Linda Churchill, the chief gardener at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, was concerned about something she had started noticing in the city earlier this year, as spring turned into summer.
Or rather, what she didn’t notice.
There were no aphids on the roses in the botanical garden. No bug on the windshields. No butterflies floating around the bulbs at night.
“People were like, ‘Oh, that’s so nice. There are no bugs around. ‘ And I was like, “Are you kidding? Said Churchill.
“It looked like the end of the world science fiction books,” she added. “People have been saying for years that when the bugs go away, we’re all going to go, and it was like that this spring. It was really scary.
Churchill said he saw the bugs start to reappear when the monsoon rains arrived and eased the extreme drought conditions that had plagued the area. But the fear she experienced made it clear the importance of a new program in which she and the Botanical Garden are now involved.
This weekend, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is distributing 11,550 native plants to residents and organizations across town as part of its Santa Fe Pollinator Trail program. The objective of the project is to fight against habitat loss in the city by introducing new pockets of climate resistant plants.
Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths have been in decline globally in recent decades. Climate change, habitat destruction and inappropriate pesticide use are three of the most likely culprits, said Kaitlin Haase, southwestern pollinator conservation specialist for the Xerces Society.
Through the participation of residents and local organizations, Haase hopes the pilot program will raise awareness of the problem and help people approach landscaping and gardening in a way that is much more beneficial to pollinators than installing rocky lawns trapping heat.
“I know it’s a little crippling to think about all the environmental issues in the world and climate change,” Haase said. “It’s just a small thing that we can all do as a community, be part of a movement to change our landscapes to be resilient in the face of climate change and support not only pollinators, but birds and birds as well. wildlife that depend on the plants they pollinate. . “
The Xerces Society purchased the plants for the program from the Santa Ana Native Plant Nursery, which is owned and operated by Santa Ana Pueblo and specializes in producing low moisture, pesticide-free plants native to the southwest. .
With the help of volunteers from the Santa Fe Extension Master gardeners, 350 kits of 33 small transplants will be distributed to approximately 230 residents and 20 organizations that have been selected to participate in the program.
The kits are being handed out this weekend at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds at no cost to attendees, who have pledged to install the plants in backyards, gardens and public spaces.
There are two types of kits available. One is a low water kit that includes plants such as pale evening primrose, prickly pear, and black-footed daisy. A low to medium water kit contains varieties such as Rocky Mountain penstemon, prairie white clover, and hedge flower.
Haase said each kit contains plants that bloom at different times of the year, allowing small habitats to support active pollinators from spring to fall.
All of the kits have been awarded to attendees this year, but Haase said she plans to make the plant distribution an annual event.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is among the organizations that will receive kits this weekend. Others include the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, the Railyard Conservancy, and the Randall Davey Audubon Center.
Churchill said the plants in the kits are not typical of what can be found in most Santa Fe resident gardens, which typically contain compost mixed in to create rich soil that is frequently watered.
“Native plants want what’s there to start with,” she said. “They don’t necessarily want fertile soil.
Adding pesticides is also a no-no.
Pam Wolfe is a Master Extension Gardener from Santa Fe, which means she has been trained in horticulture by the Co-operative Extension Service at New Mexico State University and shares her knowledge with the community. .
She said pesticides tend to do more harm than good for pollinators.
“Often times these broad spectrum pesticides end up making things worse in the long run and repeated use tends to build resistance in target pests,” Wolfe said, “so they become less effective against the target and eliminate many benefits. . waiting for.”
There are many resources to guide gardeners through the process of establishing their native plants.
The Xerces Society has published webinars and sent out materials, and Master Gardeners have an online form to answer all questions related to home gardening.
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is also hosting a Native Plant and Pollinator Day on September 19 – Community Day on Museum Hill – with free admission to hear Haase and other experts speak out on the subject.
Haase came to Santa Fe in May 2020 to establish a presence for the Xerces Society in the Southwest. She found the community to be at the forefront in terms of friendship with pollinators.
In June, Santa Fe was certified as a subsidiary of Bee City USA. An initiative of the Xerces Society, the designation means that a city is committed to providing pollinators with healthy habitats free of pesticides and full of native plants.
With the Pollinator Trail program, Haase hopes to continue its momentum.
“Santa Fe is truly a dream to work with because there are so many people who really care and care about them,” she said.