HYANNIS — Mini meadows bursting with cool greens, vibrant reds and yellows, subdued hues of brown, soft pinks and purples, all buzzing with bees and butterflies adorn the sidewalks of Main Street in downtown Hyannis.
This spring, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District distributed more than 140 planters in addition to creating a number of small gardens, consisting of various pollinating plants native to Cape Cod, along a one-mile stretch from Yarmouth Road near the Cape Cod Hospital to the West End Rotary as part of the Cape Cod Pollinator Pathways initiative.
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The project was led by Elizabeth Wurfbain, director of the Hyannis Business Improvement District, and Mary Myrick, who handles social media for the district.
Wurfbain said the goal is “to create a more environmentally friendly way of beautifying an urban environment.”
However, it is about way more than just planting pretty flowers.
“It’s all about the birds and the bees,” said Wurfbain, and how they, along with native pollinating plants, sustain and improve the overall environment.
The project was funded by the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District with monies paid by the owners of the properties along Main Street who pay a quarterly fee to the district, said Wurfbain.
Planters and gardens created along Main Street
The whole project, including the 140 planters, several gardens along the pathway and maintenance, cost about $15,000.
The idea was born last year at the annual Hydrangea Festival in Orleans.
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Wurfbain and Myrick visited the garden of Gary Bowden, a master gardener who is an active member of the Orleans Improvement Association, Master Gardeners of Cape Cod and the Nauset Garden Club.
Bowden said the two women attended a talk he gave about pollinator pathways and the importance of integrating native pollinating plants in their native environment.
“It’s the cycle of life. We need plants for the insects and birds to eat and we need the insects to pollinate the plants,” he said. “It’s a natural way to sustain the environment.”
In addition, the native plants used in the Pollinator Pathways project require very little water, even less fertilizer, and they bloom at different times of the spring and summer so that the plant life continues throughout the seasons.
Making Monarch butterflies welcome
One other benefit is to the Monarch butterflies, whose population has been nationally reported as dramatically decreasing, Bowden said.
One of the native plants used in the Pollinating Pathways project is common milkweed, the main food source for the Monarch butterfly.
“So we’re bringing back the Monarch butterfly,” said Bowden.
Wurfbain and Myrick said they were so impressed with Bowden’s presentation that they wanted to replicate his efforts in Hyannis.
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They recruited the services of C.L Fornari, who described herself as a “garden geek” and who hosts a weekly radio program on WXTK radio called, “Garden Line,” and has written eight books about gardening, some specifically about gardening on Cape Cod.
Fornari, also known as the “Garden Lady on Cape Cod,” advised Wurfbain and Myrick about which native plants to use that “would support the natural wildlife in the area” and that would “look good before and after they flower,” she said.
The Hyannis Main Street chose 10 plants used in its Pollinator Pathways containers. They include, by their common names, bluestar, butterfly weed, mountain mint, threadleaf ironweed (also known as Iron Butterfly), purple cone flower, switch grass, Goldilocks Rocks, sweet potato vine and two types of zinnia.
So the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District purchased plants from Country Gardens and went to work.
Pollination Pathways being added all over Cape
Planting began at the end of May and the plants reached their peak by mid-July in time for the Hydrangea Festival and Hyannis was able to give a number of garden tours, Wurfbain said.
A number of master gardeners attended and the word is spreading fast about creating more pollinating pathways.
Bowden said that last year the Pollinating Pathways initiative was started in five Cape Cod Towns: Orleans, Chatham, Harwich, Brewster and Dennis.
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“Now we have organizations from Bourne, Hyannis, Barnstable, West Dennis, Wellfleet, and Sandwich,” he said. “Now we reach from Bourne to Wellfleet.”
In addition, anybody who is interested can start a Pollinating Pathways garden in their yard and register on the organization’s website.
“We are trying to get the public to appreciate this and get them to register on our website. We started with fewer than 10 and now we have over 100 gardens registered,” Bowden said.
And this has created an actual Pollinating Pathway across Cape Cod.
Wurfbain and Myrick have been very happy with the results in Hyannis, and so has the community.
Public feedback has been positive
Marty Bruemmel, president and CEO of the Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce said he has received a lot of feedback from tourists about how Main Street looks and how the plants have really enhanced everything.
“It’s nice to see people caring about the community,” he said.
“People see us working on the planters and have something nice to say about them. It does something for the morale of the community,” Wurfbain said. “Any time we’re out on the street people tell us something about it — ‘the flowers are so pretty, it looks so nice, great job.’”
And buzzing between the plants and crawling in the soil an even greater purpose is being served.
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