In fall 2019, The Mariners’ Museum and Park expanded its mission of connecting people to the world’s waters by building a pollinator garden. Nestled in a cozy green space near the Museum’s business entrance, the Bumblebee Learning Garden is an inviting destination for visitors to explore.
The Bumblebee Learning Garden’s dual purpose is to provide healthy habitats for local pollinators, and to teach the community about the wonders of native, urban green spaces through curiosity and discovery.
The Museum’s mission of connecting people to the world’s waters is an important element of the garden itself. Clean water is connected to nearly all aspects of healthy ecosystems, including a small pollinator garden. Healthy coastal environments, such as the Chesapeake Bay, often depend upon the conscious actions and solutions of maritime communities. We are connected to the health of the world’s waters and are therefore an integral part of the story of hope and change. As environmental stewards, we hold a great responsibility to provide a safe habitat for all living creatures who call our Park and Lake home.
We are proud to share that the Bumblebee Learning Garden has a great variety of amazing native plants.
Below is a gallery of plants currently in the Bumblebee Learning Garden. Download Map Key Guide pdf here
Wild bergamot (bee balm)
Small hairystem spiderwort
Blue wood aster
Great blue lobelia
Downy wood mint
Wild bergamot (bee balm)
Native plants were a must in the garden. Some of the plants have an additional benefit in that they are larval hosts for butterflies. Below is a list of the plants in the garden and what butterflies use them as larval hosts. According to the Piedmont Environmental Council (click on the blue link to see more), our garden features seven larval host plants.
Check out the plants and the butterflies they are host to:
If you visit the Bumblebee Learning Garden you will see our new interactive educational sign! The sign was designed by Museum staff and was funded by Dominion Energy. The artwork was done by Mandy Louise-Houston and Betty Gatewood.
The Bumblebee Learning Garden is a collaborative effort between The Mariners’ Museum and Park and several national, state, and local community-focused organizations.
A grant from The Nature Conservancy inspired the Museum’s Education Department to create the Nature Explorers! outdoor education program for students between kindergarten and third grade. The program development resulted in the idea of a pollinator garden as one of three sensory stations within Nature Explorers!
The Museum’s Park and Education staff
The staff collaborated on the garden design and creation. Raised garden beds and pavers were an important design feature of the garden to create an accessible green space not only for students but for all visitors. Additionally, the pavers were filled with stone dust so water can seep through the space between the pavers to prevent excessive runoff in the Park during rain events.
Local Eagle Scout
Upcycled materials were utilized to build some aspects of the garden. The garden’s foundation (pavers and raised beds) was built by a local Eagle Scout with the guidance of the Museum’s Park Department staff in fall of 2019. The Eagle Scout sourced new materials for the garden locally from donors and sponsors for this project. The Eagle Scout, a group of volunteers, and the Museum’s Park Department worked very efficiently to make the lovely garden come together in a short period of time.
The majority of the plants in the garden (all native to Virginia or this region) were donated by Sassafras Farms in Gloucester, VA. These plants are not only wonderful for producing pollen and nectar, but some of them are larval hosts for butterflies. (See the What’s in the Garden section for more information.)
City of Newport News
The rich, leaf compost in the beds was donated by the City of Newport News Recovery Operations Center. Additionally, to keep our watershed and pollinators healthy, there are no harmful chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers used in the garden.
In spring 2021, The Mariners’ Museum and Park won the Virginia Green Travel Leader award for the Bumblebee Learning Garden! Click HERE to learn more about the Virginia Green Travel Star awards.
The Museum’s Education Team will continue to use the garden as a space for curiosity and hands-on exploration. Our student enrichment programs are driven by four main goals:
The Bumblebee Learning Garden is a testament to these goals. The garden provides a space for students to learn how humans can make positive impacts on the environment by creating and sustaining native gardens and forests in urban areas. As they progress through school, elementary students who participated in the Nature Explorers! program will return to the Museum with their classmates or families and witness the growth of the garden. The garden is a fantastic green space and tool that will continue to help students appreciate the wonders of nature and learning now and in the future. Expanding our selection of Park-focused programs is a top priority for the Museum’s Education team. Be sure to keep an eye on our website for more information on new outdoor education programs.
Help Keep it Clean
Anyone can visit the garden, and that means we need you to help us keep the garden and Park in tip-top shape! We encourage visitors to come and enjoy the seasonal splendors the garden has to offer, along with the beauty of the Park itself year-round. Please remember, a lot of effort is put into the creation and maintenance of this garden, and all other spaces around the Park and Lake. Please practice “Leave No Trace” principles, three of them are explained below, and consider the phrase “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
Contribute to Community Science
The Bumblebee Learn Garden’s purpose is to encourage curious discovery for all of our visitors. We invite you to take an active role in discovering and observing natural phenomenon in our Park by contributing to our community science efforts. Two of the biggest efforts for community science for general Park users are recording sightings on iNaturalist and eBird mobile apps. Please visit iNaturalist (click here) and eBird (click here) to help contribute sightings to expand the Park’s data overall.
The more we know about our Park, the better we can help to manage it in the present and future.