HARC Living Lab to Include Pollinator Garden on Campus

Posting Date: 
Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Recently, HARC was awarded a grant from The Garden Club of Houston to enhance the HARC campus by developing a pollinator and butterfly garden. An expansion of our Living Lab to the outside and exterior of our building, this garden will serve as a teaching tool for the many visitors who come to the facility.

The project will redevelop four landscape beds and the surrounding area into pollinator gardens (Figure 1). The garden will be infused with native plants species selected to maximize benefits to pollinators. Specific objectives of the project are to 1) clear and prepare the landscape beds and surrounding area for planting, 2) select the optimal plant palette, 3) install plant material, and 4) host native plant and pollinator workshops as educational outreach.

The HARC Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified headquarters was constructed to serve the community as a living laboratory where sustainable technologies and concepts could be applied and demonstrated (Figure 1). As part of this mission, approximately 70% of the 3.5-acre mixed pine and hardwood forested property was conserved.

The areas impacted during construction where reinfused with restorative landscaping that focused on utilizing native plants. Natives such as purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata), standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), and downy lobelia (Lobelia puberula) can be found in the landscape and surrounding habitat.

Dr. Ryan Bare, a HARC scientist with expertise in ecology and natural resources, will work with native pollinator experts to determine the plant palette. The plant palette will be selected for specific benefits tailored to support populations of pollinators with emphasis on the monarch butterfly. Additional elements will be considered in the selection process such as drought tolerance, regional suitability, and commercial availability. HARC will collaborate with the Houston Audubon Society Natives Nursery and local garden centers such as Nature’s Way Resources for nursery stock and compost as well as Native American Seed to source seed.

Members of the public will directly benefit from this project because HARC routinely offers building and site tours, provides meeting space, and hosts educational workshops. Since dedicating our new facility in 2017, HARC has played host to more than 3,500 tour and workshop participants from around the world. HARC’s conference space serves as a venue for organizations such as The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands GREEN, and the Heartwood Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists who appreciate the unique opportunity to host classes and meetings in a space that becomes part of the curriculum. HARC has also partnered with Center for Houston’s Future, the World Affairs Council of Houston, Leadership Montgomery County, The Woodlands Economic Development Partnership, and the Greater Houston Community Foundation to host onsite events that have the added value of seeing sustainable practices at work. At the request of U.S. Trade officials, delegations from the United Kingdom, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East have toured HARC during their visits to Houston. The addition of a pollinator garden will serve as a striking visual of our work to be understood by all ages and education levels of our guests.

The pollinator garden will strongly augment the HARC Living Lab and its purpose to provide members of the public with teaching and educational opportunities.