Suisun Wildlife Center

Food Forest Keepers: Suisun Wildlife Center

The Suisun Marsh Natural History Association operates the Suisun Wildlife Center, which has provided rescue, care and release back to the wild for injured and orphaned native California wildlife in Solano County since 1977.  It has released over 17,000 wild birds and animals back to the wild, and the Association’s Environmental Education program has worked with over 300,000 children and adults.

Preservation of wetlands and environmental education are other parts of our mission, and in our minds that extends past wildlife to all aspects of the environment.  When we were generously offered by Sustainable Solano the opportunity to apply for an edible landscape, it was decided that instead of a typical food garden, the garden would supply food for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and enhance the enjoyment of guests to the Center

Site Details

Installation Date:

June 2018


1875 square feet

Sun Exposure:

2-8 hours



Number of Swales:


Secondary Water:


Roofwater diverted to swales

Total annual water impact:

35, 263 gallons



Designer: Kathleen Huffman

Plant List:

Red Bud
Balloon Flower Milkweed, Gentian Sage, Kiowa Sunset Hyssop, Kudus Silver Blue Hyssop, Mealy Cup Sage, Orchid Rockrose, Russian Sage, Silver Germander
Bee’s Friend, Beardtongue, Coralbells, Cosmos, Globe mallow, Holy Basil, Indian Blanket, Little Kiss, Milkweed, Salvia, Pineapple Sage, Purple Coneflower, Tickseed, Verbena, Vermillian Firecracker, Wall Germander, Yarrow, Zinnia
Corsican Mint, Creeping Fuchsia, Greek Oregano, Spotted Dead Nettle, Tasmanian Violet
Dutchmans Pipe, Nasturtium


The work at Suisun Wildlife Center was the most interesting and busiest installation yet! As we were learning, working, and getting to know each other, the raptors and a one-eyed coyote were watching us.  Volunteers stopped by to get bottles for the baby squirrels and raccoons that are receiving in-home care and wounded baby possums, squirrels, raccoons and birds arrived as we installed the pollinator food forest.  We saw first-hand the service that Suisun Wildlife Center provides to California native wildlife.  Throughout the three days, city council members, board members, and community members interested in water-efficiency and wildlife visited us.

Andrew Torres, a student from the Airman Leadership School Globemaster class contacted me a few days prior to the installation and asked if we had a community service project available for the class to join.  This healthy crew of young men and women studying to be sergeants delivered 15 yards of tree chips and dug 60 feet of swales in only two hours! Each year 35, 263 gallons of water will be diverted from the roof to the swales.  Suisun City Vice Mayor, Lori Wilson, coordinated lunch with local eateries and McDonalds donated chicken salads (yes they were tasty!).  At lunchtime, we spoke to the Globemaster class and learned about the important role that community service plays in becoming sergeants. The foundation of this garden was completed and the class learned how to harvest water in-ground and build soil by adding tree chips.

The next day, we did not have the help of the Globemaster class, but we did have a few solid participants that have been to our previous workshops ready to wrap up this project.  Kevin brought his nifty drill that helped dig the holes and made planting in clay soil effortless.  We planted over 30 different types of plants to attract pollinators.  Rose from Morningsun Herb Farm recommended Newleaze Coral.  This plant blooms from spring to fall and attracts many different types of bees including native bees.  After we had our pizza lunch donated from Mountain Mikes, the Daisy Girl Scouts arrived to work on their honeybee award.  The girls worked as a team to plant Russian Salvia; this plant attracts butterflies, hover flies and bees.  Then they sprinkled laughter, joy and pollinator seeds all over the garden.  Thank you to everyone that helped get this pollinator food forest installed at Suisun Wildlife Center.  Vice Mayor Wilson supported the Suisun City Sustainable Backyard program from the beginning by introducing us to local organizations, launching our program at Denise Rushing’s speaker event and serving on the Advisory Board to help select both the private and public site in Suisun City.

This demonstration pollinator food forest at Suisun Wildlife Center is a public project funded by the Solano County Water Agency. The garden will serve as a community asset where people can learn simple techniques to design a resilient, water-wise landscape.

Vision for the Future:

Our goal for the future is for the garden to flourish and inspire many visitors to remember that when we create gardens, we can plant for the benefit of other creatures as well as ourselves, which ultimately benefits us all. The appearance of the Wildlife Center has been greatly improved and the garden is receiving lots of interest from our guests, including the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

We are very grateful to everyone involved, especially Sustainable Solano Executive Director Elena Karoulina, Landscape Designer Kathleen Huffman, and Program Manager Nicole Newell, along with the many volunteers that assisted with the cleanup and installation, and special thanks also to Suisun City Vice Mayor Lori Wilson for her support. We are delighted to have been able to partner with Sustainable Solano on a project with ongoing education opportunities for so many.