These Doors Do Heavy Metal!

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The Bronze Doors and a shipyard car and chauffeur, Mr. Fisher. The shipyard ran this car every morning and evening to the Museum and hydraulic lab to carry mail, lab, information, and passengers, July 1939. Image Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

Have you ever noticed the big metal doors at the Business Entrance of The Mariners’ Museum and Park? Have you ever thought that maybe they were a little fancy for an entrance where deliveries are made and staff enters to gather our badges and trek to wherever our offices happen to be on-site? Well, those doors, made of bronze, are actually part of our Collection and used to be the Main Entrance to the Museum!

There is a bit of a story behind them. As you have probably read in a previous blog, Archer M. Huntington was the driving force behind the construction of The Mariners’ Museum and Park. It was his vision to have a stunning entrance to the Museum, something that would visually make people stop and say “WOW!”. Incidentally, this is why the original portion of the Museum has the very unusual “Huntington Squeeze” brick and mortar technique. It’s done by not scraping off the mortar as layers of bricks are added in the wall construction.

Archer really liked it and used the style often at many of his homes and museums. I’m sure constructing it made brick mason’s cringe. Anyway, he wanted some really impressive doors for his new Museum. So where did he turn? To his longtime friend, Herbert Adams, professional and very successful sculptor extraordinaire.

Samuel Herbert Adams was born in 1858 in West Concord, Massachusetts. At the young age of five, his family moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts so his father could take a job at the Putnam Machine Company. He attended public school and was inspired by his first art teacher to pursue a career in art. Adams attended the Massachusetts Normal School in Boston and earned a teaching certificate. He taught from 1878 until 1882 Deciding this was not the best use of his time or talent, he left for Paris, France. From 1885 until 1890 he studied art with Antonin Mercié.

In 1889 private funds were donated for an ornamental fountain to be built in the “town square” in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Adams’ home town. This 26-foot diameter granite and bronze fountain showing two playful boys and a family of turtles was the first public commission awarded to Adams and was created in his Paris studio. This was the first, large sculpture, done in the “lost-wax” process, brought to America. Below is a video from the National Sculpture Society (yes, Adams was a member) about the “Lost Wax Casting Process”.

This was a banner year for Herbert Adams (he didn’t use his first name of Samuel) as this was also the year that he married his wife, Adeline Valentine Pond. Isn’t that just a lovely name? Ironically she grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, but they found one another in Paris! They met in 1887 when she posed for a marble bust that ended up being exhibited at the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She inspired her husband to use a new technique of polychrome busts and tinted marbles. It was very new and cutting edge.

Interestingly enough, they both attended the Massachusetts Normal School in Boston. Basically, it was a college to prep students to become teachers. Although only a year apart, he started at 18 and Adeline started at age 21. She was an artist in her own right but was also a huge advocate for female sculptors, including Anna Hyatt Huntington (our Museum’s benefactor). She also advocated for war memorials to be created with purpose by professional artists, instead of being mass-produced in factories.

Adeline wrote seven books, including The Spirit of American Sculpture; Daniel Chester French, Sculptor; Childe Hassam: John Quincy Adams Ward: An Appreciation; Sylvia: An Exhibition of American Sculpture; and “Our medals and Our Medals.” And yes, the publication really does have a lower case “m” in the title. Annoying, I know. She also wrote quite a bit of poetry including two collections about her deceased daughters, Mary and Sylvia, both of whom died in infancy.

Basically, what we have here is an artistic power couple who moved in creative, cultured circles. They began spending summers at the Cornish Artists’ Colony in Cornish, New Hampshire, in the late 1890s. Artists’ Colony? Well, the image below is just the sort of thing that comes to mind when one says “Artists’ Colony”, am I right?

And that really is part of it. The Cornish Artists’ Colony was one of the more popular places for creative fine art activity in the eastern United States. Between, 1895 and 1925, nearly 100 artists, sculptors, writers, designers, and well-known politicians chose Cornish as the area where they wanted to live either full time or during the summer months. Parties, drama, theater, games, and any kind of art you can imagine went on there. There is even a historical marker!

