves that were collected at the University over the past two years (pictured left). The team hopes to maintain the garden as a habitat for pollinator species as well as making it a walkable area for people.
Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022
Photos by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022