Student Creates Campus Pollinator Garden

After learning about the importance of pollinators as a graduate student studying horticulture, Melissa Tinling received grant funding to design and build a pollinator garden in collaboration with NC State Grounds Management and under the advisement of associate professor Anne Spafford and professor Dennis Werner. Werner established a similar <a href="">pollinator-friendly area</a> on Centennial Campus in spring 2016. <a href="">More photos</a>

If you have played through NC State’s Centennial Campus disc golf course, the start of hole four probably didn’t stand out as much more than an eroded slope.

But now — thanks to a partnership between an NC State graduate student and the university’s Grounds Management department — a large pollinator-friendly garden is both managing stormwater and providing habitat on campus.

The new garden sprouted from the vision of horticulture student Melissa Tinling, who obtained an NC State Sustainability Fund grant to create a campus garden that would be both aesthetically-pleasing and supportive of native pollinators such as butterflies, bees and moths.

“I am passionate about creating biodiversity in places people already use,” Tinling said. “Rich and aesthetically-pleasing outdoor landscapes can increase environmental awareness.”

Before the garden, the site suffered from runoff and erosion. 
Before the garden, the site suffered from runoff and erosion. <a href="">More photos</a>

Using a pollinator-friendly plant list developed by Chatham County Cooperative Extension agent Debbie Roos, Tinling designed the garden that, when in full bloom, will feature blueberries, pops of purple from coneflowers, shades of yellow from black-eyed Susans and texture variations from a variety of ornamental grasses.

Located just under the Main Campus Drive bridge near Initiative Way, Tinling and Grounds Management selected the garden site because of its proximity to a well-utilized greenway trail and the student-led SOUL Garden, which will benefit from the influx of new pollinators. The garden project also allowed Grounds to address the site’s long-standing runoff issues.

The three-section garden features large stepping stone stairs and pavers that control stormwater, colorful perennials and ornamental grasses that flank both sides of a popular Centennial Campus greenway trail. <a href="">More photos</a>

“The site’s slope and lack of vegetation really encouraged water flow,” said grounds maintenance planner Jacob Bolin. “We allocated additional funds to the project to build a natural stone retaining wall that redirected and decreased the runoff. The plants in the garden will also mitigate much of the water and keep the soil in place.”

Planted by more than 20 student volunteers and Grounds Management employees in mid-October, the garden is now part of ongoing campus maintenance efforts, though Tinling hopes to organize a service day at the site in the Spring. To further spread awareness about the importance of pollinators, she also plans to develop a website detailing other pollinator-friendly locations on campus.