 

And even a book! Yes, of course, I ordered it.

Herbert and Adeline began spending summers at Cornish in late 1890. They purchased land in nearby Plainfield and built a house, which he named “Hermitage”. The home, which included an outdoor amphitheater (now, who doesn’t need their own amphitheater?) for theatrical presentations, was designed by his artist friend, Charles A. Platt. President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, a seasonal resident of the Colony, wrote her husband daily in 1913, and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Adams are among the choice spirits of the Colony both intellectually and spiritually.” Among his other talents, Herbert was also apparently an ace at charades! The Adams spent 40 summers at the Colony. Yet, they called New York home.

So what was Herbert doing the rest of the year? In 1890 through 1898, he was an instructor in the art school of Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. He was elected into the National Academy of Design in 1898: and in 1906, was elected vice president of the National Academy of Design, New York. Herbert later served as President from 1917 to 1920. He was also part of the American Numismatic Society (a fancy name for all things relating to coins, paper currency, and medals). Archer M. Huntington was also a member and paid for the museum’s expansion in 1929. Anna Hyatt Huntington also designed medals. As you can see, there were several overlapping ways that Archer and Herbert could have met. Their wives already knew one another. And Archer needed an amazing sculptor. But why Herbert Adams specifically? Let’s have a look at some of the doors he had already designed:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bronze Doors at The Mariners’ Museum and Park were commissioned in 1932. Commenting on the commission, Herbert Adams said, “The history of shipping and the mythology of the sea allowed for freedom of fancy and freshness, and a variety of ornament.”

He created the clay sculptures over the next three years, done panel by panel. The bad relief panels include historic ship designs, detailed sea life, images of man working and navigating the sea, maps of continents and heavens, and mythological creatures, all surrounded by historically accurate maritime rope and knot-work.

 

 

 

In August of 1935, the Gorham Company of New York cast the central doors and transom piece in Providence, Rhode Island (my home state!). They were shipped to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock via a ship of the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company. They were moved to the Museum in November and by January of 1936, the central doors and transom had been installed, cleaned, and patinaed. In November of 1936, the side panels were completed and shipping in March of 1937, and then installed. The doors were completed in June of 1937. The doors include a triptych and are filled with imagery.

Definition of “triptych” 1. a picture (such as an altarpiece) or carving in three panels side by side and 2. something composed or presented in three parts or sections.

Archer M. Huntington wanted his global vision in four massive panels with a transom. His mission was: “This Museum is devoted to the culture of the Seas and its tributaries – its conquest by Man and it’s influence on Civilization” (if you follow our blogs, you’ll know that we’ve updated that a bit). So he did get exactly what he was hoping for, and it’s still a triptych since the center is two doors but it counts as one section!

I’m including several letters of correspondence between Herbert Adams and several Museum employees at the time. These are part of our Collection. How awesome is that? You get to read someone else’s mail!

Years ago, well not THAT long ago (10 years?), but in my time at the Museum, we used to close the Bronze Doors every night to cover the inner glass doors. It took quite a bit of effort as the doors are VERY heavy. They slide on a track at both the top and bottom. Well, I was pushing with my back, a rock had fallen in the lower track (unbeknownst to me), the door wouldn’t budge, I shoved harder and threw out my back! It was decided then that maybe the doors should not be moved daily. Our Conservation team does periodic scheduled checks on them and cleaning when necessary. After all, we would like them to last for a very long time!

Aren’t these doors amazing? And even better, you can be part of keeping their legacy alive!

