A New Partnering has the Town Abuzz with Pollinator Pathways

By Anne W. Semmes

There’s a new movement in town being celebrated by butterflies, bumble bees, and hummingbirds. Those pollinator pathways are growing across busy downtown Greenwich, thanks to a new partnering.

“The Greenwich Housing Authority (GHA), the Parks Department and the Greenwich Tree Conservancy (GTC) are the movers and shakers that are making this happen,” said garden designer Carrie Greenwald.

Greenwald took this reporter on a tour of a butterfly-frequented garden she and husband, Mark, created cattycornered from Town Hall before the Greenwich Close apartment complex with its entries on Brookside Drive.

The Greenwalds are prize-winning garden designers. Their Maher Greenwald business is based in Stamford, but they’re often working in Greenwich. Mark is a founder of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy and serves as its secretary.

“There was nothing here but dog poo and two struggling azaleas,” said Carrie Greenwald, as she recalled what the garden space looked like over four years ago. “I wanted this to be a flowery river, with seating areas, a patio, a bird watching area.”

And it’s all there, including the Monarch butterflies. “Look,” she notes. “There are some mating.” September is high season for butterflies on the move.

Carrie is in love with plants and what they do for us and for itinerant wildlife. She points out a tall plant on the edge of the garden. “It’s called Elf Dock – Inula Helenium. It has cups inside that hold water for the birds. In the fall it produces a large quantity of seeds and draws Goldfinches who feast on them.”

Next to the Elf Dock are rose-colored Mallows.

“I wanted hosts for the larva of butterflies, like the Mallow,” Carrie says.

With this Greenwich Close Pocket Park project, Carrie has made a grocery store for butterflies, moths, assorted bees and hummingbirds.

The garden is separated off from busy Field Point Road with a white English lattice fence.

Remarking on the traffic noise, Carrie counters, “People lose themselves in a garden.” From the number of flower-filled window boxes overlooking the garden from apartment balconies, residents are finding inspiration.

Anthony Johnson is the executive director of the GHA Greenwich Close property. He said that he had envisioned a wild and beautiful park there and enlisted the Greenwalds, as recommended by the GTC to realize his vision.

Since arriving at his post 12 years ago, Johnson brought his vision of adding gardens to a number of GHA properties, and he’s seen their effect on residents.

“They saw we cared so much they cared more about their home,” Johnson said. “It’s beautiful, its green.”

Johnson has seen Greenwich Close move from having a high turnover, after a significant renovation under his watch, to become 100% occupied. And he reports that First Selectman Peter Tesei, who works across the street, is pleased.

The gardens in front of the Town Hall Annex on Havemeyer were also Johnson’s vision. Now a GHA property, it too is an apartment complex. It’s next on Carrie Greenwald’s pollinator pathway tour, and shows her handiwork seven years growing. Giant blooming hydrangeas are a backdrop for a pair of fronting gardens, one for butterflies, and one a shade garden.

“There’s also a hedge of Knock Out roses that is great looking in the spring,” she notes.

These gardens won the Greenwalds the Alfred E. Betteridge Award for Sterling Service in 2013, as given by Greenwich Green and Clean.

But Carrie sees the butterfly garden missing its “Monarch Waystation” sign that she routinely places in her pollinator gardens. And she has concern for the other shade garden, missing its shade from a dying apple tree. She suggests perhaps the GTC can replace it.

Next stop on Carrie’s pollinator pathway tour was found along East Putnam Avenue, again the work of the Greenwalds. Six garden beds, four months old, beginning at the corner of Church Street and extend upwards toward Lafayette Place. They are filled with flowering plants and grasses bending in the breeze, all coveted by butterflies, and buzzing with bees.

A sidewalk redo by the Town brought the increased planting space. So, the Town’s Engineering Division of Public Works reached out to the Greenwalds to design gardens for the areas. With one caveat, the shopkeepers alongside the gardens would need to water them.

Overseeing that watering is Alyssa Keleshian Bonomo, owner of the 45 East Putnam building that hosts six of those shopkeepers. “Someone waters them every day,” Bonomo confirms.

The advent of the Avenue gardens inspired Bonomo to make a significant contribution. Why not add a bench “to stimulate friendly encounters.” Why not honor her late father, Harry Keleshian. “My dad was always connecting with people on the street.”

“My dad was co-founder of Greenwich Green & Clean,” notes Bonomo. “He believed in supporting all efforts to make Greenwich a beautiful place to live, work and play. My dad saw East Putnam as a beautiful welcome mat to people headed to downtown Greenwich.”

The tour with Carrie Greenwald ended on East Putnam but the pathway doesn’t end there. Across town, Mark Greenwald has recently made his mark.

“Mark has designed the greening of the Horseneck Parking Lot,” says JoAnn Messina, executive director of the GTC.

She cites the parking lot, located at the corner of Horseneck Lane and Shore Road as the first of what the GTC hopes to be many “Parking Parks.”

A drive by finds slender islands of green with newly planted trees throughout the parking lot ready to welcome home commuters and yes, those pollinators.

“The GTC has partnered with several concerns in town,” says Messina, “to promote pollinator pathways.”

The GTC is partnering with the Conservation Commission and other community organizations for a Sept. 20 presentation and panel discussion on how to continue with pollinator pathways throughout town to be held at the newly named Greenwich Botanical Center at Montgomery Pinetum. Messina is serving as moderator for the event. For more information email treeconserv@optonline.net, or call 203-622-7380.

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