By Stephani Dingreville
It is 2 p.m. on a breezy October Thursday and the Corrales Library park is buzzing with activity. Parents are watching their children play on the playground, a couple is throwing a ball for their dog to chase, and several picnic blankets patchwork the grass. Near the east wall of the library, a different kind of buzz has attracted a small group of about ten people. They have come to officially dedicate the new Corrales Pollinator Garden, a riot of blue, purple and gold flowers, each chosen for its desirability to pollinators, specifically bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Sandoval Extension Master Gardener Sam Thompson has been the main driver behind bringing this beautiful space to life, though it has certainly been a village-wide effort. Thompson, along with Judy Jacobs, Paget Rose, and other Master Gardeners had dreamed of converting the unused and unattractive space behind the library into a garden that would be not only beautiful but educational as well.
Then one evening in 2019, Corrales Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Siverts, who knew about Thompson’s garden idea, called her cell phone. Siverts told her he just learned about a grant Intel Corporation was offering for community development that he thought might perfectly fit her project. The only catch was that the applications for the grant were due the next day.
In spite of this last-minute deadline, Thompson was able to write the application in time. She got the grant, giving Corrales the funds to create the pollinator garden.
However, transforming the barren space into a garden turned out to be more difficult than anyone initially imagined.
First the soil had to be improved. “Calling it soil was generous,” Thompson jokes of the pre-existing ground at the site. Crusher fine had to be removed, and great amounts of compost brought in to make the soil viable. Siverts helped again with this part, enlisting Mike Chavez, the director of Public Works, to assist with the heavy lifting.
Then the Master Gardeners went to work on the design, choosing plants based on specific criteria. First and foremost, the gardeners looked at the plant’s ability to attract pollinators. “Every single plant was chosen for pollinator capabilities,” Master Gardener Judy Jacobs said. The Master Gardeners then looked at the plants’ ability to thrive in the lighting and soil conditions, and lastly their beauty. The garden is intended to have color from early spring to December.
Mostly the plants were started from seed, and slowly grew into the beauties being dedicated today. Master Gardener Paget Rose commented on the ephemerality of the space, saying “It changes everyday. Every week I am excited to see how it has grown and changed, as it will continue to grow, fill-in, and change from year to year."
Thompson says the choice to make this garden specifically for pollinators was made for educational purposes. The garden hopes to host school groups who can learn more about the vital role pollinators play in the village ecosystem, as well as the important work they do in combating climate change.
Recently, ecologist Jeff Ollerton, a visiting professor of biodiversity at The University of Northampton, wrote an article published in New Scientist magazine emphasizing the critical role pollinators play in combating climate change, specifically through the entrapment of carbon.
“Pollinators ensure the continuation of plant populations that lock up carbon in their woody stems, roots, bulbs and tubers. The best way to restore natural habitats to help fight global warming is through natural regeneration from seeds, and for that we need pollinators,” he wrote.
So, not only does this garden act as a teaching tool, but it also is itself a nature-based solution to climate change.
The librarians who work at the Corrales Library have mentioned that the section of the park in front of the garden was previously not as crowded as other areas, but now people spend more time there. Anchoring the space is a beautiful hand-hewn wooden bench, another collaborative effort. The seat of the bench was donated by Jacob Thaler and his father, Rick, of DendroTechnology.
The latter shared a unique anecdote about the bench during the dedication.
The late Pete Smith, the woodworker who carved the library’s much-admired circulation desk and other carvings that adorn the library, left some logs in his driveway after his death.
Smith’s family knew the Thaler team would make use of them, and so offered them to DendroTechnology. Rick Thaler thought this project would be a perfect use of the logs, since the library was so important to Smith. He had assumed the logs were juniper or piñon, but when he and his son cut the logs into planks, they were pleasantly surprised to see they were very rare Corrales Walnut.
So the gorgeous slab that makes up the bench in the pollinator garden actually comes from the heart of a locally grown walnut tree, donated indirectly from the woodworker-artist who already poured his own talent into the library itself. The Thalers shaped, sanded and polished the slab to a gleaming perfection.
The metal legs for the bench were donated by Jeff Barrows, who made the fence that surrounds the library.
Villagers will no doubt enjoy this enriching addition to their library park, made possible by the hands, hearts and minds of so many, for many generations to come.