Outdoors Sustainability

New Program Certifies Pollinator Gardens

Betsy Savely certified garden

By Joshua Blanco

A recent program launched by the local Bee City Affiliate leader Asheville GreenWorks is giving individuals an opportunity to help maintain pollinator populations. The certification program is now accepting applications from those wanting to start pollinator gardens of their own.

As the population of pollinators continues to decline, never has there been a better time to support those species that play such a vital role in sustaining our ecosystem. “We just want to keep this planet livable,” says Phyllis Stiles, founder and director emeritus of Bee City USA. “Pollinators are crucial to that.”

Last summer, the Bee City USA Asheville leadership committee came up with the idea for the program to incentivize residents to take action. After assessing similar programs across the country, they arrived at a four-tier system that allows people to get involved at various levels while still maintaining the standards of a viable garden tailored to pollinators. After being certified for a specific tier, each garden will be eligible to receive a sign designating it as a pollinator-friendly habitat. “We didn’t want it to be too stringent,” Stiles says. “We want the door to be wide open so that lots of people are interested in having a pollinator garden. But at the same time you shouldn’t get the sign if you didn’t earn it—if this is not living up to the highest ideals of what a pollinator garden looks like.”

The first tier, called the Egg, requires minimal space and could be achieved on an apartment balcony. To be certified, the garden must have at least six native perennial flowering species, one butterfly host plant, a water source and should be nearly free of pesticides and invasive plants. The Caterpillar, Chrysalis and Butterfly tiers each have requirements that are progressively more stringent.To make the process easier, GreenWorks provides online starter lists outlining plants required for each tier and local nurseries that supply them.

“It takes people who are being thoughtful with carrying the message out and keeping the vision alive,” Stiles says. “Nothing happens by itself.”

To apply for a garden certification, visit AshevilleGreenWorks.org. For more information about pollinators and Bee City USA, visit BeeCityUSA.org.

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