A downtown dining experience for local pollinators!

This blog post comes to you from Seed Library Team member Geoffery Blanton.

In case you have not noticed, the exterior of the Joel D. Valdez, Main Library has 17 beautifully painted planters. The Main Library has been growing vegetables, flowers and native plants in the planters for many years. Over the last few years, we have been growing plants that are native to Southern Arizona. 

Making it happen

Seed Library staff had an opportunity to refresh and update the plants inside the planters, so we reached out to our friends at the Pima County Native Plant Nursery. Nursery Manager Amy Belk offered to connect us to the University of Arizona's Ecological Restoration Club

According to Amy, the Ecological Restoration Club was looking for an annual community project. Once they expressed interest, we needed help with design and the selection of new plants. Amy says, "I thought that the planters might be a fun project for the club to take on, since the plan aligned with the club's interests."

The club includes a diverse group of students from different programs. According to Amy, "I thought they might have at least a few students every year who would be excited by the idea of designing and helping to maintain a 'downtown dining experience' for our local pollinators."

Getting the work done

When planting, we have to factor in the Arizona sun and how it, at times, blazes across the plaza. We had two workdays—one in February and one on Earth Day in April. During these workdays, we weeded and moved around the low and high water plants into alike pots. We also added new soil to five planters, and added 16 new native plants. In total, 32 students participated in the project, working one or both days. "This extra people power," says Geoffery Blanton, Library Associate at Joel D. Valdez Main Library, "made all the different in bringing our project to completion."

Ongoing work and long-term goals

Our hope is that this will become a sustained partnership between the Library and the Ecological Restoration Club. This effort will provide an easy, but high-profile, volunteer activity right in the heart of downtown Tucson. This will benefit the Library and our community as well as the students and the club. Our vision is that the appearance of these planters will continue to improve over the years as we learn what works—and what does not—in our unique planting situation.

What we planted

Abutilon palmeri (Indian Mallow)
Asclepias linaria (Pineleaf Milkweed)
Bahia absinthifolia (Bahia)
Conoclinium greggii (Gregg’s Mistflower)
Euphorbia antisyphilitica (Candelilla)
Fouquieria splendens (Ocotillo)
Glandularia gooddingii (Goodding’s Verbena)
Justicia californica (Chuparosa)
Justicia sonorae (Sonoran Justicia)
Maurandya antirrhiniflora (Roving Sailor)
Menodora scabra (Rough Menodora)
Penstemon eatonii (Firecracker Penstemon)
Penstemon parryi (Parry’s Penstemon)
Psilostrophe cooperi (Paperflower)
Tecoma stans (Yellowbells)
Thymophylla pentachaeta (Golden Dyssodia)

When available, the Seed Library has Milkweed, Gregg's Mistflower, Firecracker Penstemon, Parry's Penstemon, and Datura for community members to check out. 

Em DeMeester-Lane, Manager of Joel D. Valdez Main Library, says, "We have been thrilled with the result and the new look of the planters. Many of our patrons have conveyed their pleasure with the change. Personally, I like the placement of the new plants mixed in with the old. It creates a fresh, tidy look."