The community beyond Stewardship Garden

Below are some of the positive things happening in the community. But it's not all positive.

Sign at zoo ©Janet AllenThe sign at the zoo garden

Our yard provides a lot of habitat for many creatures, but without habitat in the community beyond our yard, it's only a small oasis. To preserve biodiversity and leave our children and grandchildren the legacy of a living planet, we need to provide habitat in the community beyond our yard.

A good example of habitat in a community space is the "Flora for Fauna" habitat garden at our local zoo.

The zoo garden ©Janet AllenA small portion of the habitat garden at our local zoo

The zoo's habitat garden is quite large, with paths throughout and informative signage.

Many people worked for many years to plan this garden that featured plants native to Central New York and to eliminate those non-native plants that had been planted there over the years.

The difference was immediate. Soon after planting these natives, people noticed birds arriving to eat serviceberries, butterflies arrived to feed on nectar. The garden supports life!

The zoo is an especially appropriate match for this garden since it connects the zoo's goal of participating in global biodiversity efforts with providing habitat for local creatures.

The location of the habitat garden is also appropriate. It's the first thing people see as they enter, setting the stage for thinking about the importance of habitat. After learning about the importance of habitat around the world for the zoo's creatures' original home, people leave the zoo passing by the habitat garden that powerfully demonstrates what they can do in their own yard for our own native creatures.

Zoo maintenance ©Janet AllenJohn volunteers to help maintain the zoo garden

The zoo's habitat garden is also a good example of the challenges public gardens face. Even though in time it will be somewhat self-sustaining, a natural landscape needs maintenace for a few years.

This is true of any new landscape, of course, but landscapes in the public eye on public land face additional pressures. Many people still prefer the "neat" look of closely mowed lawn surrounded by a few neatly trimmed shrubs. What looks like a more unruly landscape can draw comments, and public officials are sensitive to such comments.

The good news is that people are beginning—too slowly for sure—to realized that such landscapes are no longer feasible. They're just too destructive for a number of reasons.

And if people don't understand the environmental consequences, almost everyone understands the financial consequences. Maintaining traditional landscapes are just too time-consuming and resource-intensive and therefore expensive. Surely not a good use of the public's money!

A combination of intelligent maintenance and public education about the reasons for the different "look" of a natural landscape (as well as the financial savings!) are important.

Pollinator-friendly landscapes in the community

Bee on joe-pye ©Janet AllenBee on native joe-pye

Pollinator conservation is an important issue, and because these creatures are so small and can benefit from small-scale efforts, it's a particularly appropriate for community projects. Communities have started to focus on this. (See sidebar for resources.)

Cities and suburbs can provide habitat connectivity, an extremely important role for communities that only they can play.

Educating the public about the importance of bees would probably be necessary since most people view bees as a problem rather than as the valuable resource they are.

No-mow areas

College roadside ©Janet AllenAlong the roadside of our community college (recently mowed for winter)

Our community college is situated on a hillside near some natural areas, so why create vast maintenance-intensive lawns? The solution is to have meadows, but mow a curving strip near the road, so it shows that this is an intentional landscape. Signage helps, too.