2017 Demonstration Garden 2nd Place – Pollinator Garden at Dawes Arboretum, Licking County, Ohio

Creating a Pollinator Garden at the Dawes Arboretum

Nestled in the rolling hills of Licking County, Ohio is an environmental treasure – the Dawes Arboretum. Within this historic landmark site, seven Licking County Master Gardener Volunteers planned and developed a Pollinator Garden featuring native plants to serve the declining population of pollinators. They also set a goal to provide educational programs about pollinator needs for the 250,000 youth and adults who annually visit The Arboretum.

The Purpose
Dismayed by the alarming decline in the monarch and bee populations along with the loss of pollinator habitat, a small group of Licking County Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs ) decided to create a certified model pollinator habitat. The habitat was designed to raise community awareness of this environmental concern and to inspire home gardeners to become part of the solution.




The Process
The work began in earnest with two directives:

  1. Talk to staff at the Arboretum about this shared vision
  2. Engage in serious study about ways to meet the needs of pollinators.

The administrators at the Arboretum were enthusiastic. They gave the volunteers the freedom to plan, create, and manage this new pollinator habitat. The MGVs met weekly to share their research of authoritative books as well as web resources including The Pollinator Partnership,The Xerces Society, and The Ohio State University Bee Lab. The group also attended lectures, seminars, and conferences regarding pollinators and habitat design. A wealth of information was gathered on how to attract pollinators, the varieties of pollinators, the importance of a diverse habitat design, the significance of native plants, bloom succession, maintenance, host plants and nesting sites.



Armed with their new knowledge, the MGVs set the goals of the project:

  • Create a model pollinator garden featuring native plants that meets the criteria to be a certified Pollinator Habitat
  • Provide educational opportunities for adults and children to learn about the importance of pollinators and ways to welcome pollinators into their own landscapes


The Planning
The Arboretum personnel and the MGVs met to review expectations for this collaborative partnership. The Arboretum staff determined that the volunteers could have a prime site near the Visitor Center. An MGV work plan was created that included clearing the space, purchasing pollinator plants, planting, weeding, and enhancing the habitat. The Arboretum plan included supplying funds for plants (initially $800), providing mulch, composting weeds, assisting with watering, creating signage, printing educational pamphlets, and promoting this MGV project in their publications.




The Planting

The 300 square foot space was planted with more than thirty native species. The native plants were chosen based on the favorite bloom colors of bees and other pollinators, bloom time successions, and host plants that  support egg-laying and larval growth. The shape of plant blossoms was also considered. Several non-natives and annuals were included to provide additional nectar and pollen. The plants were carefully arranged in clusters to attract pollinators of various sizes and different flight patterns – all to make nectar and pollen gathering more accessible. Rocks, weathered logs, and bunch grasses were added to meet the needs of pollinators for shelter, nesting, and overwintering. Wide, shallow dishes were placed in the garden for water. No pesticides or fertilizers were used. Paths and garden seating were added to draw visitors in to observe the pollinators at work. Hundreds of hours were spent planning, planting, and tending the garden. Records were kept to note the success of some plants and the need to add or replace others.



The Product

This new garden at The Arboretum meets The Xerces Society criteria and is an official Pollinator Habitat. It also meets the criteria to be a Monarch Way Station. MGVs work in the garden weekly and share information with the many visitors, young  and old, who meander through the garden. Visitors enjoy the beauty of the native plants and watching the pollinators at work. Their interests spark opportunities for MGVs to share anecdotes and information about pollinators including how to add native plants into their own landscapes to support pollinators. MGVs have conducted garden tours and programs for all ages on topics such as Using Native Plants to Attract Pollinators, Gardening for Pollinators across the Seasons, and Welcoming Bees and Butterflies to Garden. The garden provides a venue for The Arboretum staff to offer educational programs and Monarch Butterfly Tagging and Releasing, a favorite of the public. As part of their training, MGV interns visit the garden to learn about native plants and pollinator conservation.


Thanks to support from The Dawes Arboretum and the ongoing commitment of the Licking County, Ohio MGVs, the garden will be a permanent attraction for visitors to The Arboretum. New plantings, signage and educational materials will be added over time  to enhance the beauty and effectiveness of this model pollinator garden.

