help_outline Skip to main content
HomeBlogsRead Post

Pollinator Habitat, Volume II

Partnering to Plant for Pollinators
By Kathleen G Maher
Posted: 2023-12-11T13:00:00Z

Partnering to Plant for Pollinators

In the spring of 2023, members of the League of Women Voters of Larimer County (LWVLC) partnered with the Colorado Native Plant Society (CoNPS) and the City of Loveland Department of Recreation Open Lands & Trails Division to enhance pollinator habitat in two areas at Sunset Vista Natural Area in Loveland: a dry triangular area near a historic stone outbuilding and a mesic-to-wet rectangular strip between a paved trail and a marshy ditch full of cattails.

Why was Sunset Vista Natural Area chosen?

Since 2014 when it acquired the former farmland that is now Sunset Vista Natural Area, the City of Loveland has been working on increasing biodiversity and improving the quality of natural habitat on the property by controlling noxious weeds and restoring native plant communities that had been degraded by agricultural activity. This pollinator habitat project furthers those goals while folding in other components important to the Open Lands & Trails mission: community participation in land stewardship and opportunities for public environmental education. The newly planted areas are very close to popular paved bike trails and are highly visible to the community. It was expected that the planted areas and volunteers installing and maintaining them would attract a lot of attention and conversation, and that has proven to be the case.

Why did the Pollinator Habitat Group get involved?

This project was right up the LWVLC Pollinator Habitat Group’s alley! With its mission to address the need for a sustainable pollinator habitat in “our own backyard” and its practice of collaborating with other organizations to advocate for pollinator survival in our community, the Pollinator Habitat Group enthusiastically participated in the planning and implementation phases of the Sunset Vista project and its members continue to volunteer time to watering and weeding the new habitat areas to help them get established. 

Thirty-three Larimer County native plant species were chosen for this project, most of which are host plants for local invertebrates. All the plantstock was obtained from local growers who do not treat plantstock with insecticides. Most of the plants were purchased from the High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland and Harlequin’s Gardens in Boulder. But the project also received 44 plants donated by a consortium of nonprofits that was collaborating to grow seedlings to give away at the Fort Collins 2023 Xeriscape Garden Party & Plant Swap. Several members of the LWVLC Pollinator Habitat Group participated in that plant-growing effort which produced more than 2,500 seedlings for the plant swap. The project sites were prepared manually and will be maintained organically, with hand weeding and no use of herbicides or insecticides. 

The two pollinator habitat installations are quite different. 

The Triangle: The first area, a roughly 200-sq-ft dry garden, was installed over three days in May using a “gravel garden” method, in which small starter plants are planted into a 4-inch layer of ⅜“ chip gravel so that their roots just touch the top of soil layer beneath the gravel and their crowns are level with the top of the gravel layer. A perimeter “wall” of rock was assembled to contain the 3 tons of gravel spread atop the soil. 

Apart from serving as the planting medium, the gravel acts as a mulch to conserve soil moisture and its 4-inch depth is considered ideal for suppressing weeds. With consistent moisture – a provision which was strangely easy to come by this year – root systems will grow deep into the soil during the first growing season. In subsequent years, plants will put on more top growth. Volunteers will water the new plants for about a year, following a schedule that gradually tapers off. After that, the drought-tolerant natives chosen for this location will fend for themselves.

Photos: Volunteers spreading 3 tons of gravel on May 17, 2023 and installing plants on May 19. (What appears to be fog in the background of the May 19 pictures is actually thick smoke that rolled in from Canadian wildfires.)

The Mesic-to-Wet Strip: The much larger second area comprising approximately 900 square feet was planted on June 10th. While the dry garden went in over bare, weed-free soil, this was a wild and weedy area, where volunteers installed new plants among established milkweed, grasses, and sedges, clearing noxious weeds as they planted. It was challenging, rather unpleasant work, but the weather was excellent and the camaraderie was wonderful. Remarkably, after spending a few hours going in and out of patches of tall grasses, no one reported picking up any ticks!

City staff positioned temporary water storage containers at the two locations to facilitate watering during planting events and on scheduled dates through October. Volunteers from the community and partnering nonprofits can sign up to help with scheduled watering and weeding tasks on the Loveland Open Lands & Trails volunteering website called Offero ( 

Photos: Removing noxious weeds as they worked, volunteers installed about 125 native plants among existing, well-established native and non-native grasses, sedges, and milkweed on June 10, 2023. 

How does this project engage the public and educate the community?

Environmental-education programming started on planting days, when community volunteers learned how to identify and remove noxious weeds, got acquainted with more than 30 native species they were planting, and learned about soils and best planting methods. The public will be invited to help with watering, weeding, and ongoing maintenance, while learning about waterwise, pesticide-free methods. Once the new plants are established, community members will also be invited to participate in activities centered on these habitat areas, such as guided plant-, bird-, and insect-identification walks, citizen science phenology and pollinator monitoring, educational sessions covering the importance of native plants and the pollinators that rely on them, and workshops on selecting native plants for home landscapes.  

All thanks to funding from another great Colorado nonprofit!

This pollinator habitat project was funded by a grant from the People & Pollinators Action Network (PPAN), which launched a new grant program in March 2023 to support the development, restoration, expansion, or protection of pollinator habitat across the state, drawing from its Colorado Pollinator License Plate Fund and certain other donations the non-profit organization receives.

You can get your Colorado pollinator license plate here:

If you would like to peruse the plant list for the Sunset Vista project,

you can view it here: Sunset Vista Project Native Plant List

Tagged as Environment
Leave a Comment
Load More Comments
No more comments available