The beautiful cycle of natural connections between native plants and native pollinators is the focus of this garden. A variety of perennials and shrubs that bloom throughout the seasons offer sustenance for a diversity of pollinators; each section of the garden focuses on some of the plants favored by a specific type of pollinator.

The planting bed is about five feet wide and, in total, about one hundred feet long, curved in a horseshoe shape. Two existing coast redwood trees anchor the site; they were planted in 1987 by Bay Model head ranger Chris Gallagher. Other than that, the bed had lain fallow for a number of years; the soil was poor and heavily compacted. An old ornamental pear tree in bad shape was removed, as were a handful of non-descript non-native plants. Chris had envisioned a pollinator garden in the space and gotten funding for it; the Marin chapter provided plant expertise, labor, and a vision for what it could become. It turned into a very successful collaborative project!

Planning for the garden began in the fall of 2017 with Laura Lovett, Charlotte Torgovitsky and Kristin Jakob pouring over extensive lists of native plants and creating smaller lists for each individual pollinator section of the garden. Plants were grouped into specific habitats for hummingbirds, songbirds, butterflies, and monarch butterflies; native bees will enjoy all of it. Choices were difficult, both because of limited space, but also because we had a height restriction. To preserve the water view from the lobby of the building, they asked that plants not be more than about four feet at maturity.

All plants chosen for the garden are commonly available and native to Marin County; we did not introduce plants from other ecoregions of the state. Once we had the list of plants figured out, Charlotte’s group of volunteers for Home Ground Habitats started propagating and sourcing as many as possible, adding to the stock over the year as plants became available so they were on hand when we were ready to plant them. Thanks to good garden prep and cool, sunny Sausalito weather, the garden has grown in much faster than anticipated and was full of bloom by the first spring.

Educational signage, with artwork by illustrator Maryjo Koch and design by Laura Lovett, was added to help visitors understand which area is for which pollinator. A free brochure lists the plants growing in the garden—plus some alternate choices—organized by pollinator, and a brief description of what is unique about each. There is also a plant list. Each species of plant in the garden has a label, although some species will come and go according to the seasons.

We owe a huge THANK YOU to all our volunteers from Marin CNPS, SPAWN, and the Bay Model. We could not have done it without all our cheerful helpers! We will continue to maintain and upgrade the garden and welcome volunteer help. Sign up for our monthly electronic e-bulletins to receive notice of workdays in the garden.

Our hope in undertaking this project is that people will come visit and see how beautiful and easy it is to create a garden with California native plants, and be motivated to do the same at home. Pollinators are essential to the food web, as well as being a source of delight in our gardens. We encourage everyone to be more aware of the needs of these tiny creatures that provide such valuable services for all other life on earth.

[Special note: the garden is featured in the Summer 2019 issue of CNPS’s Flora magazine!]

The garden 10 months after planting.

Home of a future native plant pollinator garden at the Bay Model.

Planning for the garden began in the fall of 2017 with Laura Lovett, Charlotte Torgovitsky and Kristin Jakob pouring over extensive lists of native plants and creating smaller lists for each individual pollinator habitat section of the garden: for butterflies, native bees, songbirds, and hummingbirds, plus a Monarch way station.

When the boulders were delivered to the site, Dan’s California Native Landscapes crew worked with the Army Corps guys and their backhoe to move the boulders into place. In order to make boulders and stones look natural in a garden setting, about one-third of the boulder must be buried in the dirt; the crew dug and filled around the rocks as they were brought into place with the equipment.

When the boulders were delivered to the site, Dan’s California Native Landscapes crew worked with the Army Corps guys and their backhoe to move the boulders into place. In order to make boulders and stones look natural in a garden setting, about one-third of the boulder must be buried in the dirt; the crew dug and filled around the rocks as they were brought into place with the equipment.

Additional irrigation stations had to be added so we could run the different sections of the garden, as well as the water features, as separate zones with different watering times.

Additional irrigation stations had to be added so we could run the different sections of the garden, as well as the water features, as separate zones with different watering times.

Upright edging was installed between the garden and the lawn to keep the lawn grass from encroaching into the new garden soil.

Once the boulders were placed, we brought in more soil to mound up around the rocks and create variation in the topography of the garden. For the area around the existing redwood trees, we used two cubic yards of a more acidic Rhododendron blend. For the remainder of the garden, we brought in seven cubic yards of a clean clay/loam fill dirt, purchased from Marin Landscape Materials in Novato.

Plants arrive! Once we had the list of plants figured out, Charlotte’s Home Ground Habitats volunteers propagated and sourced the majority of the stock. They added continually to the stock over the year so that the plants were on hand when it was the proper planting time.

June 2018. Charlotte arrived on workdays with her SUV loaded with plants, tools, hoses and trugs. Each plant was cleaned up and shaped before being put into the ground. We had a planting plan prepared but as we saw how things looked together, we made some alterations. The volunteers helped us choose specific placements and combinations of plants.

We weren’t able to start planting until early June, and by then the soil was dry and hard. We had to work with large garden forks and a hose to prepare each planting hole. It’s not the ideal way to plant, but it worked!

We started with more than five-dozen plants, mostly one-gallon size, focusing on the shrubs and ‘bones’ of the garden. Right after planting day, Dan and his crew returned to install irrigation lines and place an individual emitter at each plant.

Since the location of the garden is so public—and a very popular dog-walking spot—we realized that some sort of fencing would be necessary to keep dogs and small children from trampling the plants. A temporary fence of bamboo stakes and black plastic netting served the purpose until a permanent fence could be installed.

By September, our little seedlings were in bloom and the garden was taking off. Roseann dal Bello, ASLA, took over as our irrigation specialist, and adjusted the irrigation systems after each successive planting. Orange flags marked the location of newly-added plants so she knew where irrigation heads were needed.

Roseann also got the birdbath and the hummingbird mister working.

There is no electricity at the garden site, so the irrigation timer is on a battery, and the re-circulating birdbath gets power from a small solar panel. CNPS member and skilled carpenter Eddie Robertson built a frame for the solar panel from salvaged redwood fencing.

Proper plant labels were ordered from a company in Illinois that provides them to botanical gardens. There is one sign for each species, but we’ve found that many of the labels have vanished under the foliage already.