The campus of Seattle University, just east of the city center, is famous for its gardens, many of them filled with plants native to the Pacific Northwest. There is a tea garden, two rain gardens, a wildlife garden, and a community garden. There is an ethnobotanic garden, a biodiversity garden, and a garden dedicated to the remembrance of local Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. One open lawn, bordered with trees, is known simply as “Thinking Field.”
Over the past few years, another kind of garden has quietly threaded its way from the eastern edge of campus into the surrounding neighborhood. It’s just twelve feet wide but a mile long, an intermittent series of beds planted in the space between the curb and sidewalk. Recently, when I walked along the pathway with its founder, Sarah Bergmann, she pointed out each bed of native shrubs and flowers as if it were a room in a childhood home, telling me who had planted it and when, what was thriving and what wasn’t. Cared for mostly by residents and volunteers, these careful plantings of columbine and woolly sunflowers, beargrass and Oregon grape are the humble expression of a very big idea.
When I tell you that this linear garden is called the Pollinator Pathway, meant to help pollinators move through an urban landscape, you might think: ‘Oh, a garden for honeybees, right? I’ve heard of those.’ If you said something like this within Bergmann’s earshot, she would gently but firmly correct you. The Pollinator Pathway isn’t intended for honeybees, which are, after all, European imports that primarily pollinate agricultural crops. Instead, it is designed for the native species—bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and bats, among others—that keep the local ecosystem running. “This isn’t about the future of farming,” Bergmann says. “It’s about the future of nature.”
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