A Thriving Partnership Boosts Pollinators at a Fish Hatchery

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At the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery's pollinator garden, volunteers from the Chelan Douglas Master Gardeners tackle spring projects.

Pollinators are best served by native plants; and the pollinator garden at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery is best served by volunteers. The Chelan Douglas Master Gardeners care for the garden, established in 2016. Spring projects include digging up weeds, installing new signs, and checking to see which plants survived over the winter.

Susie Stenkamp leads the local Leavenworth Master Gardeners in maintaining the garden. A unique mix of plants is found here, including a rare wormwood, Artemisia borealis var. wormskioldiiA restoration project aiming to boost the tiny population near Beverly, Washington, had some extra plants, and the garden at Leavenworth had room for them. Susie has affection for these scrappy survivors.

Plants in the pollinator garden are identified with small signs so visitors can learn the common and scientific names.

She does as well for the Tweedy's Lewisia (Lewisiopsis tweedyi) she helped plant in 2021, surrounding them with rocks to simulate their preferred habitat.

The original plants in the garden included a hefty dose of milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). Although milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies, it overflows with delicious nectar appealing to a wide variety of insects. From domestic honeybees to wild bumblebees, the garden hums all summer long with activity; but not as much in the spring. The Master Gardeners worked on planting more spring options in 2021, expanding the productive season of the garden. They also installed mason bee houses in 2022, along with artwork appealing to a common visitor to the pollinator garden: humans.

Susie Stenkamp of the WSU Chelan Douglas Master Gardeners installs a sign in the the pollinator garden at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery.

The garden aims to educate human visitors about the value and importance of pollinators and native plants. To that end, the hatchery partnered with the Master Gardeners and Friends of Northwest Hatcheries to  produce two handsome signs installed in 2022. Don Winsor, the artist who painted the flowers and pollinators that grace the signs, was 90 years old when he did the work! He produced signs for the hatchery decades earlier, and was delighted to have his work once again on display at the site.

Visitors to the hatchery can walk the path beside the garden and admire the dedicated work of volunteers along with the blooming, buzzing plants. Lucky birdwatchers might spot hummingbirds visiting columbine and penstemon. Butterfly enthusiasts often see swallowtailed butterflies and other species drinking nectar. And some folks just enjoy the walk en route to visit beavers in the old fish ponds. The Wenatchee Beaver Project, managed by Trout Unlimited, has been temporarily housing beavers at the hatchery each summer during relocation efforts. It's an added draw to bring people to the hatchery.

Hatcheries are havens for aquatic life. But Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery hosts a wide array of wildlife, visible in the pollinator garden and along the trails that lace the property. The site is a kind of community park, welcoming visitors and volunteers who love the outdoors and wildlife. And year by year, Service staff and volunteers work to make hatchery habitat better for bees, butterflies, and native plants.

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