Washougal woman plants native pollinator garden outside local animal sanctuary

When Margaret Gossage moved from Phoenix to Portland in 2013, she planted a native pollinator garden in her home that eventually earned certified status from the Backyard Habitat program, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides technical assistance, financial incentives, encouragement and recognition for people who want to create low-maintenance natural gardens.

But when Gossage was unable to replicate the feat when she moved to Washougal several years ago, due to the size of her garden, she had to get creative.

In the spring of 2021, she planted a native pollinator garden at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, which recently received silver certification from the environmental group.

“It’s just something I wanted to do, and I’m glad I accomplished it,” said Gossage, who has volunteered with WCGHS for the past five years. “I think it made our small team of volunteers aware of backyard habitats and the importance of native plants to the environment. I’m happy to be the evangelist for that in any way I can.

Bethany Wray, program coordinator for the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington, a nonprofit that works with the Habitat Program to certify Clark County yards, said the garden in front of the WCGHS animal shelter is “the first public place in Washougal to be certified,” according to Gossage.

“It’s a small area with full sun and lots of radiant heat from the sidewalk and the brick building, so it’s great to see it so well,” according to a post on the program’s Facebook page. “Margaret (did) a great job coordinating this community project in Washougal.”

The program has certified more than 5,000 properties since its launch in 2009, according to the Portland Audubon website.

“When I moved from Phoenix to Portland, I was just in heaven because nothing was growing in Phoenix, and I was able to grow everything in my backyard in Portland,” Gossage said. “I just thought (native gardening) sounded interesting, and that’s how I started learning about the importance of native plants in the habitat. And since I couldn’t do it at (my Washougal’s), I thought, ‘Well, let’s do it here.’ I just thought a human society and a backyard habitat would be a good match.

Three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce, according to the United States Department of Agriculture website, which also indicates that some scientists estimate that a bite out of three of food. eat exist because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles and other insects.

“It’s important to grow native plants wherever you live in the world because bees, birds, and (other) animals need them,” Gossage said. “The more native flora and fauna you have in your garden, the better it is for the environment. There’s a sign there now (that says the shelter is) certified backyard habitat and educates people and makes them say, ‘Oh, what is that? That’s curious. I’ll look that up,’ and maybe help let other people in the community know about it. I wanted ( also) something that would look good and (that) people would find attractive when they came to the dog shelter, rather than just a dirt pot with weeds in it.

Gossage enlisted Hannah Schrager, operator of Good Year Farms, a Washougal nursery specializing in native plants, to create the garden.

“Hannah actually designed the layout of the garden (and figured out) which plants would work best there,” Gossage said. “She donated some of the plants and gave me a discount on other plants. Then I asked other volunteers to come and help me plant, and three other volunteers helped me plant one day. It didn’t take very long because there wasn’t much in there to start with – just some weeds.

Gossage planted a variety of native species including yarrow, cutleaf penstemon, pearly everlasting, meadow checkerspot, nodding onion, hairy manzanita, and kinnikinnik.

“We were looking for plants that would bloom at different times of the season – early summer, mid-summer, late summer,” she said. “We were also looking for plants that would be green all winter so that we had plants that would still look good when the plants weren’t flowering. Sometimes it just looks fried so we have to keep it basted. When the rains return this fall, we will see a resurgence of certain plants. Then in the spring it will look great.

“And as I see other plants that don’t survive, or holes that need to be filled, I have some extra plants that I’m growing in my yard that I’m just going to transplant into the garden, and hopefully, eventually , it will look like a big chaotic and charming mess.

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