Giving back to the community is as important to us as providing sustainable, organic and safe lawns for our clients. That’s why we devote time to educating children about the importance of pollinators, which often involves creating a pollinator garden! What better way to learn about pollinators than seeing them in action!
Last spring, I saw a message on our @GreenwiseOrganic Instagram feed from Scarlett, a 10-year-old environmental steward, who had BIG plans. She and I wrote back and forth and had a Zoom call to discuss the pesticides being used to fight mosquitoes, how terrible that was for our pollinators, and how Greenwise shared her mission to help our pollinators thrive.
Working on Bill to Help Pollinators Thrive
Scarlett was researching information about natural alternatives to mosquito control for the bill she was working on with Representative Robin Gabel (Bill IL HB3118).
“What got me started with the bee bill was when I started seeing fewer and fewer bees in my own pollinator garden. I did some research and found that one of the big things killing bee populations in towns was mosquito control pesticides, which are lethal to pollinators. I went to my state representative, Robyn Gabel, with this concern, and we decided to write a bill to regulate the pesticides,” says Scarlett.
Greenwise has never used pesticides in its mosquito control or turf care. We saw a lot of unsafe practices by conventional companies, and so we introduced our natural Mosquito and Tick control as a safe alternative. It’s cedar oil-based, which has been proven effective and is safe for our pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Toward the end of one of our conversations, Scarlett mused about having a pollinator garden at Greeley, her old elementary school in Winnetka. She put me in touch with Principal Joshua Swanner and away we went.
Installing Pollinator Garden at Greeley School in Winnetka
Mr. Swanner was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, as it fit seamlessly with his curriculum on pollinators.
“Pollinators are important for both our environment and our studies at Greeley School. Students first learn about pollinators when they study butterflies in Kindergarten, and we recently had a beekeeper at our school to speak with our second grade students.
“Our pollinator garden will offer students an opportunity to be immersed in their studies, yet another example of experiential learning in our public schools. In addition to helping the environment and studies, the garden will also serve as a calm space for reflection and meeting the social emotional needs of our students,” says Mr. Swanner.
Scarlett’s love of the environment began with her own pollinator garden. “I started getting involved in environmentalism pretty gradually just by getting outside and connecting with wildlife. This really made me realize how important healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are to humans. I think spending time outside getting your hands dirty is how people learn to care about the environment, which is why pollinator gardens at schools are so important,” says Scarlett.
Austin Hall, the president and owner of Greenwise, was more than supportive to provide as much of the pollinator garden expense pro bono as we could. As part of our mission to give back to our communities, Greenwise has a history of creating and contributing to pollinator gardens for our local schools.
Choosing Native Plants for the Pollinator Garden
We brought Gannon, one of our landscape designers, to the Greeley school site to talk about how Principal Swanner and Scarlett wanted the garden to look and how it would best serve the students.
“I chose a lot of these plants based on the Mitchell Park Domes Garden in Milwaukee. This garden is successful due to it having flowers and food for insects throughout the whole summer, including plants like the Baptisia and Penstemon blooming in spring, and the Calamintha and Heuchera blooming in late summer into fall.
“I also wanted there to be an accessible path for the students to be immersed in the garden and get up close to the flowers and insects. The existing bench also provides a nice spot to sit and enjoy the activity of the garden and school grounds. Many of these plants are super hardy and will last for years, blooming and filling in the entire area to become a pollinator magnet,” says Gannon.
Breaking Ground for the Garden & Bringing the Community Together
In mid-October, the Greenwise crew outlined the garden and started to break ground. Two days later, they created a beautiful garden for the students to enjoy.
The following week, the community came together after school to celebrate the garden where a few students, invited by their teachers, planted a dozen flowers themselves. Scarlett and Principal Swanner said a few words about their hopes that this pollinator garden would create future environmental stewards.
Creating pollinator gardens is an easy and important way you can make a difference in our climate crisis. If you don’t have space for a garden, a pot or two of native plants on a porch or balcony will go a long way in creating a food source for our pollinators. No step is too small but it’s important to take that first step.