Book Review: The Pollinator Victory Garden
Written by Kim Eierman
Published by Quarry Books (2020)
Reviewed by Georgia Harris
I first heard about Kim Eierman’s book The Pollinator Victory Garden at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. While Eierman could not have predicted that the release of her book would coincide with a pandemic, the timing is particularly appropriate as more people are finding time to work in and enjoy their yards and gardens. Just as each person has their own role in helping slow the pandemic, each of us can play a part in supporting pollinators. While masks and hand sanitizers are important tools for the former goal, The Pollinator Victory Garden is a guide for the latter, inviting us to gain back some control of our environment and to do something beneficial during this unprecedented time.
The book’s title references the victory gardens of World War I that not only provided a reliable food source but boosted morale and empowered civilians to do their part for the war effort. So too can pollinator victory gardens help ease the current threats to our food supply and improve morale at a time when getting outside is the best thing we can do to care for our own health.
Eierman talks about the importance of pollinators not only in our own food supply but to entire ecosystems and how our current love of “vast green pollinator deserts – also known as lawns,” have led us to our current predicament. The widespread use of pesticides and lack of biodiversity in plants weakens pollinators and makes them more susceptible to new pests and diseases.
The book is arranged in logical, color-coded chapters that give concise information on multiple aspects of pollinators and the different habitats and food they need to survive. Eierman doesn’t just address the more “popular” pollinators; she covers moths, bats, and flies just as thoroughly as butterflies and bees. With easy-to-read charts scattered throughout the book, Eierman highlights which plants to eliminate, the importance of native plants, planting guidelines for foraging habitat, sample bloom inventory charts, and several other helpful reference points for any level of gardener.
I found the chapter entitled “Parade of Pollinators” fascinating. In this chapter, Eierman discusses the life cycle, food preferences, and habitat of all different types of pollinators. Did you know that most native bees are not social like European honeybees? Most species are solitary, or, as with the bumblebee, quasi-social. Butterflies are perhaps the most charismatic and well-liked visitors to any garden, for obvious reasons. While not as popular, moths provide similar pollination functions but are often underappreciated because they usually forage at night. The monarch butterfly is the poster child for what degradation of habitat can do to a species. Their numbers have been decreasing drastically in both their Mexican winter home and in northern summer gardens.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the fabulous pictures of pollinators that grace almost every page. It’s rare to see insects so close up, and you can really study their compound eyes and their fuzzy thoraxes used for collecting pollen. The photos of flowering gardens also give readers inspiration for their own pollinator gardens. These are not neat and tidy monocultural gardens, but rather a diverse expanse of thriving plant palettes that provide food for pollinators throughout the entire growing season.
After reading Eierman’s book, I decided that I would try my hand at creating pollinator pathways through my suburban neighborhood. One of the points brought up in the book is how essential it is to create pathways between larger wildlife habitats. A suburban neighborhood would be a great place for just such a pathway. If I could make it easy for my neighbors to access native pollinator plants, they might be more inclined towards this idea than if they had to find plants themselves. I contacted a local nursery to provide about 15 different native plant species for both sun and shade gardens. I sent out an email to my neighbors and waited with bated breath to see if I would garner any interest. To my great surprise, over 21 people contacted me wanting to save pollinators by adding native plants to their garden. The most difficult part of this undertaking was finding plants; with everyone stuck at home, nurseries were having an unexpected run on all types of plants. After several weeks I was finally able to source most of the plants to give to my neighbors. Ultimately, the project was so successful that my local conservation committee asked me to share my idea with the larger town. In the meantime, I plan to follow up with all my pathway friends and ask them if they’ve observed an uptick in the number of pollinators visiting their gardens.
With Eierman’s guidance, easy to read charts, plants list, and even a Pollinator Victory Garden checklist, you can create a bio-diverse native habitat that can make a difference to the pollinators of the world. Not only will getting outside and working the land help all the little creatures we share the world with, but it will make a difference in how you feel about your own place in the environment. Nature gives us so much beauty, and the least we can do is spend a little of our time ensuring many more pollinators in our future.
About the Reviewer
Georgia Harris lives in the Boston Metro area and has been gardening for years. She is excited to be the new editor of the ELA newsletter. When she is not in the garden she can be found practicing yoga or snuggling with her four cats.
Each author appearing herein retains original copyright. Right to reproduce or disseminate all material herein, including to Columbia University Library’s CAUSEWAY Project, is otherwise reserved by ELA. Please contact ELA for permission to reprint.
Mention of products is not intended to constitute endorsement. Opinions expressed in this newsletter article do not necessarily represent those of ELA’s directors, staff, or members.