The now complete Washburn Tot Lot Pollinator Garden began as a two-year, two-pronged effort to support species such as the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and other pollinators by connecting the Armatage neighborhood with pollinator habitats. The project was designed to increase biodiversity, reconnect pollinator pathways, and inspire wonder about the natural world to those living by and caring for the gardens.
The first year was focused on funding individual front-yard or boulevard pollinator plantings at households and an apartment complex in the neighborhood. This served to increase accessibility to natural landscaping for renters, elders, and low-income residents, and created a diverse collection of gardens that serve to educate and inspire neighbors. The second year focused on installing two large pollinator gardens at the Washburn Tot Lot, which was supported through a Minneapolis Parks Foundation’s People for Parks Fund grant. The Tot Lot is a “pocket park” (located at 5825 Washburn Ave S) heavily used by young families and many households in the area who rent. These gardens were created to provide added safety, improved aesthetics, and a beneficial pollinator habitat in alignment with the residents’ desires.
On May 19 and 20, 2023, Armatage Elementary 4th and 5th graders planted over 200 plants at the Washburn Tot Lot! Master Gardeners and the Armatage Neighborhood Association Green Team supported these efforts and led students through the planting process. Afterwards, local neighbors and Armatage residents joined in to help plant, water, and install new bunny-proof fences. More than 100 total students and volunteers came out to support the installation of the Tot Lot over these two days, from ages 9 to 70.
Metro Blooms led the design and construction of the gardens and were additionally supported by the Lawns to Legumes and Board of Water and Soil Resources, as well as the People for Parks Fund. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board worked closely with Armatage Neighborhood over the course of the last year to ensure the design and new maintenance contract could be sustainable for all parties. During implementation, they also worked closely with University of Minnesota Master Gardeners and created an agreement to utilize their water spigot for the next year as the plants take root.
The Armatage Green Team held engagement events last Fall to learn what plants the neighborhood would like to see in the garden and set up a number of educational tables for the public. Kids got to choose which plants they wanted in the gardens and even directed the team to install a serviceberry tree (which wasn’t in the initial plan!) The educational tables raised awareness about litter, stormwater runoff pollution, as well as how native gardens benefit the climate and pollinators. “We saw education, imagination, and a sense of ownership,” said Ethan Komoroski. Tara Brown, Armatage Green Team member, added, “our community is stronger because of this effort. Neighbors know each other by name. Kids learned about perennials and pollinators. More neighbors understand how the neighborhood association is here for all residents and can support a safe and connected community.”
Images courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.