The Bronze Door Society is the oldest, member-managed affinity group of The Mariners’ Museum and Park. This active group supports the Museum’s mission and programs by investing, primarily, in the conservation of our world-class Collection. Each October, members of the Society are invited to cast their vote for a range of projects developed and presented by Museum staff at the Society’s Annual Dinner and Project Selection event. We invite you to join a group of leaders who are playing a role in ensuring the preservation of the world’s rich maritime heritage. To learn more, please contact Luisa A. Vázquez-López at (757) 591-7705 or [email protected]

You can also read and get more information here: https://www.marinersmuseum.org/bronze-door-society/

Here’s the link to the Bronze Doors in Museum’s Collection catalog. There is a fantastic PDF of a description of the panels in the Bronze Doors, written by Cynthia Katz (awesome long time Bronze Door Society member). I’ve updated a bit of the history in my blog post as we’ve learned more about the artist and the doors themselves.

https://catalogs.marinersmuseum.org/object/CL13380

Noone asked me…

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Image credit: Marc Nucup

…but I thought I would volunteer an annotated list of some of the maritime history books that I have found myself pulling off the shelf (again and again) for reference during my twenty-year tenure at The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

The Story of Sail by Veres László and Richard Woodman (Chatham Publishing: 1999) is a dense volume of over 1000 scale drawings of (you guessed it) sailing vessels. A wealth of details about sails and rigging are complemented with great drawings of the vessels themselves all backed by a thorough bibliography.   Read more

The Anatomy of a Mission

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A group of 3rd grade students from L.F. Palmer Elementary School in Newport News working with Master Naturalists to build the Museum’s pollinator garden in October 2019. Photo: The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

This is my first blog for the Museum, and I intend for this to be a message of hope against the backdrop of a period of heightened pain and anxiety in our country.

I believe wholeheartedly in our team, our mission, and the fact that both are up to tackling even the toughest of society’s problems. I will do my best to explain our team’s posture and approach in a way that represents our view that we can simultaneously be clear-eyed and honest about the flaws in our communities and also be positive and optimistic about our collective future.

So, in this post, I will put our mission up against this moment in our nation’s history. If it stands up (and I believe it does), I want to show that our beloved Museum – and cultural institutions like us – can be a powerful tool to build the prosperous, peaceful, and vibrant communities to which we all aspire.

The starting point for our team is always service, empathy and love. To begin a conversation about how our Museum addresses the challenges of the moment, it is important to me to go first:

I love and respect the Black and Brown men and women on our team, and I cannot imagine our team without them. I am humbled and grateful for the Black and Brown leaders in my life who shaped me as a leader.

Speaking more broadly to our community, I want our Black and Brown neighbors, colleagues, and friends who are reading this in Newport News, Hampton Roads, and elsewhere, to know that The Mariners’ Museum is YOUR museum. We are committed to telling YOUR stories. We care about you, and our communities are better everywhere when Black and Brown lives flourish.

One final thought before beginning: It is impossible NOT to see the evil in the world today. The question is, are we going to be overcome by that evil, or are we going to overcome that evil with good? Let’s get started…

THE MISSION

Many readers of this blog will know that in the summer of 2016, our team at The Mariners’ Museum and Park committed to a new Mission statement:

The Mariners’ Museum and Park connects people to the world’s waters, because through the waters – through our shared maritime heritage – we are connected to one another.

We chose these particular words to guide our work for two main reasons:

1. The Museum Charter: Our original 1930 Charter established a museum and a library, within a park, that preserves and promotes maritime heritage “to promote the public welfare.” This last phrase – “to promote the public welfare” – reminds us that we don’t get to simply “play museum” when we go to work. Our charter compels our team to do good in the world.

2. Social Capital: Today, we interpret our charge to “promote the public welfare” as building social capital in our local, national, and global communities. Most definitions of “social capital” capture a few key elements: the degree to which individuals identify as a part of a larger community; the level of trust between people within that community; and the frequency and quality of social exchange between people within that community. A growing body of literature finds that the higher the level of social capital in a community, the more resilient that entire community is and the greater potential for economic growth that community possesses. Those are pretty good components of “public welfare,” too.

