Q1: What are the origins of the pollinator garden at New Horizons – where did the idea come from?
A: I was inspired by the program called Hives for Humanity on Vancouver’s downtown eastside. I met with them, and also had talks with the city of Victoria about placement. We wanted to enhance this community space for both people and pollinators, and create room for education about organic gardening and the negative health and ecological impacts of toxic pesticides.
Q2: What kinds of plants do you find the pollinators like best in the garden?
A: They love the Himalayan honeysuckle, salvia hotlips, St. John’s wort, borage, yarrow and camas! We also grow certain edible plants which are great for pollinators, like the plum tree and strawberries which are a great plant for carpeting open spaces.
Q3: What are some of the challenges you’ve had installing the community garden?
A: There was a lot of red tape at the city planning level that we’ve had to contend with. One example of this is that we’d love to put in some native hedgerows along the fence line, but we’re not able to. Another issue is losing bees. We’ve lost our bees each year to wasps and to American fallbrood disease. We would move from honeybees to another kind of bee, but people in the community have become attached to the honeybees so we’re working to find solutions. One of these solutions has been to hire a beekeeper to care for them. Another issue is gardeners in adjacent areas using chemicals in their gardens that are toxic to bees, such as Roundup. We can sometimes have difficulty sourcing plants because often plants are treated with chemicals in nurseries, which can last in the plant for up to two years and make them inhospitable and sometimes dangerous to pollinators.
Q4: What do you feel are your biggest achievements with the pollinator garden?
A: Definitely the community connections to the bees! We’ve seen a big reduction in stigma; people were initially fearful of having bees around, but now they’ve grown to love having them around. I also feel we’ve created a sanctuary space where people of all generations can come for some rest and spend time connecting to the plants and the pollinators. I also feel it’s important to promote aesthetics and beauty in public space – often we see developments that are sterile and exclusive, but this project has created an organic and inclusive space in the center of town.
Q5: Where does your funding come from?
A: We’ve had some grants from the city, and they’ve taken over the cost of the beekeeper. We also work with donations from New Horizons members.