If you’ve ever watched a bee or a butterfly alight on a flower, then you have a basic idea of what Harland Patch, the director of pollinator programming at The Arboretum at Penn State, does as part of his research.
Patch and his wife, Christina Grozinger, the director of Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research, met in graduate school at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “We are lucky in that our research and lives blend together,” Patch says. “We do what we love and love what we do.” They came to Penn State in December 2008.
And later this month visitors to the arboretum will be able to wander through the privately funded Pollinator and Bird Garden, which Patch helped create, and learn about the birds and the bees and nature’s many other pollinators.
“This garden is actually a platform for us to engage the public broadly about plants that are important for pollinators,” Patch says as he outlines the array of gardens visitors will see in the 3.5-acre site between the botanic gardens and College Heights. The gardens are defined by what’s planted in them such as types of flowers and foods and location (rural or city, for example).
The arboretum’s newest garden will contain 300 varieties of plants. The total number of plants will reach 100,000, all planted by hundreds of volunteers.
Patch says the people who designed the garden intend to attract the many species of pollinators that live in Pennsylvania. In addition to flies, butterflies, moths and beetles that would also include the ruby-throated hummingbird. As for flies, Patch says don’t think of the common housefly. “Flies are quite beautiful,” he says, and will benefit from the ponds on the site.
This is not the only garden Patch has a hand in. No surprise, he also gardens in his free time and helps with a vegetable and pollinator garden at the Radio Park Elementary School where his daughter Evie is a fifth-grader. Later this year he plans to develop a pollinator meadow at their home.
All in a day’s work.