Pollinators have garden of their own

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By Pam Darty

Whether you plant by the Farmer’s Almanac or Rodale’s Organic Gardening, many are planting gardens of flowers, fruits and vegetables now.  Donna Thalacker and companions plant to a different drummer.  She plants for pollinators at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge headquarters each spring.
This year, she brought her friends (of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges) to expand the garden envisioned by Deputy Manager Larry Woodward.  For over 2 years, Woodward has wanted a larger garden with a water feature for the massive number of butterflies that are drawn to its nectar-filled plants. The volunteer crew of nine planted native flowering plants that pollinators are naturally drawn to:  fire bush, blueberries blanket flower, sparkle-berry, lantana, coastal sage and others.
“What’s really good about the garden is its appeal to all pollinators, like Florida’s native bees along with skippers, hairstreaks and other butterflies and hummingbirds, too,” said Woodward.
 “The Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service sends out a ‘Pollinator Challenge’ each summer summoning employees to go above and beyond when it comes to providing habitat for the nation’s butterflies and the more than 4,000 species of native bees.”
Donna has taken on other projects at the Lower Suwannee, but none with such spectacular results.  
Visitors to the Refuge office stop to admire or photograph the colorful native flowers and butterflies before they even get to the office.  
The upcoming summer photo safari for kids will feature the revamped garden and its colorful array of flowers and over 70 species of butterflies.
“It’s not only pretty, it serves as a tool for teaching visitors about our essential pollinators and how all of us can provide habitat in our own backyards,” reported Refuge Ranger Darty.
 “Neighbors donating their time, energy, materials, the planning and purchasing of the perfect plants was a wonderful community effort. We’re so appreciative of our friends and volunteers, like Donna.”