Students put pollinator garden ‘to bed’

By PATRICK FORD

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Virginia Tech students taking a course on community service, Tuesday, helped Friends of Peak Creek (FOPC) put its Heritage Park pollinator garden “to bed” for fall.

“It’s a community service learning class,” said Cathy Hanks, FOPC president. Students “pick a nonprofit or community service organization and they do a project for … the semester as part of their curriculum. Part of that class is a field trip to see what they can do hands-on.”

The class is offered in the fall. This is the students’ third year of service with FOPC.

“We are terribly grateful to you,” she said. “They pop in, work an hour and they get a lot of stuff done for us.”

“The pollinator garden needs to be what we call ‘put to bed for the fall,'” Hanks said. “So, yesterday they came in and helped with the mulch pile, weeded, helped with the edge line.” She said they also helped transfer excess plants to the creek bank.

All plants in the garden are native.

“I would say 95% of them are Virginia natives, but all are North American natives,” she said. The goal of the garden is to attract and support pollinator insects such as bees and butterflies.

“Bees are life. Without bees to pollinate our agriculture plants, fruits, vegetables—all kinds of plants, we would literally starve,” said Hanks. “There’s been a massive kill off of bees in the last 20 years with pesticides.”

According to Hanks, several plants transplanted into this area, often for decoration, aren’t as healthy for bees as native plants.

“People get a lot of cultivars; we call them plants that are not native,” she said. “They aren’t as healthy for native pollinators like bees and butterflies — and there are some birds that are pollinators.”

Hanks noted that plants modified to enhance their appearance are usually not as healthy for pollinators. She equated them to “fast food for bees; obviously, it’s not as healthy.”

Those interested in adding native Virginia plants to their gardens can visit plantvirginianatives.org or contact Pulaski’s Virginia Cooperative Extension office in the County Administration Building on Third Street in northwest Pulaski.

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