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Pollinator Pathway: Vital Ecology in the Emerald City Pollinator Pathway: Vital Ecology in the Emerald City
Neighborday Communities

Pollinator Pathway: Vital Ecology in the Emerald City

by Theo Schell-Lambert

July 5, 2010

The problem really comes down to color. Conscientious urban planning focuses so much on adding green space that it often doesn't ask whether green is the right hue. "Lawn grass has almost no ecological value for pollinators," says Sarah Bergmann, the founder of the Pollinator Pathway, a project that's transforming a mile-long band of grass in Seattle into gardens where various pollinating creatures can do their critical work. And it is critical. According to Bergmann, the best guess holds that "eighty to ninety percent of all plants and a third of our food supply" ultimately rely on pollination. Which isn't just a bee trade, by the way: Birds and certain mammals also get in on the act.

The Pathway will run between Seattle University and a small wood. (Two garden patches have been finished already, with 16 more planned.) The idea is to connect two existing wildlife-friendly spaces with an uninterrupted run of enticing—and native—plantings. "Ecologically speaking, islands are isolating," says Bergmann. "Connectivity is key to biodiversity."

As for how these flora will look, the Pathway team defers to the taste of the fauna. "We plant in swaths and groupings, since pollinators prefer that," Bergmann says. "And we favor certain colors and shapes, such as blue, which bees prefer, flat flowers, which butterflies like, and tubular flowers for hummingbirds." A garden designer has been brought on to craft the aesthetics, but the planting itself is done with volunteer help. The Emerald City just got a little more sapphire.

Images created by Studio Matthews in collaboration with the University of Washington design program.  

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Pollinator Pathway: Vital Ecology in the Emerald City