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.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Demonstration — 1st Place Winner

Executive Residence of Tennessee Master Gardeners

When Crissy Haslam, the First Lady of Tennessee, decided to restore the grounds of the historic Governor’s Mansion, she raised the funds privately, and began a complete renovation.  Part of this project was to include a kitchen garden, and she asked a team of Master Gardeners to help. When she first met with us, she asked that the garden include heirlooms from 1929, when the house was built.  She wanted to provide fresh, local, organic vegetables for the Residence and its many guests to emphasize Tennessee products and healthy eating.  However, because of her commitment to children’s education, she wanted the MG’s to provide much more from this garden than vegetables.

The garden & its results

Our planting goal was to create a productive and sustainable three-season garden with our approximately 3000 square feet of never-before planted beds. We chose Tennessee heirlooms, plants adapted to our southern climate, things children could relate to and vegetables the chef wanted to serve at the Governor’s table.

We used only an organic product (spinosad, a BT product) for insect control; no other pesticides are used.  In Tennessee, we can have three growing seasons and in 2014, we harvested 2,600 pounds of vegetables.

Educational goals and results

The First Lady wanted us to provide a hands-on learning experience for children.  Our goals were to teach children where their food comes from, to encourage gardening, and to encourage healthy eating.  Over 500 children visited the garden this past year.  We have a hands-on garden activity for each group, decided by what is going on in the garden. In season, they have planted seeds, set out cabbage and herb plants, thinned carrots, pulled radishes, and have even shelled field peas.  The visits end with the chef serving them a healthy snack made with the vegetables from the garden.

Teacher’s Workshop

Many visiting teachers and chaperones spoke of wanting vegetable gardens at their own schools, so we decided to help. With the First Lady’s approval, we planned our first Saturday workshop for teachers & school advisors who wanted to start a garden for their own school.  We limited this first workshop to 44 attendees.  Some of the sessions were Garden Planning, Grant Writing and Resources (Tennessee Farm Bureau, who has grant money available had a representative on-site with applications), School Curriculum in a Garden, and several other topics.  We finished with lunch, which, of course, featured vegetables from the garden.

This year, with the new greenhouse finished, we have even more options for working with the children at all times of the year, and we think we can handle even more teachers at this year’s workshop.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Demonstration — 2nd Place Winner

Sweet Taters

Ssotry tellersMGs were invited to participate in a joint venture with the South Cobb County Arts Alliance, Friends of the Mable House, and Cobb County Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs to create a sweet educational garden project at the Mable House in Mableton: (“sweet” as in sweet potatoes, specifically Beauregards. Doesn’t that just put some South in your mouth?).
On October 18,2014, the Arts Alliance will be hosting its annual Storytelling Festival at the Mable House, located in Mableton in Southwest Cobb County, Georgia . One of the events will be story telling about how to grow sweet potatoes. The Robert Mable family, original owners of the Mable House, grew sweet potatoes commercially during the mid-1800s, storing them in an outbuilding built specifically for that purpose. You can see the building during tours of the Mable House.

During the Story Telling Festival, children participate in activities that replicate those conducted by farming families during the period, including growing and harvesting sweet potatoes and corn shucking. To obtain sweet potatoes, the original plan was to purchase them from local growers, but this changed to using a plot behind the Mable House to grow the vegetables with the help of MGVOCC.

On May 22nd, several MGs (including Linda Hlozansky, JoAnne Newman, Lisa Jobe, Donna Peppers, and Lallie Hayes) and Friends of the Mable House ( David McDaniel, Nancy Thomas, and Eleanor Wade), installed a sweet potato patch behind the Mable House, planting about 100 Beauregards. This variety was developed at Louisiana State University in 1987. It matures in 90 days, so it would be just in time for the Storytelling Festival.
Participating children learned how the sweet potatoes were grown and saw sweet potatoes that had been rooted and were growing in a glass. They got their own “Mable House Sweet Potato Kit” to take home, using the potatoes grown at the Mable House over the summer.

This cooperative project demonstrates how Cobb MGs stay involved in serving and educating their community, not only with ongoing projects, but when a special opportunity to serve presents itself.

by Lallie Hayes