Now that you have this baseline understanding of our compelling mission and a little bit of the intellectual framework behind it, I am anxious to show how we actually apply it. So, let’s take up the urgency of the news today. Virtually the entire country watched, in horror, the video of a Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd a month ago. Our team, using our mission as a guide, has already begun to respond to this moment in history with empathy, and with an approach that we learned four years ago and have practiced ever since. 

THE APPROACH

During one week in July 2016, police officers killed two African American men on two consecutive days, in two different states: Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Later that week, an African American veteran killed five police officers in Dallas. Nationwide protests and demonstrations followed, including demonstrations right here in Hampton Roads, VA. I remember thinking that our team had just adopted this new mission statement about how the water binds us together as a community, and here’s this moment in time when that community felt really fractured.

I was still an interim president that summer, living in Newport News during the week and returning home to my family in Charlottesville over the weekend. I called my wife that Friday afternoon and explained that I was going to stay in Newport News over the weekend to attend Ivy Baptist Church (one of the largest African American Baptist Churches in the southeast community of Newport News) on Sunday. I figured the least I could do was to be present.

I showed up without telling the senior pastor, my friend (and now a Trustee of The Mariners’ Museum and Park) Kevin Swann, that I was coming. Little did I know that Pastor Swann had invited the Newport News Chief of Police to participate in a town hall at the start of the service. When I – a bald White man – walked into the sanctuary unannounced, everyone thought I was a police officer! The ushers promptly walked me to the front of the sanctuary to sit next to the Chief.

After a powerful dialogue with the Chief, Pastor Swann took to the pulpit to begin the worship service. He saw me sitting there in the front row and said, “Before I begin, I just want to acknowledge that Howard Hoege from The Mariners’ Museum is here. It’s good to have friends in the community in times like these.” He was talking about the Museum. 

Following the service, several people thanked me for being there. An exchange with one woman stuck out, though, and helped me realize that many in our community couldn’t afford the $14 per person that we were charging to enter our Museum. Our mission sounded great, but a barrier to entry in the form of an admission price was excluding many in the southeast community, and no doubt many others. Access was a key problem for us to solve.

As a team, we decided to act. Specifically, we decided to go first – to serve. We dropped our price of admission for the entire month of August 2016 to $1 per person as a reminder that through the water, through our shared maritime heritage, we are ONE City, ONE Region, ONE Nation, ONE World – One Dollar. That month, we went from an August average of 5,500 visitors in our galleries to over 39,000 visitors, thousands of whom were African Americans visiting our Museum for the first time. Our staff poured into the galleries, meeting people where they were, and telling a more complete version of history than our exhibits could tell on their own.

That fundamental step – to go first, to serve first – led to several additional steps and substantial change to improve access in the intervening years:

  • By pursuing corporate sponsorships and private philanthropy, we were able to offer free educational enrichment programs to several Title I schools in our region. Our corporate partners provide a free student membership to every student who participates as a way to encourage their ownership of our communities’ history. This past school year, we were also able to pay for the transportation costs for thousands of students to get to the Museum and participate in those programs.
  • On the second Sunday of each month, we now open early for “Friendly Hours,” which is included with $1 admission. Friendly Hours is an inclusive time where guests with mobility, cognitive, or physical challenges can experience the Museum in a less crowded environment with reduced sound and lighting.
  • We developed and now regularly deliver programming that describes the African and African American Maritime Experience, with the goal of more completely acknowledging the contributions of all who have played a role in shaping our shared maritime heritage. 

