Campus Pollinator Garden

Published: Aug. 18, 2015

Originally Published: April 18, 2015

In the summer of 2014, CU-Boulder installed the University’s first landscape designed for and dedicated to pollinators. The landscape consists of barberry, currant, monarda, spirea, rudbeckia, yarrow, gooseberry, catmint, and lavender- all of which should tolerate and beautify the roadside conditions.  The first phase was installed along Broadway and the bike path from 18th St to the Regent bus stop.  In 2015, the second phase of the campus pollinator sanctuary landscape was installed at the east entrance of main campus, located on the north side of the new campus recycling building and west of the 28th St underpass.  The initiative is funded by Sustainable CU.

These two areas total 10,000 square feet in area and are examples of an urban demonstration pollinator garden that provide pollinators consistent forage throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons as well as provide the community with beautiful pedestrian entrance points to campus and serve to educate about the importance of pollinators.  

The Environmental Center has worked to support campus operational initiatives to reduce water use and reduce pesticide use.  This project supports these sustainability goals and creates habitat for pollinator species which are in decline.  The phase 1 area on Broadway was selected to convert an “unmanageable” landscape area from turf to heat-tolerant and less water intensive perennials.  It was unmanageable in that narrow strips of grass are harder to maintain by campus grounds staff and then can become more laden with undesirable plants which then creates pressure to apply herbicides.  Phase 2 was an opportunity to convert an unfunded landscaping area that was impacted by construction.  

The pollinator landscape follows the following principles for pollinators:

  • It uses a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall.
  • The plants are arranged in dense clumps rather than many single species.  This helps pollinators find and use them.
  • The plants are either native species or are well-suited to the Front Range climate. Natives are adapted to our local climate, soil and native pollinators. 
  • No pesticides are applied to the landscape.
  • As much as possible, plants will be sourced to be free of neonicotinoids, which are a relatively new class of systemic insecticides that potentially pose risk to pollinators. 

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals which feed from flowers, transferring pollen in the process.  Nearly 80% of all flowering plants need the assistance of pollinators to transfer pollen within flowers in order to produce seeds, fruits, and vegetables.  Approximately one out of every three bites of food you eat depends on the work of a pollinating animal.  The pollination process also produces seeds and fruits that feed birds and other wildlife.  Many blooming plants depend on pollinators for survival, and globally many pollinators are showing disturbing signs of decline from a variety of causes.  When you use pesticides you could unintentionally harm pollinators and other beneficial insects. Taking precautionary measures can prevent harming pollinators.

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) recommendations to help protect pollinators in your world are as follows:

1) Create Pollinator Habitats

- Cultivate native plants especially those that provide nectar or larval food for pollinators

- Install houses for bats and nest boxes for native bees

- Supply salt/mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife

2) Reduce Pesticide Use

- Use insecticides and herbicides only when no alternatives are available

- Practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

- Follow label directions, apply with caution, pay special attention to “bee toxicity” information

- Substitute flowerbeds for turf grass

3) Minimize Your Environmental Impact

- Buy at locally produced or organic food

- Walk, cycle, or use public transit – minimize your automobile and electricity use

- Reduce your consumption, reuse, and recycle

4) Get Involved

- Volunteer for pollinator-friendly organizations and garden groups

- Lift a shovel, sow seeds, develop natural areas for pollinators

- Vote! Make your voice heard for pollinators

5) Enjoy Nature

- Build your connection with the natural world by enjoying time outdoors

- Experience gardening, working with plants and animals, and scenic get-aways.

Click here to view a great handout and quick overview.  

Click here for more invormation on the importance of pollinators, or here to learn specifically about gardening for pollinators.