The Buzz about Pollinator Gardens: Skyterra’s Flourishing Habitat and Beyond

In the intricate dance of nature, pollinators give us food security, ensure the survival of countless plant species, and support our local biodiversity. Knowing the crucial role these pollinators play, what can we do as individuals to create safe havens for these vital insects? 

Let’s explore the importance of native plants and pollinators, and dive into how these biodiverse ecosystems can contribute to your wellness journey. From creating your pollinator garden, exploring your connection with nature, and trying a new hobby, we'll provide practical advice and evidence-based research to paint a picture of a flourishing environment.

certified pollinator garden plaque in Skyterra Wellness

Skyterra and its Native Mountain Retreat

Skyterra Wellness, nestled in the enchanting Blue Ridge Mountains, is much more than a wellness retreat; it's also a thriving pollinator habitat. Recognizing the critical role pollinators play in maintaining ecosystems, and the inherent beauty of the natural world, Skyterra has taken intentional steps to create an environment that supports the well-being of our guests, our staff, and our community as a whole. Our commitment to sustainability is evident in our emphasis on native plants. Native flora not only beautifies the landscape but also provides essential food and habitat for pollinators.

As a Certified Native Plant Habitat, we emphasize plants that originated not just within North America, but specifically within our mountain ecosystem. From delicious serviceberries and wild blueberries to aromatic mountain mints and meadowsweets, beauty peeks out from every corner. This distinction was given to us by the North Carolina Native Plant Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, protecting, and cultivating the native plants of North Carolina.

The Importance of Pollinator Gardens

Pollinator gardens, whether at Skyterra or in your backyard, serve as critical components in maintaining a healthy and thriving ecosystem. Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, are essential for the reproduction of many plants, including a big chunk of our food supply. As a result of the hard work of these pollinators, we can enjoy a diverse array of colorful and nutritious foods on our plates. These busy insects also stabilize our ecosystems by supporting the entire plant reproductive cycle, which in turn sustains the other precious wildlife in our beautiful mountainscape.

The interconnectedness of all species in an ecosystem, including us humans, relies on the delicate balance that pollinators maintain. A diverse community of pollinators can also reduce pest insect populations, increase yields in our vegetable gardens, and ensure our natural landscape can continue to provide us with beauty and bountiful produce. 

Bee on flower located in Skyterra's garden

At Skyterra Wellness, we make sure to employ only bee-friendly practices in our landscape, avoiding the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides that might compromise the health of our pollinator population. Our pollinator-friendly practices and landscape even got us recognized as a Certified Pollinator Habitat! 

We're proud to be a haven for the essential pollinators that keep our corner of the world blooming with color and bounty. We're excited to be officially recognized through Asheville GreenWorks, a program that aims to connect pollinator habitats all over WNC to provide our native pollinator insects with nectar and pollen sources, larval hosts, and adequate shelter. We have also made strides to remove invasive species from our landscape and eliminate the use of damaging pesticides to create a more balanced and biodiverse habitat.

Beauty on the Skyterra Campus and the Cycle of Life

Pollinator gardens are not just functional, they are also extraordinary displays of nature's beauty and an important reminder of the interconnectedness of life. The vibrant colors of blooming milkweeds and meadowsweets, the graceful fluttering of monarchs, and the gentle hum of bees all contribute to the aesthetic charm of pollinator gardens. These spaces are visually stunning to behold, while also serving as a sanctuary for our pollinators. Pollinator gardens can also serve as an educational space, where the intricate life cycles of plants and the many creatures that depend on them are exhibited. From the emergence of caterpillars to the transformation into butterflies, these gardens can be a living classroom for kids and adults alike.

Whether at Skyterra, in a local community garden, or in your backyard, take a moment to pause and appreciate the importance of pollinators, the life cycles of different species, and the symbiotic relationships in nature. 

Citizen Science: A Hobby with Purpose

Engaging in the ancient pastime of identifying birds and butterflies is one of the most accessible and rewarding hobbies to pick up. You don’t need any special equipment or experience, and you can do it pretty much anywhere you are. Taking the time to stop, listen, and observe the fluttering creatures living nearby can not only ground you with nature but also contribute to the larger effort of pollinator conservation.

Identifying and recording bird and/or butterfly species in your area can provide valuable data to citizen science projects, aiding in understanding and conserving avian populations. The National Audubon Society, Cornell University, and the Great Backyard Bird Count are a few of the many citizen science organizations where birdwatchers can submit their sightings. Scientists take this information and use it to identify trends in migration, population sizes, and more.

Similarly, observing and identifying butterflies provides insights into the diversity of their populations and any conservation needs. The North American Butterfly Monitoring Network, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP), and the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) project are popular citizen science organizations for butterfly enthusiasts. Monarch butterflies are especially important for these groups, and local pollinator gardens containing milkweed plants can help support and attract them to your area.

Skyterra Wellness garden plaque

Practical Steps to Create Your Pollinator Garden

Let’s jump into some simple tips for turning your yard or community garden into a pollinator haven. Start by researching some of the native plants in your area that attract and support pollinators. By choosing native species, not only will the plants be more well adapted to the local conditions and likely to thrive, but the local pollinators will also be more likely to be drawn to them. 

Select a variety of plants that bloom at different times, providing a continuous food source for pollinators throughout the growing season. Include trees and shrubs in your pollinator garden, not only for the interest that they’ll bring to the landscape but also to offer crucial overwintering or nesting sites for your native pollinators. Remove highly invasive plants that threaten the health and longevity of your garden. Provide a water source of some kind, since our pollinators get thirsty too. A shallow container filled with water and a few rocks for landing on is a simple and effective method. Lastly, if necessary, opt for natural and targeted pest control measures, and avoid broad-spectrum chemical pesticides that may harm our pollinators. Then, sit back and enjoy your beautiful pollinator garden, keep a lookout for their fluttering wings, and encourage others in your community to do the same!

Nurturing Ourselves and Our Ecosystem, One Garden at a Time

In cultivating pollinator gardens, whether at Skyterra or in our communities, we contribute to the well-being of our ecosystem and ensure the continued existence of these essential creatures. As we recognize the interconnectedness of life cycles, the beauty of nature unfolds, and the importance of conservation becomes clear. 

Engaging in the exciting hobby of identifying birds and butterflies adds a layer of purpose to our enjoyment of the outdoors. By taking practical steps to create pollinator-friendly spaces, we can participate in a collective effort to preserve biodiversity and support the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Whether you're enjoying the pollinator havens woven throughout Skyterra’s campus, or creating your garden, each bloom and fluttering wing is evidence of the vital role we play in nurturing the world around us.