Gardeners, pollinators, and Boone Park South

Gardeners, pollinators, and Boone Park South
Ann Carey Holt, Sue Sofia and Mary Svoboda

Neighborhood parks are home to many species of local wildlife, including squirrels, bats, river otters, and birds and insects. In 2020, neighborhood parks saw an influx of another species, “people,” as residents on lockdown utilized long walks and bike rides for exercise and fresh air.

Pamela Telis, founder of the Friends of Boone Park South, has long had a vision for how volunteers can work with the city to ensure parks are the neighborhoods’ social and recreational focal points. She recently headed a task force that delivered a report to the RAP Board, with a key recommendation to re-establish a Friends of the Park program for all neighborhood and pocket parks in Riverside and Avondale. Since 2013, Boone Park South has benefited from an active Friends of the Park group under Telis’s leadership. 

This year, the Friends of Boone Park South (BPS) worked with the Florida Bluebird Society and Jax Federal Credit Union to install a bluebird house. But like most homeowners, Telis has a long wish list for BPS. For many years, she has envisioned adding a flower garden to the prominent park corner at St. John’s Avenue and Van Wert. 

“It is a step-by-step process,” said Telis. 

Last year, the Friends of BPS were able to fund the purchase of new azalea bushes. This year, they found volunteers to install a pollinator flower garden in front of the azaleas to create a nice layering effect. “Having volunteers that are able and willing to take a project from conception to completion is critical,” Telis said.

For this most recent endeavor, Telis relied on three Avondale residents, Sue Sofia, Mary Svoboda, and Ann Carey Holt, to bring the vision to life. The team selected a group of plants that would attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Then, they drew up a garden design and sourced the plants. But preparing the site one weekend and planting the next required more hands, so seven additional volunteers joined the effort.  

Pollinators are critical to our ecosystem, so the intent was to make something that was beautiful and useful. A pollinator moves pollen assisting in the fertilization process. Pollinators include insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths, as well as flower beetles. But other vertebrates get in on the action: bats, birds, and even lizards are also considered pollinators.

Flowers selected for the Boone Park South pollinator garden included: Horsemint (Monarda Punctata), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella), Coreopsis (Coreopsis Lanceolata), Scarlett Sage (Salvia Coccinea), Pennyroyal (Piloblephis Rigida) and Black Eye Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). 

Horsemint, also known as beebalm, is a late summer bloomer that attracts pollinators by the dozens. Blanket Flower is the state flower of Oklahoma, which is native to North America except for the northwest U.S. and western Canada. Coreopsis is also known as tickseed and the orange blossom variety was named the state wildflower of Florida in 1991. Scarlett Sage is native to the Southeast and known as salvia, blood sage, and Texas sage. Flowering in spring through the first frost, it is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds. Pennyroyal is endemic to Florida. A mint family member, it is a low growing semi-woody shrub with lavender flowers seen in late winter through spring. Meanwhile, Black Eye Susan is native to Florida and easy to grow.

For an instant pop of color, the gardeners included non-native Pentas, which show exceptional tolerance for Florida’s hot and humid Summers, along with Ocean Blue Salvia.

Volunteers Sofia, Svoboda and Holt also set up a rotating schedule to weed and maintain the garden. Anyone interested in setting up a Friends program for a neighborhood park, contact Kim Clontz, RAP Parks Committee, [email protected]

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