Campus pollinator gardens: Pretty and problem-solving

The recent addition of specialized landscaping on the University of Colorado Boulder campus has solved some logistical matters. And pollinator species -- from butterflies to bees -- seem to be buzzing their approval.

The project, approved by the CU Student Government and administered by the CU Environmental Center in collaboration with CU-Boulder Facilities Management, was most recently expanded to an area near Colorado Avenue along 28th Street in Boulder. The landscaping includes such perennials as lavender, catmint and yarrow -- plants that can tolerate rough roadside conditions and heavy heat with minimal water.

Most importantly, though, the plants benefit pollinators, which are in decline.

“The Environmental Center has worked to support CU-Boulder operational initiatives to reduce water use and continue pesticide-free practices,” said Marianne Moulton Martin, associate director of the E-Center. “This project supports these sustainability goals plus creates a habitat for pollinator species and educates the campus community about the importance of pollinators.”

Martin says educational signage is slated for installation this fall near the landscaping including at the first location, which was planted in the summer of 2014. The first garden is located along Broadway between Regent Drive and 18th Street in Boulder, a heavy pedestrian area.

“Pollinator species were immediately attracted to the Broadway landscape and many regular commuters along that stretch took notice of the streetscape improvement,” said Martin. “Once we get the interpretive signs installed, we hope more pedestrians will understand the purpose and notice the activity.”

The specialized landscaping across campus, which totals about 10,000 square feet of land, is pollinator-friendly because it incorporates a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring to late fall; is arranged in dense clumps of species rather than many single species; includes native plants or those that are well-suited to the Front Range; and requires no chemical treatment.

Other pollinator species include hummingbirds and bats, according to the city of Boulder, which currently is celebrating Pollinator Appreciation Month.

Involved in the CU-Boulder project have been students from the E-Center as well as an Environmental Studies permaculture class last May. Campus landscape architect Richelle Reilly of Planning, Design and Construction designed the gardens in concert with Outdoor Services with support for the sourcing of neonicotinoid-free plants. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of systemic insecticides that potentially pose threats to pollinators.

The project is funded by Sustainable CU, an improvement initiative passed by students in 2005 that allocates a portion of student fees to campus projects that incorporate renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction and other innovations that reduce CU-Boulder’s footprint on the environment.

CU-Boulder’s pollinator-friendly landscaping will be included in the optional sustainability tour during Family Weekend on campus Oct. 1-4. It also will be featured during the Western Apicultural Society conference in Boulder Oct. 1-3.

For more information about the pollinator gardens visit