Pollination conversation

Florence Garden Club’s November meeting focused on unusual pollinators, such as this banded woolly bear caterpillar moth, photographed in Toledo, Ore. (Open source photo)

Garden Club discusses pollinators and their importance

Nov. 16, 2019 — The Florence Garden Club’s November speaker, Jennifer Ewing, spoke to the group last Wednesday about the importance of the pollination process. Ewing is a retired professional organic gardener that lectures on a wide array of garden and planting related topics. She has worked at the Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery and one of the most notable of gardening publishing firms, Rodale Press.

The subject of pollination has always been part of the Garden Club’s focus, but Ewing spoke about the process with a slightly different twist; she did not spend a lot of time talking about bees.

“We’ve got lots of other pollinators besides bees. We’ve got moths and bugs and birds, the wind and us. Just by walking through your garden and doing your garden chores, you are touching things that have pollen on them and you are spreading that pollen in the garden,” Ewing said. “And be observant. Observation will teach you a much as reading a book. Plants will tell you what they need and by observing the pollinators in your garden you will learn what works and what doesn’t work.”

While much of the fruit and vegetables humans grow and eat are pollinated by honeybees, that is not the only way that future food can be pollinated — a concept that Ewing felt was important enough to expand upon.

“I really don’t like to use the word pollination, the term I like is ‘propagation.’ And the more I got into this subject, the more I found out this is quite a big subject to try and understand. So, I want to give you the tools to understand what is going on with pollination and all kinds of pollinators,” Ewing said. “I like to educate rather than just preach about which plant will attract which critter. I like to educate with a wider knowledge about what is happening in your garden.”

Ewing began her presentation with a request wrapped inside a suggestion. She asked the many gardeners in attendance a simple favor.

“Pay attention to the other things in your garden, the things I like to call the ‘creepy, crawly things’ that are everywhere in your garden,” Ewing said. “You can see things flutter and you can see other things happening and you can hear the noises the critters make. And sometimes, I can hear them landing on a plant and even start to munch on it.”

There are even some plants that have developed a one-on-one pollination relationship with a pollinator. This relationship might be with a bee or another familiar pollinator, such as a moth or a hummingbird. But it could also be with an insect. Sometimes, the type of insect that lands on a plant in Ewing’s garden is unknown to her.

“If I think the bug is not going to fly away immediately, I creep up on it get out my magnifying glass and study it. Then I go inside and pick out one of my identification books and look it up. I’ve educated myself on what it is and what it is doing to my plants.”

Ewing encouraged everyone to find books that were geared towards plants in this region as an effective way to become more familiar with all the potential pollinators in the area.

In addition, she told the group she refuses to use pesticides or fertilizers and only uses compost to supplement her garden’s natural state.

The idea Ewing wanted attendees to take with them from the meeting was simple, yet also in some ways profound.

“Gardening is more than just an activity. It is more than going out and planting something and watering it or whatever,” Ewing said. “When you go out into the garden, some of you are listening to your ear buds, listening to your book, music or whatever because this is a good time to do it. But don’t do it sometimes. Take those ear buds out and listen. Pay attention to what you hear and see in your garden.

“Ask yourself why you are planting things here, why you are watering them today — and remember to observe. It will help you be more in touch, not only with the plants in your garden, but with all the things that live in and around the garden.”

Florence Garden Club meets the second Wednesday of each month from September to June at the Presbyterian Church of the Siuslaw, 3996 Highway 101, at 1 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.

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