THE APPROACH – NOW

Now, in June, 2020, our posture and approach – and most certainly, our mission – remain exactly the same. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and others who preceded him, our empathy first turned inward. Our team began an open, internal dialogue about our own, individual experiences with fear, anger, and distrust caused by injustices in the world. We could see on one another the scars of the very fractures that we were hoping to mend in our community. As has become our habit over the past four years, we then turned outward and started to identify the things we could do immediately to serve our community. We quickly zeroed in on the inconsistent message that we were sending to the African American community, in particular, between the mission we adopted to serve and empower on the one hand, and the monument the Museum established by creating a lake in honor of Matthew Fontaine Maury on the other. Recognizing the potential harm in that inconsistency, our Board of Trustees voted on June 19th to begin the formal process of changing the name of Lake Maury to “The Mariners’ Lake”.

The Mariners’ Museum created our lake in the early 1930s by building the Lions Bridge to dam Water’s Creek. The Museum’s first trustees named the new lake in honor of Matthew Fontaine Maury and his significant contributions to oceanography that made him known as “The Pathfinder of the Seas.” Maury made those contributions as an officer in the US Navy in the early 1800s, but at the outset of the Civil War, Maury resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Navy. Before the war, he explored the idea of and advocated for establishing colonies in Brazil and Central America where Southern slave owners could relocate or expand their operations. Following the Civil War, Maury served the Emperor of Mexico as the Imperial Commissioner of Colonization. Regardless of the original trustees’ intentions in the lake’s name, preserving his name on a lake inadvertently makes an implicit value statement that we, today, honor and value all of Maury’s work and beliefs, which we do not.

To take it one step further, our team is actively planning to put kayaks and canoes back on our lake. As we discussed changing the name to The Mariners’ Lake, I kept running a scenario in my mind: members of our education team are leading a science program for local 5th graders who are all in boats on the water. Imagine one of those 5th grade students is an African American boy exhilarated by his experience on the water. What happens when that child asks, “Who is Lake Maury named after?” With one simple question, that young child’s meaningful and experiential access to science and education is completely flipped into – at best – a shocking and confusing emotional moment that steals a piece of the innocence of a child discovering the world around him. Matthew Fontaine Maury’s story is completely out of context for both the lake and how our visitors – not just this one child – will experience it.

=&0=&. We still tell the story of Maury’s role in history within our galleries and I suspect that we will continue to tell it. Our galleries are the appropriate place to do so. But we want our Park and Lake to serve its original purpose, perhaps explained best in a 1932 letter found in the Museum’s archives:

One of the splendid things this wonderful park can accomplish is to change public sentiment towards the good, the elevating, the proper spirit.

We have already stepped up our efforts to reveal this nation’s hidden history, an effort that is and will increasingly become the core of who we are. Those efforts begin with our own institution’s hidden history. I included these photos as a visual reminder that the literal foundation for the Lions Bridge dam that created The Mariners’ Lake and the foundation for our Museum buildings were laid by skilled African American hands. Those same hands erected the Museum buildings, and we are determined to name those men and women and to properly recognize their role in making our beloved Museum the special place that it is.

OUR COMMITMENT GOING FORWARD

We are not perfect at this work. While we have established baseline access for many in our community, we are not yet reaching everyone. We do not yet know if we are actually building social capital in our communities, but we are at the beginning stages of working with the Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University and others to figure out how we can measure whether or not we are actually having the desired impact our mission suggests we can have.

While we are not perfect, we are totally committed to this mission. Our steps over the last four years and our actions in the last month are all intended to awaken in every corner of our communities a sense of a shared maritime heritage that transcends race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomics, and all of the ways in which we sometimes feel different from one another. If we can do that, we just might grow a little social capital and turn the tide of even those most intractable problems our communities face.

Does all this sound a little too lofty? Maybe a little beyond the “scope” of a museum? Our founder, Archer Huntington, who established The Mariners’ Museum to “promote the public welfare,” provided the beginning of an answer in the early 1930s:

On the whole, I think it is bad for the spirit to bother about what other museums have done, in view of the fact that we do not ever wish to do the same. If the Mariners’ Museum has no new line of work and no new Museum principles to prove, it is a waste of time and energy.

