Library gardens buzz with native plants and potential
Erika Hogan is a big nature fan. “I grew up loving outdoor spaces and gardening with my family,” said Hogan, Heights Libraries new youth services associate.
When she first started work at the library, Hogan noticed that the Lee Road branch’s small children’s garden had potential.
“I could tell that it was a special space—there was already an emphasis on pollinator-friendly, native plants, and fruiting shrubs and trees," she said. "I recognized all the elements were there to allow us to be a certified habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and also to register it with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge of the National Pollinator Garden Network.”
Hogan said certification and registration with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and NWF are great steps to help raise awareness about the importance of gardens, of all sizes, that support sustainable practices and healthy ecosystems.
“Because of habitat loss, birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife face serious challenges, and every garden—of every size—makes a difference in migratory pathways and in local environments,” Hogan explained.
Designation as a habitat garden means a space provides five elements: food sources (fruiting plants and shrubs); a water source (such as butterfly puddlers or birdbaths); a place for cover and a place to raise young (such as mature trees); and the use of sustainable practices that support wildlife (no pesticides, mulching to minimize water needs, using native plants that require less extra water).
Pollinator-friendly gardens are an important natural resource because they play a vital role in supporting native bee species, which are crucial for healthy food crops.
Gardens also serve as living, changing, hands-on classrooms for kids and adults alike.
“Messy, fun and creative learning and literacy opportunities abound in gardens,” said Hogan. “Green spaces are wonderful for all kinds of programs, from exploring environmental topics about plants, animals or nature, to creative activities. They are also great for dynamic movement and relaxation activities.
“I'm excited to contribute to it and to help promote the great things happening, not only inside, but outside the library, too.”
In addition to the children’s garden at the Lee Road branch, Heights Libraries also has flower and vegetable gardens at its Coventry Village and Noble Neighborhood branches; the latter has been designated a pollinator garden by the local group Ecological Heights.
Heights Libraries offers garden-based programs that continue into the fall. Library visitors are encouraged to stop in and experience the gardens, and enjoy the bees, butterflies and flowers. The summer garden season will culminate with a Party in the Garden, for kids in kindergarten through grade five, on Thursday, Sept. 2, 4:30 p.m., at the Noble Neighborhood branch. Attendees will have the opportunity to hang out in the garden, learn about the plants growing there, and participate in energetic outdoor activities.
More information can be found at heightslibrary.org.
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.