Gardens at Governor's Residence certified

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Reacting to sagging populations of bees and other pollinators, members of Gov. Tom Corbett's staff recently sought and received Penn State Extension certification for the gardens at the Governor's Residence as "pollinator friendly."

Taking advantage of an Extension program offered by Penn State Master Gardeners -- which recognizes gardens with features and plant species beneficial to bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators -- the gardens at the Harrisburg landmark were designated "healthy habitat for native insects and animals."

Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, presented Gov. Corbett with a pollinator-friendly garden certificate during the Government and Industry Day Luncheon at Penn State's Ag Progress Days today (Aug. 17). Emphasizing the importance of pollinators to the state and nation's food supply, McPheron commended the governor on setting an example for citizens to follow.

"One of every three bites of food comes to us by way of pollinators," he said. "Pollinators need our help. Both wild and domesticated bee populations are declining, affected by habitat loss, disease and contact with pesticides. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners are taking action to protect pollinators by planting pollinator-friendly gardens and providing education for the gardening public.

"By having the gardens at the Governor's Residence certified as pollinator friendly, Gov. Corbett is helping to support a healthy ecosystem for our state and country," McPheron said. "Providing food and habitat for pollinators will, in turn, help ensure the pollination needed to protect our plant diversity and food sources."

Dennis Rydberg, a professional landscape designer and part of the team responsible for the gardens at the Governor's Residence, applied for the pollinator-friendly certification after he heard about the program from leaders of the Pennsylvania Backyard Beekeepers Association. At the behest of First Lady Susan Corbett, that group installed two honeybee hives into the gardens this past spring.

Rydberg, now partially retired but formerly a long-time employee of the state's Department of General Services, has been involved with the gardens at the Governor's Residence since the mid-1990s.

"When I saw the application for certification, I said, 'I can fill this out in five minutes because we already meet all the qualifications,'" he said. "We have a very environmentally friendly garden and we think this is a great thing to do. We are pleased to get the designation and we urge others to make their gardens pollinator friendly.

"We think we have seen an increase in the berries produced by the plants in our gardens since the bees have been present this year."

Connie Schmotzer, an extension educator in consumer horticulture who guides the Master Gardeners Program in York County and handles certification of pollinator-friendly gardens statewide, pointed out that the requirements are intended to reward gardens that are already pollinator-friendly and to guide those that are in the process of becoming so.

"To be certified as pollinator-friendly, a garden must have plants that provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall, with a variety of flower shapes and sizes," she said. "When using annuals, old fashioned heirloom varieties must be chosen, and the use of modern hybrids must be limited. Pollinator-friendly native plants must be incorporated into the garden."

A certified pollinator-friendly garden must have at least four species of native trees and shrubs, at least six species of native perennial flowers, at least two kinds of larval host plants (for butterflies and moths), a water source and at least two locations for insects to nest and overwinter. Applicants must be in the process of removing invasive plants from the site.

"Because the health of pollinators is so critical to the health and sustainability of our food supply, we take our certification process for gardens seriously," Schmotzer said. "The manager of the garden at the Governor's Residence, like those for all other pollinator-friendly gardens we certify, completed a five-page application and submitted photos of the garden."

For more information about getting a garden certified as pollinator friendly, or to learn more about the plight of pollinators, visit the Penn State Entomology Department's Center for Pollinator Research website at http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/public-outreach/cert.

 

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Last Updated August 23, 2011