We are determined to make good on Huntington’s charge to us. Circling back to the beginning: we believe that the resilience and potential for economic growth in our communities depend on the social capital that derives, in part, from a sense of a shared history across our communities. =&1=& I am proud that our team’s posture of service, empathy, and love has led to an approach for our Museum that might actually make our communities stronger.   Read more

Celebrate Pollinator Week June 22-28, 2020

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Bee in beardtongue flower
Calico beardtongue with a fuzzy, busy visitor!
Photo courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park

Today’s post is in honor and celebration of Pollinator Week

Warning: This post is full of cute bee butts!

In my last post, I explained some details of our fantastic pollinator garden at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, and how our local community and Museum staff helped to build, plant, and maintain it. I touched a bit on some of the plants featured in the garden and some of the pollinators who might visit those plants. Here, the reader can learn a bit more about the pollinators we have record of in the Park and how those specific plants are assisting them in their warm-weather pollen feast. 

Basics of pollination

First of all, let’s take a step back and talk about pollination. What is it? Pollination is simply moving pollen grains from one flower to another flower from the same species. This act of transferring pollen between flowers helps many of the world’s flowering plants to continue to bear fruit and reproduce year after year. It’s estimated that 78% to 94% of the world’s flowering plants need a little help from animal friends— pollinators that is!

Pollinators can be either biotic (living) or abiotic (nonliving). Common pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, (fruit-eating) bats, hummingbirds, small mammals, water, and the wind. Additionally, numerous flowering plants have also evolved and developed a special relationship with pollinators to make their flower traits are more appealing so those flowers get pollinated. Some plants might give off a certain smell, the flower might be a certain color or shape, and all of those factors influence who comes to the flower. These traits and characteristics on a flowering plant trying to attract specific pollinators are called Pollinator Syndromes.

As one can imagine, pollinators aren’t aware of this process, they are in it for the food! Each of the special pollinators is adapted to these special flowers, for example, the tongues of hummingbirds are much longer than bee tongues, so hummingbirds often prefer the flowers that are trumpet-shaped. Bees, however, have been shown to also bypass those trumpet-shaped flowers and chew through the bottom petals to get to the sweet nectar! (Bees also will chew on plant leaves to make the plants hurry up and produce flowers if they need some fast food in the spring.) Clever adapting bees! 

Bees in North America

In North America alone, we have 4,000 unique bee species and nearly 22,000 species worldwide! From the data we’ve collected over the past few years in the Park, especially from iNaturalist, visitors have spotted the common eastern bumblebee, eastern carpenter bee, and southeast blueberry bee.

I’ve personally seen other native bees including various types of sweat bees and mason bees. We also see Honeybees in the Park, but since that species is originally from Europe, it’s not part of the 4,000 North American native species. There are many, many more bee species in this area, so if you’re on iNaturalist in the Park, please take a picture of other bees (and pollinators in general) to help expand our database!

Pollinators in the Park

As listed previously, pollinators can also be butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, bats, and hummingbirds. Some pollinators recorded from our iNaturalist citizen-science database include: ruby-throated hummingbird, eastern tiger swallowtail, pearl crescent butterfly, isabella tiger moth, horned passalus beetle, henry’s elfin (butterfly), and so many more! (Visit our page for more information. You can also visit our eBird page as well to see the birds who fly through and might eat some of those pollinators for their dinner.) 

Plant planning (larval hostplants)

When we were planning the plants in the pollinator garden, I wanted a few important elements to be upheld during this process of garden planning. The plants needed to be native to Virginia, there would be no harmful and unnecessary chemical pesticides/herbicides applied, and I wanted as many plants as possible to not only be great pollinator sources, but also larval =&0=& for caterpillars of native moths and butterflies. 

