Big thanks to Carly from our friends The Plymouth Pollinators for taking the time to write a blog post for The Old Village Voice.
It was June of 2020, and the world was still in lock-down from the pandemic. While most people were sheltering in place and working from home, the City of Plymouth Department of Municipal Services (DMS) were still coming in everyday to take care of the city. To prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 to the entire team, the DMS workers split into two groups and worked 13.5-hour shifts for six straight days. After, they went home to their families for a week while the other team took over. Since there wasn’t nearly as much activity going on in the city, the workers found that they had a little extra time on their hands and wanted to do something fun and positive to keep morale up during such a difficult time.
A few of the guys had been over to our house the previous summer and were quite taken with all the pollinator gardens that Dave and I had installed in our backyard. They thought it was pretty cool that we were trying to help the pollinators and loved all the bee and butterfly activity that was going on at the Cirilli house. It was quickly decided, “let’s do a pollinator garden in the city!”
When Dave came home and told me, I was absolutely thrilled. One of the things that was getting me through the pandemic was being outside working in my garden, creating a little pollinator haven. Adding a pollinator garden to the city would a) help to create awareness about pollinator decline and habitat and b) would give me the excuse to plant more plants.
The first location chosen was a space across the street from Lions Club on Burroughs and Hartsough. The weather was hot,and the work was hard, but soon enough the space was cleared,and plants were installed over a few weeks’ time. We were so proud with how the garden turned out and it felt so good to do something positive during this time of despair. We knew we had to keep going.
Another garden location was quickly identified in Old Village in the fire station park located on Spring and Holbrook. The DMS crew got right to work clearing out the space. The garden was going to be fairly large, so the task of filling it was a bit daunting.
Before picture of the garden with weeds and invasive plants.
Some of the guys thoughtfully pitched in and bought a few plants. However, it was the federal stimulus checks that came in handy the most. Since Dave and I were lucky enough to still be working, we wanted to use that money towards the greater good; so off to the nurseries we went (fully masked and social distanced, of course). The rest of the summer was spent watering and tending to the garden and imagining what it would look like once it was mature. Since we couldn’t go out for date nights, we spent evenings at home painting little wooden pollinator critters to add to the garden for fun.
Firestation garden in Old Village August 2020 with garden critters.
As people began emerging from their homes later that summer, the garden started to get a lot of interest. We got all kinds of questions from passersby. “Why did you do this? What kind of plant is that? How do you find a butterfly egg?” We started to see that this was becoming something bigger, so we started the Plymouth Pollinator Facebook group where people could ask garden and pollinator questions and share tips and tricks. It was all very exciting. Three years later, Plymouth Pollinators is now a 501c3 nonprofit working to increase community awareness around pollinator habitat.
When we look back on that summer, we think about how lucky we were to stay safe and healthy. But most of all, we think about the gardens. They gave us hope and a chance to focus our attention on something beautiful and optimistic. We are so verygrateful to DMS workers Chris Helinski, Nick Johns, and Aaron Micek (now our Plymouth Pollinator board VP) for all of their dedication and hard work. We will be forever bonded by the pandemic gardens from the summer of 2020.
Since the that summer, Plymouth Pollinators has added a lot more native plants to the Old Village fire station park garden and even installed a butterfly bench last year. The garden has also been certified as a Monarch Waystation. In addition to this garden, several other smaller pollinator gardens have been added around three of the Welcome to Old Village Signs.
Carly and Dave hanging out in the garden.
Firestation garden in Old Village summer of 2022.
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