A New Pollinator Garden at High School has the Village Buzzing

There’s certainly a buzz in the air at Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School. Perhaps it is the new addition of a pollinator garden at the school that has everyone buzzing.

Gianna Terrarosa - a Girl Scout senior from Troop 95252 who led the project - says. “Pollinator gardens are gardens made specifically to help, well, pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds - you name it, they like it.”

Located just north of the high school, the garden consists of mostly native plants - meaning those that are indigenous to our region of the United States. Native plants help out pollinators by providing them with a source of food - something plants that are non-native can’t offer. Non-native plants are those that are added into an environment where they aren’t originally from. This is harmful to both the ecosystem and the animals that live in it, as the non-native plants can take away the resources they need to survive.

In order to get the pollinator garden started, Gianna first had to obtain approval from the school’s administration. Once that was done, she acquired building materials from Home Depot. Ridgefield Park’s DPW had dug out the ground for her, and a landscaping company filled it with dirt. After making the ground level, it was time to plant. “The flowers came from all over, really. They included species like swamp milkweed, wild bergamot, and joe-pye weed,” says Gianna. “So many people pitched in and were willing to contribute. The Bergen County Audubon, This & That Hardware, and especially Linda Quinn, my project advisor, to name a few.” Once the plants were in the ground, the DPW stepped in again and covered the garden with mulch. “Since the plants are native, maintenance isn’t such a big deal,” Gianna reports. “They’re meant to be here. They need water for the first couple of weeks to get established, but after that they do just fine without much human interference.” 

Gianna is planting this garden not only for the good of the environment - she’s also doing it for her Gold Award. “Basically, a Gold Award is the equivalent of earning an Eagle Scout Award,” Gianna explains. “It’s the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. You have to put 80 hours of time into a project that will really help and change your community for the better, and last even after you’re gone.” 

Why did she pick this specific project? “I’ve always loved the environment. We tend to overlook the fact that nature is a living, breathing thing that needs to be taken care of. Pollinators are in trouble because of human development. We take up a lot of space - and the more we take, the less the bees and butterflies of the world have. My pollinator garden is giving these creatures a safe space. Nature gives us so much, so it’s only right we give it something back. That’s why I’ve titled my project ‘Just One Plant’. My goal is striving for everyone in Ridgefield Park to plant just one native plant. That’s all that’s really necessary to help out the pollinators.” 

Every Gold Award Girl Scout works with a “project advisor” - someone who is an expert on the topic. Their job is to give advice and guidance throughout the process. “My project advisor is Linda Quinn. She, her husband Steve Quinn, and the Ridgefield Park Environmental Commission have helped me so much over the past six months. There’s no way I could have done this project without them.”

“This is such a huge undertaking for a student who truly cares about the environment,” said Mayor John Anlian. “The pollinator garden that Gianna has created will help support and maintain pollinators by supplying them with food in the form of pollen and nectar. This ensures that these important animals will stay in our area to keep pollinating our crops for continued fruit and vegetable production. I might add that the pollinator garden is strategically placed near the site of the Village’s Nature Preserve where we will be building a boardwalk and nature trail - which we expect to be completed by next spring.” 

As far as future plans for the garden, Gianna says she has to focus on longevity. “I’m going to be doing a small educational program for younger Girl Scouts at the garden. I’ll be teaching them the importance of planting native plants, and doing all they can to help out the pollinators. Also, once the garden really starts thriving, I’d like to give plants to the library, the elementary schools, and other public areas throughout Ridgefield Park. When school begins, I hope to become an active member of the Green Team. Hopefully, students who are willing to take care of the garden after I graduate will join the organization with me. Since all of the plants are perennials, with the exception of one, they’d only have to do some basic maintenance. Then, who knows? I’d love to see the garden last for a long, long time.”

If you want to help out the Just One Plant movement, try planting just one native plant in your yard. For suggestions on which to plant, visit Gianna’s website: https://justoneplant.weebly.com/

After planting, post a picture on Twitter and tag it #justoneplant. Gianna will repost it on her page (@justoneplant1) to show everyone how Ridgefield Park is helping out the pollinators!

For those interested in finding sources of native plants, the following websites may be helpful to you in your search:

Rohsler's Nursery - 100 Franklin Turnpike, Allendale, NJ - https://rohslers.com/

Metropolitan Farm - 119 Hickory Lane, Closter, NJ - https://www.metropolitanfarm.com/

The Prairie Nursery -PO Box 306, Westfield, WI 53964
Tel: 1-800-476-9453 https://www.prairienursery.com/

The Prairie Moon Nursery - 32115 Prairie Ln, Winona, MN 55987
Tel: 1-866-417-8156 https://www.prairiemoon.com/