A great example of a host plant relationship most people know about is between milkweed and the monarch butterfly. The eggs of the monarch are laid on the milkweed. As caterpillars, they eat the milkweed leaves, which for the monarch caterpillars, in turn, makes them poisonous to predators. The distinctive caterpillar body coloration (black, yellow, and white stripes) on the caterpillar tell predators they are not tasty! When the caterpillar eventually transforms into an adult butterfly, the milkweed also becomes a great source of food that the butterflies can feed on during their magnificent multi-generational journey from Canada to Mexico and back. (Visit Monarch Watch for more information on monarchs and their amazing journey!

Larval host plants are important to all moths, butterflies, and skippers– it is literally their home and meal during their larval stage of life. Some species might have many plants they call home, and others only have one type. The monarchs mentioned above only use milkweed, while other butterflies might be able to use a few different plants. Henry’s elfin butterfly, one that is in the Park mentioned previously, has a few different larval host plants including hackberries, blueberries, and eastern redbuds to name a few.

Though in this round of planting selection we were not able to get all the larval host plants I dreamed of (I can dream, can’t I?), we were successful in the end to get quite a few. According to Piedmont Environmental Council, we have seven larval host plants. Listed below are the plants and the butterflies they are host to: 

  1. Purple coneflower: silvery checkerspot
  2. Beardtongues: common buckeye
  3. Turtlehead: Baltimore checkerspot 
  4. Asters: pearl crescent and silvery checkerspot
  5. Spiderworts: common buckeye 
  6. Joe-pye weed: painted lady
  7. Columbine: spring azur

If you look at the list referenced above, we don’t have plants in here that are larval hosts for moths, however, with our diverse plant life in the Park, we actually have so many of the plant species listed on Piedmont Environmental Council‘s chart. We’re doing okay!  

Curated for Phenology 

The plant choice was additionally curated in part to consider phenology, or the bloom time of plants throughout the year. We wanted to create appeal and interest to our pollinators, which means making sure your plants don’t all bloom at the same time.

The red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a wonderful spring-bloomer. It’s also shade-loving, so it was a good fit for the slightly shader areas of the garden. The creeping phlox was an earlier bloomer in the spring (see image above). Based on the images Amanda Sheilds snapped recently, the calico beardtongue (Penstemon calycosus) is full of lovely flowers now! The bees seem to love it! Later in the season (summer, end of summer, and fall) other plants will get their chance to shine, like the sweet joe-pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora), and the purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea).

Why pollinators matter

To end our pollinator chat today, let’s talk about why pollinators matter. Many pollinators, like the bumblebee, are keystone species, which means they are a species that many other animals depend upon. When the keystone species are taken out of an ecosystem, it can throw the entire system out of whack. Imagine the ecosystems are like big clocks with lots of gears. If you take one critical gear out, the whole clock stops working.

A world without bees pollinating our flowering plants, like blueberries, strawberries, wheat, corn, zucchini, and so on, means we don’t have those foods. (Unless we physically pollinate them– but again, that’s another conversation or another day). According to Pollinator Partnership, pollinators provide us with one out of every three bites of food. Without our pollinators doing their job and helping plants, then our growing world population increasingly faces food security issues. Don’t forget that other animals rely on those foods for their survival, too, so it doesn’t just affect humans, but all animals who are relying on pollination to happen.

What you can do to help!

Our hardworking pollinators are struggling around the world in many ways due to the compounding issues of climate change, pesticides, disease, and other pressures, but you can help to make a difference.

You can build a little pollinator garden, or just plant native plants for the pollinators. Do some research on which plants are best for your green space. Ask around to make sure if the plants are native to the area– some places will only tell you what attracts pollinators, but leaves out if they are native plants or not.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is invasive and aggressive. Don’t put it anywhere near your garden! It might attract pollinators, but it does little for our ecosystem, and there are many other alternatives out there that are better for this area (read this source to learn more).

Lastly, please, for the love of bees, do NOT use chemical pesticides or herbicides. The chemicals that are meant to kill mosquitoes, that are heavily used in the summer, actually kill all insects, including the vital ones like our pollinators. We need those insects– and other critters eat those insects. They are all part of our ecosystem, too.