Several years ago our son purchased a condo in Somerville, Massachusetts. As is typical in a large metropolitan area, there isn't much land around the building, but Sean's been talking with me about creating a pollinator garden on the small plot that he has. Over the 4th of July weekend, we were finally able to make that happen.
Here is the space that we started with.....
Then there were the native plants: an oak seedling, 2 maple seedlings, lots of hay fern, and and a couple violets. Pretty as the hay fern was, it was obviously too aggressive for this small an area, so we reluctantly removed it. There was still plenty of it on the north side of the house. Of course, the tree seedlings had to go, too. This is definitely not a big enough space for an oak or maple tree. We did try to keep the violets...although they got pretty mangled during the whole process.
The large shrub at the north end of the garden space is an old privet which technically belongs to the next door neighbor, so we didn't try to do anything with it. There is black swallow-wort and Boston ivy growing up in it, as well as a maple seedling or two, so Sean will have to keep a close eye on it to keep those plants from infringing on his new pollinator garden.
My biggest concern for this project was finding appropriate, non-pesticide treated, native plants to form the biological base of the new garden. Searching online, I located Garden in the Woods, a nature area run by the New England Wildflower Society. It's in Framingham, which isn't too far out of the city, and they sell native plants. We fired up the cell phone navigation system and made our way out there on Saturday morning. Woohoo! Paydirt! Even in early July, long after sensible people have put in their new gardens or renovated their old ones, Garden in the Woods still had a nice selection of Massachusetts' native plants. My only regret in going there was that we didn't have time to hike their trails.
On the way back, with Sean's car mostly full of native perennials, we stopped at Russell's Garden Center and bought a few tools, compost and mulch (plus a small butterfly milkweed). Now the car was really loaded down.
I should have taken a photo of the car, but I didn't think about it. I was too psyched about getting busy, digging in the dirt.
Luckily for me, I got to be the "consultant". Sean did the vast majority of the actual physical labor, but I got to get my hands dirty enough to feel like an integral part of the project. The steps were pretty basic: we pulled out and discarded all the plants that we didn't want, making sure that we got as many of their roots as possible, then we spread a layer of compost over the open soil to be worked in as we planted the new perennials. Fortuitously, the soil turned out to be better than I expected. Next we placed the plants and Sean dug the holes - same depth as the pot, but twice as wide - before he planted each new garden member carefully, being careful to loosen the root balls as appropriate and to water each one in thoroughly. The final step was to mulch.
By Sunday afternoon, here is what Sean's new pollinator garden looked like....
The poke and common milkweed will move around; Sean will just pull out any that come up in a place that he finds displeasing. Hopefully the monarchs will eventually come to visit - and maybe even to lay eggs.
The garden is planted fairly densely; the look will hopefully be "cottage garden" in style. I'm really excited to see how it grows and matures over the next few years. Most of all, I'm looking forward to seeing the pollinators that it will be supporting. Every little bit helps!