During the third week of our 10-week research program with student researchers from Swarthmore, students interviewed experts and local community partners about what citizens could do to support pollinator habitat and populations in the city. This is an issue vital to POP, as nearly all of our fruit crops are dependent on insect allies like bees, butterflies, wasps, and moths for successful pollination and fruit production. For this reason, all POP orchards include pollinator gardens, often interplanted in the orchards’ understory.  

Current POP intern Bethany Bronkema interviewed Howard Goldstein, former chair of the Penn State Demonstration Pollinator Garden, located on the grounds of the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center directly across from the Food Forest Orchard. The Pollinator Garden is currently supported by chairs Adam Eyring, Patrick Hauck, and Gabriela Vecino. Both the Pollinator Garden and Food Forest welcome regular volunteers to help maintain these vital spaces.

Email Adam Eyring at adameyring@gmail.com, or
check out POP’s volunteer event listings for opportunities to lend a hand!


In the field of pollinators and their preferred plants, there are many experts who specialize in the ways these networks interact with each other.  One of these experts is Howard Goldstein, a former Master Gardener and chair of the Penn State Demonstration Pollinator Garden, located on the grounds of the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center.

Howard and many other volunteers helped to care for this garden since the early part of 2003, when it was planted with the purpose of demonstrating the variety of plants that feed pollinating insects — both honeybees and native bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and moths. Most of the 50+ plant species in the garden are natives, and they are sturdy — with the team only watering a few select plants in the summer if there hasn’t been sufficient rain. Check out the slideshow here to see some of their recommended plants and learn more about the history of the space.

When designing and planting a pollinator garden, there a few things you’ll want to consider, including: choosing native plants, planning for multiple bloom times, mixing up color & size, designing with clusters, providing a water source, and providing places for overwintering. You can read more about some of those concepts here, from an article on our blog written by guest contributor Austin B. Arrington.

If you are interested in the variety of pollinators native to this area, check out this Q&A interview with Howard Goldstein below!  

Bronkema: What is the main importance of planting native plants?

  • Howard: They are an integral part of a long evolutionary cycle for nurseries and food for native birds and insects.  For example, migratory catbirds feed on black swallowtail caterpillars to give to their chicks.  
Howard Goldstein leads a tour through the Pollinator Garden, encouraging visitors to take a closer look at the life cycles of monarchs on the swamp milkweed, 2017.

What is one practical piece of advice you can offer to someone looking to make their home/area more pollinator friendly?

  •  Many native perennials are “bullies” meaning that they spread rapidly either from their root stocks or self-sew or both.  Be prepared to thin them and control their seedlings. Make sure to plant some host plants for monarch butterflies & black swallowtail butterflies.  We have learned that a few species of Asclepias attract aphids. Knowing that now, we let nature take its course because in time, predator insects, such as lady beetles & lace wings, come & eat them. 

Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) attracts a wide variety of bees, wasps, pollinating flies & some beetles and has a curiously strong minty fragrance and powerful pain-relieving properties for toothaches and indigestion!

What specific types of plants are the most sturdy, yet also attract a range of pollinators?

  • Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) attracts a wide variety of bees, wasps, pollinating flies & some beetles.  Also, Monarda fistulosa for bumblebees. 

What are the ways you would assess plantings for their value to native pollinators? And how did this factor in to your landscape design? 

  • If we do not see an insect or bird on the plant or no sign that there was an insect or bird, out comes the plant.  We research the plant before installing it.
Native to North America, the northern golden bumblebee lives and nest in grassy, open areas which include forest clearings and along roadsides. Nests are found both above and below the ground, however the above ground is most common
Photo credit: Our Breathing Planet.

Did you find that the number of pollinators attracted to the garden increased over the time, or was it constant?

  • In my estimation, for the month of August, 2018, there was about a 50% increase of northern golden bumblebees (Bombus fervidis) in the garden, I think mainly due to the abundance of spring perennials, Amsonia hubrechtii & Baptisia australis, plus the summer perennial, Monarda fistulosa that have been growing in the garden since about 2015. 

How have you collaborated with other experts when working on these gardens?

  • Several of the Philadelphia Chapter Penn State Master Gardeners are very knowledgeable & have contributed much valuable information about different plants that are in the Pollinator Garden.  I also consult with a few local entomologists to confirm the identities of insects that I see in the garden.  
Check out this generous listing of plants featured in the Pollinator Gardener. Try some of these in your landscape!

How do you recommend others get involved in this project? 

  • Contact the Philadelphia chapter of the Penn State Master Gardener program.  The current coordinator for the program is Erin Kinley,
  • Master Gardeners generally work in the garden 1 weekday morning & 1 Saturday morning per week.  Most help is needed in April. The garden looks very beautiful from mid April through the end of October.  
  • If you are looking for more information on this subject, see the attached brochure.  Hopefully this can help all of us learn how to get involved with creating space that is beneficial to pollinators, while also educating ourselves on the importance of this!

This POP Blog Post prepared by 2019 POP Intern Bethany Bronkema with support from POP Education Director Alyssa Schimmel.

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