By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager
Painted lines and flags show the sections of the Pollinator Pathway garden that will focus on different types of pollinators once this lawn is converted into a native plant garden
Sometimes the vision to create something different takes a variety of partners to move toward reality. A vision of transforming Mare Island to support local pollinators is taking a step forward with the creation of Pollinator Pathway, a new educational demonstration garden that will highlight waterwise native plants that feed and nurture pollinators.
Vilma Aquino from Vallejo People’s Garden contacted us last year with the vision to replace the lawn at the Global Center for Success with a pollinator habitat to educate the community on the use of California native and pollinator plants in the landscape. She explained that monarch butterflies overwinter in the eucalyptus and redwood trees by St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island and that their numbers have been declining over the years. I wasn’t aware that monarch butterflies overwinter in Solano County! During the Thanksgiving 2022 Monarch count, approximately 300,000 monarch butterflies were counted at over 400 overwintering sites up and down the California coast. At St. Peter’s Chapel, the Monarch Milkweed Project counted approximately 500 monarch butterflies, but they didn’t overwinter. The Monarch Milkweed Project believes they moved on because there were not enough nectar plants on Mare Island for them and that St. Peter’s grove might need some changes to support a large population of butterflies.
I definitely have noticed the Mare Island streets lined with water-thirsty green lawns. It inspired me to dream and ask the question: What would it look like if everyone transitioned the water-loving lawn to drought-tolerant California native and pollinator plants that create habitat for pollinators including the monarch butterflies?
Toward that vision, SuSol is excited to partner with Vallejo People’s Garden to create a demonstration site that will show just how people could do that with their own landscape. On Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, we will be replacing the lawn at the Global Center for Success with a 3,000-square-foot California native and pollinator plant garden called Pollinator Pathway. The vision for this project is to be an educational site for people to learn about plants that provide habitat and food for our beloved pollinators and inspire others to replace their lawn with habitat.
What makes this project unique for Sustainable Solano:
- This is our first project in Vallejo focused primarily on native and pollinator plants.
- The plants will be hand-watered with the goal to stop watering once they are established (adding drip irrigation can be expensive, leave a carbon footprint and the expense and expertise needed can deter people from planting).
- There are no gutters on this historical building. Instead of the swales people are familiar with from our other garden installations, we will be digging water-catching basins around the plants.
In 2009, Vilma put her dream into action through starting the Vallejo People’s Garden. She is passionate about education and has plans to expand the Pollinator Pathway into a self-guided educational garden where people can come to learn about native and pollinator plants.
Through planning this project we connected with a number of local organizations that will be collaborating with us! You can learn more about each below. Sustainable Solano holds so much gratitude for all involved in making Vilma’s Pollinator Pathway vision a reality.
John Davenport, from Cali Ground Troops worked closely with the Vallejo People’s Garden to design the Pollinator Pathway garden and he will be guiding the installation on Feb. 11 & 18.
The Monarch Milkweed Project is a nonprofit organization in Solano County that works to educate, propagate, and legislate on behalf of the Western Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators. They will be providing volunteers & education during the installation days, and will also assist with the expansion of pollinator-friendly plants throughout Mare Island.
Solano Resource Conservation District will be providing native plant and pollinator resources to educate the community during the installation. SRCD will be helping us source and pay for the plants! They will also be working with the Vallejo People’s Garden to provide education and expand the Pollinator Pathway throughout Mare Island.
The Vallejo People’s Garden sparked the vision for the Pollinator Pathway and will continue to care for this garden and the surrounding land around the Global Center for Success. This project will be an expansion of their edible garden with plans to continue to educate the community about growing food and supporting pollinators. They have weekly volunteer opportunities every Thursday and Sunday morning 9:30-11:30 am. Vilma, Suzanne and many other members have volunteered many hours to research, prep and plan for this installation!
The Vallejo Project engages youth in leadership empowered by service and community. Most of their programming is held at the Global Center for Success and many of their youth leaders are passionate about urban agriculture. The program runs its own garden (Unity Garden at 2160 Sacramento St.) as an opportunity for community members, youth and other stakeholders to restore an abandoned lot. Inspired in part by work with SuSol, The Vallejo Project is turning an area that was once filled with sand and garbage into a multi-level food forest that uses internationally influenced farming techniques. To support this garden, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Vallejo Project youth will be taking photos, videos and documenting the story of Pollinator Pathway garden during the installation days!
Native and pollinator plants are included in all of SuSol’s demonstration food forest gardens. This is the first project in Vallejo where we are focused primarily on native plants and pollinators. Our local nurseries have native plant areas, but Solano County doesn’t have a nursery specializing in native plants. Oftentimes I will read about incredible native plants and then I can’t find them in our local nurseries.
The Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society here in Solano County provided us with native plant resources and provided educational flyers that we will hand out on the installation days. They operate a small native plant nursery in Vallejo (about 1500 square feet of plants) producing about 1,500-2,000 plants annually. This nursery isn’t open to the public, but they do have annual plant sales. They also recommended the Watershed Nursery in Richmond because they follow best management practices to grow pathogen-free plants.
Native Plant Resources
Download this brochure with recommended native plants for the entire county
Visit the Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden at the Benicia State Recreation Area
Solano RCD spring plant sale will be Saturday, March 25, at Mangels Vineyards in Suisun Valley
Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour 2023 (Virtual: April 15 & 16; In-person: May 6 & 7)
Willis Linn Jepson Chapter of the California Native Plant Society’s Spring Plant Sale is always the first Saturday in May (May 6, 2023) and the Fall Plant Sale is the first Saturday in October (Oct. 7, 2023)
Calscape.org is an excellent resource that will help you select native plants that will work best for your yard
Learn more about pollinators in this resource from Solano Resource Conservation District