Ed. — From the Sunday, July 4, print edition.
BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
VIRGINIA BEACH — Betty Ann DesRoches had a passion for bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators – and she also had a vision of Virginia Beach becoming a hub of pollinator-friendly plants.
DesRoches, outgoing president of the Council of Garden Clubs of Virginia Beach, knew that other garden club members shared her vision. Together, they approached city officials and the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation to encourage the city’s participation in Bee City USA, an organization dedicated to protecting and preserving bees and other pollinators.
The result is a pollinator garden at Red Wing Park, which was dedicated in a ceremony officiated by Mayor Bobby Dyer on Wednesday, June 23. The event also was attended by members of the Council of Garden Clubs, parks and recreation staff and other city officials.
The garden, developed by Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation and the Council of Garden Clubs, highlights Virginia Beach as a Bee City USA affiliate. The dedication ceremony also called attention to National Pollinators Month, which was observed in June.
Bee City USA, based in Asheville, N.C., grants cities and campuses the status of affiliates if they commit to encouraging pollinator-friendly landscaping through community events, educating the public about native species and encouraging pesticide free landscaping. Virginia Beach was designated as a Bee City affiliate in 2020, and work on the pollinator garden at Red Wing Park started that spring.
DesRoches, a retired middle school science teacher, said that she is passionate about the environment and tried to instill this message in her students.
As president of the Council of Garden Clubs, she wanted to leave a legacy that would promote environmentalism. She heard about Bee City USA through friends, and she decided to encourage an affiliation with Virginia Beach.
“This is my passion,” DesRoches said, “and I reached out to people in the city who were mutually passionate.”
Symsi Denson, operations manager for the city parks department, was a huge supporter, and the Virginia Beach City Council was also overwhelmingly supportive.
“Virginia Beach wants to create a healthy habitat for the native plants,” Dyer said during his opening remarks. “This is designed to sustain pollinators.”
The garden includes a variety of perennials such as monarda, echinacea, phlox and coreopsis, according to Denson. Some non-natives and annuals, such as zinnias, also were planted because their bright colors attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
The garden is just the beginning of the city’s efforts, which will also include outreach aimed at encouraging residents to avoid pesticides and to integrate pollinator-friendly plants into the landscaping.
“It starts with education and with spreading the word,” DesRoches said, “and we’re off to a good start.”
Rose Busetti, incoming president of the Council of Garden Clubs, spoke of the decline in the honeybee and native bee populations, and said that some native bees were facing extinction.
“Our goal is to increase the population by reducing or eliminating pesticides,” she said.
The city parks department plans to hold an event each year that will highlight pollinators, Denson said. The Wednesday, June 23, event was also held to educate and encourage environmentally friendly gardening, and sage and zinnia plants were offered free to those who attended the event.
Pollinator friendly landscaping can be done in small increments, and Busetti hopes to get everyone to do at least one thing, such as planting a planting or reducing pesticide use. “We want to encourage everyone to make small changes,” she said.
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