Real Estate

Stopping the flight of the bumblebee

Palo Alto landscape architect hopes to create public pollinator garden

There is a problem in Palo Alto that not many know about. Not to worry though, landscape designer Juanita Salisbury is more than ready to tackle it, but she needs the community's help. She is determined to start a movement in Palo Alto that would help bring back bee-friendly plants.

"A lot of people are having problems with getting plants pollinated," Salisbury said.

A big part of this has to do with the lack of native or "bee-friendly" plants such as daisies, lavenders and marigolds throughout Palo Alto neighborhoods.

"I often walk through the residential neighborhoods in the area and am always struck by the differences in pollinator visits to the front yards I walk past. Yards with native and pollen-rich plants are alive with native and honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds of all kinds," she said.

"Sadly, such yards are the exception rather than the rule. Most yards do not provide year-long nectar, pollen or habitat for native pollinators. The neighborhoods are pollinator deserts."

These non-native plants are often covered in various chemicals used in order to make "plants look nice" as Salisbury described it. But a side effect of using the chemicals is they kill insects that have the potential to pollinate, driving away bees, hummingbirds, beetles, flies, and wasps.

Then Salisbury had an idea: to create a pollinator garden in a strip of land near her home on Primrose Way.

"Currently the site has nothing but lawn and four cherry trees," Salisbury said. "We need to remove and haul away the grass, prepare the soil ... and then plant native California plants. We will also be using boulders and logs to create habitat and paths."

"I went to the city's community services manager and said that I would handle the fund raising, and he gave me the green light," she said.

"My neighborhood is very interested, and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback," she said, adding that she sees a lot of similar opportunities around Palo Alto.

"My hope is that others will be inspired to enhance the pollination resources by planting native (and/or pollen-and nectar-rich) plants and providing pollinator habitat. Inspiration can come from observing the complex and subtle interconnections of which we are part--and are right in front of us.

"Habitat loss is one of the reasons for the decline in numbers of pollinator species. Habitat includes not only plants that provide nectar and pollen, but places for native bees to nest," said Salisbury. "The consequences of ignoring pollinator decline are a loss of biological diversity and unraveling of the green infrastructure that we are only beginning to understand."

She hopes to have the site prepared by the end of 2016 so that she can immediately begin planting in the early months of 2017 to take advantage of the rainy season.

In order to achieve her goal, she is asking for the help of Palo Alto residents.She has started a gofundme website to reach her goal of $15,000. This can be found at

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