The Elgin Recreation Center was originally constructed in 2018 with the standard Texas landscaping of drought tolerant plants that offer little in the way of visual interest or support to local fauna. The monoculture of grey santolina blended in with the concrete and made the building a stark figure in the surrounding Elgin Memorial Park. As the home of the Elgin Parks & Recreation Department, this lack of biodiversity struck a jarring chord, urging staff and Rec Members to work together to transform the space from “traditional landscaping” to a biologically diverse, drought tolerant garden that supports pollinators and other wildlife. Not only did the staff of the Elgin Recreation Center want something attractive that better represented their commitment to our natural environment, but they also set the goal of creating a space that encouraged community members to become active environmental stewards at home.
Since the project to convert the existing landscape to a Pollinator Garden began in 2019, the Santolina, Brake-Light Agave and occasional Crepe Myrtles have been supplemented with Greggs Mistflower, Datura, Salvias, Bluebonnets and other native wildflowers as well as plants donated from the community such as Milkweed, Lantana, Plumbago, Cannas, Cosmos, Marigolds, and more. Staff and volunteers are focusing on including as many native plants in the Pollinator Garden as possible to ensure that native flora is represented but are accompanying these plants with adaptive plants that are of equal value as host plants or nectar plants to support the newly returned wildlife. Since the evolution of the pollinator gardens began, more than 1,400 square feet of traditional landscaping has been overhauled to be stunning and functional pollinator gardens.
This project is only possible through the consistent work of local volunteers. Volunteers from Ranch House Recovery, a men’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, host a workday every other month to weed, plant, disperse seeds and prune as necessary. Church group youth volunteers come assist in planting and weeding, along with the LDS Missionaries every few weeks. Local volunteers commit hours every week to water wildflower seedlings and refill birdbaths and insect watering stations. Members of the community who are unable to contribute time to the project donate bug and bee houses, bird baths and other amenities to support the Pollinator Garden.
Visit the Stepping Stone: Texas Native Restoration Area page for more information on native plants and their benefits. Creating pollinator gardens and native gardens supports our local Flora and Fauna in Elgin, making time outside more engaging and exciting as we see the return of birds, bugs and more!
Make Your Own Pollinator Garden at Home:
To have a successful pollinator garden, provide the following:
1. Find native plants to your region.
2. Adult Food: A diverse selection of native flowers (shape, color, and size) with an abundance of pollen and nectar.
3. Baby Food: Plants to host butterfly and moth larvae and caterpillars. Some only eat specific plants!
4. Water: Muddy spots where water can be accessed by insects and ground nesting can occur.
5. Habitat: Spaces where the cycle of pollinators is promoted; nesting materials and protective habitats (i.e. decaying wood, grass, bare soil, etc.)
Spring has sprung and our plants throughout the gardens are blooming! Volunteers from Elgin HS Key Club and National Honor Society spent Earth Day volunteering in the garden pulling weeds and replacing them with pollinator friendly plants.
New signs are up in the garden and help inform the public on the importance of native plants and who our pollinators are. Check them out and use them as inspiration for your own garden!
March 2022 Update:
Debora Marzec, Ranch House Recovery, and Cub Scout Troop 471 all volunteered this month to clean up the Pollinator Garden to help prepare for spring.
Ranch House Recoverywatered, weeded, and reinforced the garden barriers with a small wooden border in the grove area. Volunteer Debora Marzec taught the rec staff and Ranch House Recoveryabout lasagna gardening.
Cub Scout Troop 471watered, weeded, planted additional natives, and learned about gardening with volunteer Debora Marzec.
February 2022 Update:
The garden was left alone again to continue to provide shelter for the roots of plants and for animals. The water stations were refilled for wildlife. It is important to leave leaves and dead trees as shelter from cold weather for birds, squirrels, insects and more. While it may look untidy, it is critical to have a vibrant spring!
By leaving leaves and dead branches, the roots of your perennial plants are protected, meaning they will likely survive the winter and begin to grow as soon as the weather improves. Once you see green growth on your perennial plants, you can begin to prune back to encourage bushier growth. Pruning begin at the end of February after the chance of frost.
January 2022 Update:
The pollinator garden was left alone to provide shelter for the roots of plants and for animals in the cold weather. No plants were cut back and none of the leaves were cleared from the garden. However, the water stations continued to be refilled for wildlife.
December 2021 Update:
The Elgin Recreation Center Pollinator Gardens were awarded Yard of the Month by the Elgin Garden Club. We are so honored by the distinction and are proud of all of the staff and volunteers who worked to make it happen!
Remember to Leave the Leaves! Many insects overwinter in leaves and dead plants, so we encourage you to leave your yard debris in place until Spring. This will help your flora and fauna come back stronger than ever when the weather improves.
November 2021 Update:
Volunteers came together to plant more than 50 trees in Elgin Memorial Park to create additional spaces for our pollinators and other native wildlife during our Arbor Day Celebration on November 6th. We discovered a Native Texan species of TINY bee in the pomegranate flowers, and got to learn about the benefits of both native and edible trees.
Just before Thanksgiving, Ranch House Recovery volunteered cleaning up the Pollinator Garden of weeds, pruning and mulching trees and planting additional natives in the Stepping Stone Area. Through their help the gardens stay looking good year round and we are so appreciative!
October 2021 Update:
A BIG thank you goes out to Down Home Ranch for donating 30 pollinator friendly plants for our Pollinator Garden. Ranchers carefully selected a wonderful array of salvias, turks caps, black foot daisies, and more to help feel our migrating monarchs and other pollinators.
Volunteers have been working hard to remove the monoculture of grey santolina and replace them with Texas native plants, or adaptive plants that support pollinators at all stages. Debora Marzec and Carlos Gandia have donated over 40 hours of time to this project this month alone! Come check out their hard work.
With Winter coming, it's more important than ever to provide spaces for insects and small animals to protect themselves from the cold. You can do this at home by providing a wood pile, leaving leaves in gardens, not cutting down dead plants and trees until Spring, or buying insect hotels. Visit the Elgin Recreation Center to see examples of each.