The Pollinator Garden At Pacific Science Center
It’s National Pollinator Week, a time to celebrate the pollinators in our lives. Pacific Science Center has been showcasing one specific group of pollinators since 1998, when our Tropical Butterfly House opened and began providing up-close encounters with tropical butterflies. For many years since then, the Life Sciences Manager dreamed of creating a complementary exhibit space that supports Washington native butterflies and other local pollinators. In 2014, a grant from the Pendleton and Elisabeth Miller Charitable Foundation provided the opportunity for the Boeing Courtyard to be renovated and transformed into a living exhibit dedicated to local Seattle pollinators.
Pacific Science Center’s Pollinator Garden aims to help people better understand pollinators and the challenges they face. The garden provides food and habitat for local Seattle Center pollinator animals that may choose to visit the space. People who walk through the Boeing Courtyard have an opportunity to see these pollinators up close. Exhibit signage provides information about pollinator biology, and small but impactful ways to help at home. Many of the plants are labeled to make it easier for guests to identify plants they like.
The plants in the Pollinator Garden provide nectar, pollen and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife throughout the year. Though there are many ornamental garden plants that effectively support pollinators, we chose to grow Washington native plants. Native plants sometimes have unique co-evolutionary relationships with native pollinators, so they may better support local native and endemic pollinators. Some of the plants serve as unique host plant species needed by native butterflies to feed their larvae. Once established, most native plants need less water, fertilizer, and pesticide than non-native plants, making them more environmentally friendly to grow. Additionally, planting native plants allows PSC guests to experience species that are unique to Washington ecosystems. We hope that exposure to native plants and pollinators will encourage interest in stewardship of our native ecosystems.
The staff and volunteers who care for the Pollinator Garden have enjoyed watching it grow these past few years. As the third year begins, the plants are filling in the garden space, many flowers are blooming for the first time, and on sunny days the air is abuzz with pollinators. We monitor our plants each month to see what’s in bloom, and observe which pollinators visit. Each year has given us greater insight into how to better support this small ecosystem in the heart of the city. We look forward to doing even more educational programing in the Pollinator Garden later this year, with a grant to create interactive educational programming about pollination.
The next time you visit Pacific Science Center, consider taking some time to stroll through the Pollinator Garden. Different flowers bloom each month, with unique colors, shapes, and scents to attract specific animals. Who knows which pollinators you may see visiting the garden, enjoying the same flowers that you are?