Innovative Pollinator Ribbon Planting

21, Jun, 2016 Darrah Cole

The Greenway horticulture staff was excited to install a new, innovative planting design on a slim piece of property adjacent the One Financial Center building along Surface Road in May. This Pollinator Ribbon connects the Greenway Dewey Square Park more  closely with  the Chinatown park and showcases a new design approach for  urban landscapes.

Inspired by concepts presented in the book  “Planting in a Post-Wild World” the two hundred plus feet of narrow landscaping preserved a portion of the existing trees and shrubs and added a wide variety of new perennial plants. Driven by the desire to add more pollinator and insect friendly plants to The Greenway, especially plants that support bees, moths and butterflies, we have dreamed of a pollinator link from end to end on the Greenway for a few years.  Combining our idea with the sustainable concepts  laid out for designing plant communities for resilient landscapes is an exciting solution to energize and invigorate this small, but noticeable slice of newly added land along The Greenway.


Spring daffodils before the new installation

G1 ribbon sketch

Early sketch of a pollinator ribbon

Starting with an undulating ribbon of color we overlaid the existing shrub layer, adjusting as needed. Then we began the exercise of sifting through plant lists to find combinations that worked in color schemes graduating from yellows to golds then oranges to pinks and then blues.  Building in the effects of harsh challenging conditions, including wind, and extreme variations in sun and shade was the next step. While the result won’t be fully experienced until next year it is already a big improvement over the largely empty soil of the previous plantings.


Water conserving drip irrigation being installed


G2 planting and layout

Mid project: plant layout and installation

By attempting to mimic the natural habit and groupings of plants, and creating plant communities that are dense, lush and mutually supportive of each other, the landscape becomes more resilient.  The combination of grasses and groundcovers with larger plants is intentional, creating a complex ecology both above and below the soil.  About 65% of the plant species are native to northeast America, with others tried and true hardy, resilient perennials and grasses. These native plants, especially the New England natives, support a broader range of wildlife and insects than many of the imported and hybrid selections.


Just installed new plants include Penstemon digitalis ‘Red Huskers’


G1 volunteer planting crew

Our great volunteer and staff planting crew

This garden bed is one of several new adjacent properties that MassDOT added in July 2015 to the Greenway Conservancy’s care and management. As with all our landscapes we will maintain this area organically and sustainably. After it is established it should require few inputs and minimal maintenance from year to year.