NORTH KINGSTOWN – The Plum Beach Garden Club (PBGC) announced this week that it would be presenting a North Kingstown resident with an Award of Excellence.
PBGC, which is based in North Kingstown, said that Harriet Powell would be receiving the award for her “her dedication, leadership and activism in educating people about the plight of pollinators and what each of us can do to restore their numbers.”
According to the United States National Park Service (NPS), a pollinator is “anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma).”
“The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants,” NPS said on its website, adding that pollinators include “insects and animals–such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies and small mammals, including bats.”
PBGC–a nonprofit organization and a Class 2 Garden Club, as defined by the National Garden Clubs–said that Powell spent a great deal of time and effort raising awareness about the importance of pollinators.
According to PBGC, Powell began her interest in pollinators during her tenure on the North Kingstown Ground Water Committee, when she realized that improving the fate of pollinators, along with other wildlife, coincided with a number of goals to protect water quality and quantity.
“As chair of the ground water committee, she encouraged the committee to discuss and publicize ways to help pollinators while protecting our water supply,” PBGC said.
Reached by phone, Powell said she began raising awareness about the importance of pollinators after learning that the “number of pollinators have dropped significantly.”
“They did a study in Germany and found that the insect population, including pollinators, had dropped 75 percent,” Powell said. “These were in nature preserves, so you can imagine what it must have been in populated areas.”
She also said that hand pollinating would add tens of millions of dollars to the cost of food production, making it all the more important to ensure the survival of natural pollinators.
While on the ground water committee, Powell called attention to the fact that lawns of turf grass need a great deal of water and provide zero food for pollinators.
“Adding shrubs, flowers and other plantings, hopefully native, could raise the amount of pollinator food to a level above zero and help pollinators survive,” PBGC said. “Other helpful strategies to conserve water and support pollinators include letting the lawn grow to at least three inches before mowing, overseeding with clover and allowing an occasional dandelion.”
Powell said that there were “a lot of beautiful lawns” in North Kingstown and, with just a little effort, they could serve as a source for pollinators.
“Just take a small patch, overseed with clover, grow a few wildflowers, and put in a few shrubs,” she said. “Do it in the back of your house if it’s untidy looking. I don’t have my yard cleaned up in the fall because all of those leaf piles are where the pollinators spend the winter.”
Powell also played a big role in the passage of two pollinator-friendly proclamations by the North Kingstown Town Council, while also getting the ball rolling on what would become the Pollinator Rescue Project RI.
“[S]he initiated talks with the Plum Beach Garden Club, which led to the forming of a group called the Pollinator Rescue Project RI,” PBGC said.
The Pollinator Rescue Project RI brought together the PBGC, the groundwater committee and Casey Farm, along with other groups and individuals, to establish and maintain a “pollinator friendly garden” at Casey Farm, which was aided by a grant from Feed a Bee.
PBGC has been around since 1927, and since then, the club has been guided by its “love of flowers, plants and trees, beautiful gardens and landscapes, birds, butterflies, and bees, and of all the other symbiotic elements of nature.”
“We have raised awareness of the fragility of our environment by promoting conservation and by sharing our passion and knowledge with others,” PBGC said on its website. “Through these efforts, our lives and the lives of those around us have been enriched.”
And, according to PBGC, Powell exemplifies the mission of the club.
“Harriet Powell has been a leader in the North Kingstown fight to educate our community about the plight of pollinators and to actively take steps to increase pollinator access to pollinator friendly plants,” PBGC said.
Powell said that it was “lovely” to have received the award, though added that the most important thing was keeping the public informed about the need for pollinators.
“I think it’s lovely of them to have recognized my labors, but the important thing is awareness,” she said. “Anything like this will raise awareness of the public and maybe get them on board with helping the pollinators survive.”
To learn more about the PBGC, visit https://www.plumbeachgardenclub.org.