Luke Messinger, Executive Director of The Dawes Arboretum stated, “The garden provides education opportunities to over 250,000 visitors to the Arboretum each year. The potential of this garden truly would not have been realized without the vision, leadership and hard work of Master Gardener Volunteers who created and care for this unique garden. We are truly thankful for their efforts and ongoing support.

2017 Demonstration Garden 3rd Place – Native Plant Pollinator Garden (NMSU), Santa Fe County, NM

Build it and they will come – native bees that is! Native Bee House

Built by Master Gardeners working on the long established Audubon Project, the Native Bee House is conveniently situated in a Pollinator Garden .  But bees are not the only pollinators that are attracted (photo  #3  Butterfly).  Though only started in 2014, the garden already  provides  a learning opportunity for children and adults attending  Audubon educational programs (photo #4 Day Camp  class), attendees to Master Gardener public programs,  and Audubon Project volunteers as well as researchers – over 30 species of native bees have been identified at the Audubon Center to date.

The Randall  Davey  Audubon Center is the Audubon New Mexico headquarters.   Located  on 135 acres at the end of a canyon road, it includes three eco zones – riparian, pinon- juniper , and fir-spruce-pine.  This affords a wide diversity in the pollinators attracted to the Garden.  At about 7,200‘ elevation with an average rainfall 14” in a good year, the location has its challenges.  Soils are alkaline, sand or clay; drought conditions are can exist; the zone 6 growing season is only from May 15 to October 15; winters are freezing and summers hot.

photo #2 Garden signPlant selections for the Pollinator Garden include:  Trees – American Plum; Shrubs – Fernbush, Golden Currant, Woods Roses, Sandcherry and Wolfberry; Perennials – Goldenrod, Poppy Mallow, Rocky Mtn Penstemon, Agastache , Ironweed, Primrose, Chocolate Flower, Blanketflower, Butterfly Weed, Beebalm and Sunflowers.

In addition to selecting plants for nectar and pollen, and host plants for butterfly larvae, plants  are needed to provide shelter and nesting sites.  Bare ground is ideal for the ground dwelling native bees, which make up about 70% of the native bees species.

Master Gardeners planted and maintain the garden, using it to learn about and teach native pollinator plant selection and growing requirements, types of pollinators attracted and how to build a Bee House.  The Pollinator Garden is one of several educational gardens the Master Gardeners have established at the Audubon Center.  Others include a Wildlife Attracting Garden, Native Shrub and a Native Perennial beds, a wildflower/grasses meadow, a cactus garden and container gardens.  Compost bins are maintained for educational purposes and to mulch the gardens.

These gardens promote the shared goals of the Master Gardeners and the Audubon Society to encourage the use of native plants in home landscapes for the benefit of wildlife, encouraging healthy eco systems and biological diversity.

2015 Search for Excellence Winners are Announced!

Congratulations to the Twenty-one 2015 Search for Excellence Awards winners!IMGC Logo

Search for Excellence (SFE) is the recognition of outstanding projects by Master Gardener volunteers throughout the United States and Canada. These twenty-one awards were presented at the International Master Gardener Conference 2015 (IMGC 2015), Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland.Horticultural Horizons in the Heartland Logo

SFE Awards are presented every two years at the IMGC conference where Master Gardener volunteers, Extension staff and faculty gather to learn from each other, share projects and to network with their peers from around the world. Twenty one Master Gardener programs were recognized for their outstanding achievement from a field of seventy two applications, submissions from twenty six USA states and two Canadian provinces.

First, second and third place awards are presented in seven categories:

• Community Service
• Demonstration Gardens
• Innovative Projects
• Special Needs Audiences
• Research
• Workshop or Presentation
• Youth Programs

All SFE applications must show that significant learning took place. The SFE projects need to be ongoing projects for at least two years; one of the winners this year has been going on for twenty six years. The IMGC Committee judges the applications. Winning projects were chosen on the basis of their originality and creativity; practicality of the program; simplicity of replication by other Master Gardeners and their significant impact on their communities.

First place winners received a plaque and a small stipend to continue their educational projects. The twenty one awarded projects displayed posters of their projects at the IMGC 2015 conference. Congratulations to all the SFE awardees that are involved in these excellent projects.

Beginning next week and continuing over the next several months, this blog will feature stories and pictures from each 2015 Search for Excellence award winners. Watch for the upcoming postings and read about these outstanding projects.

The 2017 SFE awards nominations soon, more information will be found on the 2017 IMGC Webiste.