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‘Pollinator Palooza’ passport offers tour of pollinator-friendly gardens

Westmoreland Pollinator Partners is offering a passport for a tour of pollinator-friendly gardens across Westmoreland County.

Anyone visiting at least six of the 21 featured gardens will be eligible to receive a free native plant that appeals to local pollinator species.

Passport folders for the Pollinator Palooza Tour will be available at the Ligonier Country Market special feature booth on the May 21 kickoff day, and also on June 25, Aug. 13 and Sept. 17.

Stickers confirming a visit will be available at the participating gardens. Participants also can document visits by taking photos of the native plants in the gardens. Anyone photographing a native plant will receive an additional native plant while supplies last.

“The idea of the passport is to see the various gardens and to take back ideas to your own lawn, garden or yard,” said Carla Rusnica, co-president of Greensburg Garden Center, a WPP member. “For example, parsley and dill attract the black swallowtail butterflies. Planting them is a very simple solution to help the pollinators.”

Pollinators provide a valuable service to humans, said Andrea Kautz, an entomologist with Powdermill Nature Reserve, another WPP member.

“Without them, we wouldn’t have access to most of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy every day,” she said. “Native pollinators and native plants rely on each other to thrive, and together contribute to the biodiversity of our region.”

WPP is an association of 24 public pollinator-friendly gardens across Westmoreland County, with member organizations including parks, libraries, museums, schools, public demonstration gardens and businesses.

Its mission is to raise awareness of insects and native plants that are essential to our way of life by cultivating and conserving pollinator-friendly habitats and engaging with people on their behalf.

“A benefit of these quiet gardens is to introduce people to the important principles of living in harmony with, and appreciation for, nature,” said Mary Kaufman, program director at Laurelville Retreat Center in Mt. Pleasant Township, a new WPP member. “You will see small, intensively planted native perennial gardens and large meadows that are full of color to attract many different species of insects and birds.

“And native plants are specially adapted to our region, so they need less maintenance,” she added.

The organization’s pollinator-friendly garden sites include:

• Ligonier area — Ligonier Community Garden Insectary Borders, Ligonier Country Market Garden, Loyalhanna Watershed Association Farm and Wetland Gardens, Ligonier Valley YMCA Garden, Ligonier Valley Middle School Sustainable Farm Project’s Insectary Border, Powdermill Nature Reserve Gardens, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art Ligonier Gardens, DCNR Forbes State Forest Meadow and the Pollinator Garden of Penguin Court/Brandywine Conservancy

• Latrobe-Derry area — DCNR Keystone State Park Meadow, Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve Garden, Westmoreland Land Trust/Westmoreland County Park and Recreation Twin Lakes Meadow and Saint Vincent College Fred Rogers Center Gardens

• Greensburg-Hempfield area — Historic Hanna’s Town Gardens, Greensburg Garden Center Lefevre Butterfly Garden, Penn State Master Gardener Donohoe Center Demonstration Gardens, Westmoreland Conservation District Meadow, The Westmoreland Museum of American Art Garden, Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School Garden, West Penn Power Garden

• Mt. Pleasant-Scottdale area — Mt. Pleasant Public Library Story Garden, West Overton Village and Museum Gardens, Smithton Borough Garden and Laurelville Retreat Center Gardens.

The passport program was launched in 2019 but was put on hold during the pandemic.

For more information, including a map of member gardens, visit Westmoreland Pollinator Partners on Facebook.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, or via Twitter .

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