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The pollinator garden, seen here in Watchung Park on Thursday, was built in October. It will be officially dedicated later this summer.
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A new project is taking root at Watchung Park, the green triangle bordered by Park, Watchung and Midland avenues.

Last October, the Montclair Environmental Commission installed a raised-bed framework for a pollinator garden and planted it with particular kinds of flowers and shrubs.

Now the garden is beginning to bloom.

The plants and flowers in a pollinator garden attract bees, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, all creatures that contribute to the pollination of other plants. According to the U.S. Forest Service, animal pollinators fertilize almost 90 percent of flowering plants.

The garden is doing well, said commission member Lyle Landon on Thursday, June 29. “I did not expect to see the plants as high as they are.” She said the large amounts of rain that Montclair received during the late spring and early summer had helped a lot.

The environmental commission got a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions for the project. The Montclair Garden Club also helped out, as did the Master Gardeners of Essex County.

The official dedication of the garden was planned for September, but Landon said that depending on the weather, the garden’s health and other factors, the dedication date may be moved up to August.

The garden is a triangular raised bed at the north end of the park. The plants in it include sage, butterfly weed, fennel and milkweed, the sole food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s page on pollinators.

Trina Paulus, a longtime Montclair resident and author of “Hope for the Flowers,” was thrilled to hear about the new pollinator garden.
A pollinator garden needs two things, Paulus said: food for the caterpillars and nectar for the butterflies.

The garden at Watchung Park has those, plus a third emphasis: native plants that are deer resistant, Landon said. “Right now, I’d like to think that the deer are fat and happy and staying where they are,” but that could change in the winter when the deer come down out of the mountains to forage.

Asked if the commission was considering setting other gardens up around town, Landon said that the group is waiting to see how this first garden does. She said a lot of home gardeners in Montclair are setting up pollinator gardens of their own.

Paulus, who has raised and released monarch butterflies for years, has many extra milkweed plants to give to people who have or are starting pollinator gardens. Interested gardeners may mail oguss@montclairlocal.news and your contact information will be passed to Paulus. For information on creating a pollinator garden, go to https://tinyurl.com/pg44238

Elizabeth Oguss contributed reporting to this article.