Pollinator garden at Plainfield post office a colorful attraction

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  • Elaine Sidney talks last Wednesday about the pollinator garden outside the Plainfield post office, in which some volunteer melons apparently grew from compost. Watching over the garden is resident scarecrow Ariel. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    Plainfield Agricultural Commission Chairman Anna Hanchett, left, and Elaine Sidney talk about tending the pollinator garden outside the post office on South Central Street and its resident scarecrow, "Ariel", named for the spirit in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A bumblebee visits a tithonia flower in the pollinator garden outside the Plainfield post office last Wednesday while Elaine Sidney talks to passers-by Buddy Fries and Jay McMahon about the benefits of the garden. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Anna Hanchett, chairman of the Plainfield Agricultural Commission, pauses while tending a pollinator garden in front of the post office on South Central Street on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A bumblebee visits the pollinator garden in front of the Plainfield post office on South Central Street on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2021 7:42:09 PM

PLAINFIELD — In front of the town Post Office, visitors and those passing are treated to a vibrant display of flowers and herbs. But this garden isn’t just for show. It’s designed to feed pollinators, and to encourage others to plant pollinator gardens as well.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds frequent the garden, fertilizing flowers and allowing plants to bear fruit. The pollinator garden was originally planted four years ago, a project of the Agricultural Commission on a piece of land owned by Peter O’Brien. This year, however, the garden has attracted more attention and volunteers working on it.

As they tend the garden, volunteers are available to answer questions and explain its purpose to visitors and people passing by.

“It’s sort of a show and tell,” said Elaine Sidney, one of the volunteers.

Plants in the garden include goldenrod and zinnias, as well as flowering herbs including echinacea, yarrow and elecampane. Arugula, which is allowed to grow out and flower, is also a part of the garden.

“We try to put in plants people are familiar with,” Sidney said.

Agricultural Commission Chair Anna Hanchett said a crucial aspect of the garden is providing a seasonal range of flowers for pollinators to feed on.

Compost used to fertilize the garden has also yielded some volunteer cantaloupes, which people are welcome to pick.

Hanchett said that the garden is focused on providing food for native pollinators such as bumblebees, and not honeybees.

“Up here our climate is colder and wetter, so they don’t do as nearly as well,” Hanchett said of honeybees.

Aside from different types of bumblebees, monarch butterflies and hummingbirds are other pollinators that have taken advantage of the garden.

The guard is also watched over by a scarecrow by the name of Ariel, named after the air spirit character in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” in a nod to the airborne nature of most pollinators.

Hanchett said she hopes the garden inspires people to plant pollinator gardens themselves.

Herbs such as mint and thyme are good for pollinators, she noted, adding that people should “try to have a seasonal range of flowers.”

Sidney said people don’t need to be master gardeners to plant a pollinator plot, and that they should plant flowers and herbs that appeal to them.

Hanchett has written several articles for the Plainfield Post on pollinators, and her latest article is being displayed in a weatherproof box in the garden.

Hanchett said that people should refrain from buying plants treated with neonicotinoids, as the insecticide kills pollinators.

“It’s a systemic pesticide,” Hanchett said. “Any part of the plant that any insect eats is poisonous.”

Sidney also encouraged people to buy organic plants and to plant native plants.

Hanchett also said that she’s interested in the development of a local pollinator corridor.

“So that they have food all the way along,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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