SOUTHINGTON — The women running the pollinator pathway garden along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail are looking for volunteers to help with daily maintenance so they can resume focusing on educational activities now that the pandemic has eased.
In the past when college students and residents were able to help care for the garden, Southington residents Kim Rees and Clare Bean were able to bring scout troops and other groups to the garden and teach them about pollinators and the ecosystem. With pandemic restrictions lifted, Rees hopes to resume hosting groups.
“I would like to do more educational things like that. It's just difficult because it's myself and one other person,” said Rees, who worked with Bean to create the garden near the Southington Dog Park in 2018.
Those interested in volunteering at the garden can reach Bean at 860-209-1028 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of the time Rees and Bean spend at the garden each day is dedicated to maintenance — planting, watering, removing faded and dead flowers and replacing plant labels. Last fall, a group of volunteers helped plant tulips, daffodils and hyacinths to expand the garden.
Rees believes it’s important to educate kids about native plants that support the ecosystem. When one family recently came up to her in the garden, she was able to point to a milkweed leaf covered in aphids being eaten by ladybugs as a microcosm of how the food chain functions. Milkweed is the only plant monarch butterflies will consume and lay their eggs on, so the ladybugs play an important role in supporting the declining population of the butterflies — which are a major pollinator.
Retired Water Division Supervisor Bill Casarella said the garden has become a focal point along the Southington section of the linear trail. It is located on a plot of land owned by the Water Division and grew out of a small rest area, with a drinking water fountain and benches, that was installed when the trail first opened.
“They've gone beyond our expectations of going to the garden and keeping it up,” he said of the efforts by Rees and Bean. Garden home to art as well as pollinators
The garden began as an offshoot of the Art for a Cause afterschool program Rees and Bean started at Kelley Elementary School around nine years ago. Children created artwork to be auctioned off to benefit a cause of the children’s choosing and the garden was meant as a place to display some of the art.
“The first purpose of the garden was to have a place to exhibit all the beautiful artwork the kids did … and from there it bloomed into if we have this garden, let's keep up with the times and make it into a pollinator garden,” Rees said.
A memorial with a mosaic stone and a wooden swinging bench was added to the garden last summer in memory of Julia Bruno, a Southington High School student who was killed in a car accident in 2019.
A section of the garden is also planted with Four O'Clock flowers cultivated from seeds provided by the Petit Family Foundation as an installation of Michaela's Garden — a series of gardens planted across the state in memory of the lives lost in the 2007 Petit home invasion in Cheshire.
Seeds from the flowers grown in Southington are sold each year with the proceeds going to the foundation.
Information on events, fundraisers and photos of the garden can be found at the garden's Facebook page: Art For A Cause Pollinator Garden.