Free seed packets seek to nourish pollinators in Sonoma
This Earth Day, Sonoma is planting gardens. Maybe as many as 300 of them.
That’s the idea, at least, behind a spring planting program launched by Sonoma resident Brenda McNeill, whose helping gift between 300 and 400 butterfly and hummingbird garden seed packets to any and all Johnny and Janey Appleseeds in the community.
From April 15 through Earth Day, April 25, more than 35 local businesses will be distributing the packets filled with more than 300 seeds of a plethora of varieties — from poppy and larkspur to Indian Blanket and Butterfly milkweed and beyond – that can grow into successful pollinator gardens.
“Hummingbirds are all around us and feeding them natural food from flowers, to me it was just important,” said McNeill, a local estate agent who also serves on the board of directors for the Sonoma Garden Park, the Seventh Street East park run by the Sonoma Ecology Center and known for its pollinator gardens. “Hummingbirds and butterflies really need help with additional food sources.”
Pollinator gardens promote specific plants preferred by such pollinators as hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. With Sonoma smack-dab in the middle of the migratory path of such pollinators as Monarch butterflies, providing the insects with habitat is among the most beneficial ways to help protect and promote the species. Habitat destruction is among the leading dangers to pollinators. The Monarch butterfly, for instance, has seen a rapid depletion in its ranks. In the last 25 years, western monarch populations have dropped by more than 50%, according to the Xerces Society, a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates.
The inspiration for the pollinator garden seed giveaway came to McNeill last year during the pandemic when she felt a positive outdoor project could bring some “brightness” to the community.
“There’s something really positive about butterflies and hummingbirds and pollinators,” she said.
Having grown up on a ranch, tending to flora and fauna comes naturally to McNeill, as does sharing her passion for the outdoors. In 2020, she started a farm-to-table program for kids – “to get them away from screens and outside into gardens” – as well as a Sonoma Nature Journal Club, open to all ages, but well-attended by kids.
Buoyed by the success of those programs, McNeill hoped to do something similarly positive, but on a broader scale. “We wanted to bring the community something that is meaningful, that has some substance to it,” she said. “So it started with (the idea), let’s gift to the community the ability to grow your own garden.”
Partnering with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and the Sonoma Syrup Company, McNeill’s pollinator seed-packet program was born. She “pulled in” more than two dozen local businesses to help distribute the packets, while Sonoma Nature Journal Club members and Mentoring Alliance kids joined their mentors at the Garden Park to put the packets together. “It gives them something meaningful to do together,” she said of the mentors and mentees. “Kids feel like they’re doing something of substance.”
With so much change and uncertainty of the past two years, McNeill feels programs that give something of substance to the community are all the more important.
“I believe in this whole idea of gifting,” she said, adding she hopes the gardens bring as much to the gardeners as it does the pollinators.
“You can attract the hummingbirds and butterflies who really do need help with additional food sources,” she said. “But you can also nourish yourself.
“And to me that is just as important.”
To learn more about the Butterfly and Hummingbird Spring Garden Gift, visit artofleisure.com. The packets include a complete list of the seed flowers enclosed, an information sheet and simple planting guidelines.
Art which I created and donated to this organization is being used to help the community.
Focus: The City of Sonoma’s housing rules, which are being revised
Why: The City’s policies matter to YOU! A City that has more, and more affordable, homes will improve equity, economy, and environment in Sonoma Valley.
What: You’ll hear from four speakers with differing perspectives on the City’s housing policies. Then, Sonoma Valley Collaborative’s Council will discuss their approach to influencing this
This is a link to a video which was shared about my Nature Journaling program for the community of Sonoma kids. It also highlights the importance of land and water at this historic creek in Sonoma, Carriger Creek.
My pumpkins and garden for kids in Sonoma was used by the Sonoma Ecology Center to promote their winter program.
There’s a whole lot of fun to be had this Winter Season! Join us at one of our many events while we connect over community, ecology, and education.
Farm to Table for Kids community outreach:
Come Join Us As We Develop the Exciting Link Between The Garden, What We Eat, And How it Relates To Our Table At Home
Let’s Celebrate Fall, and Helping Kids To, “Look A Little Closer” And Be Curious.
Sonoma, Ca (October 2021) – With the beauty of fall in the air, I have created a new program to bring kids into the garden to explore the concept of “Farm to Table For Kids.” This is a community outreach program that connects plants + nature + food preparation + enjoyment. Simply, it is my venture into
helping kids to happily understand the circle of soil to kitchen, which our food travels before reaching the table.
Video about water in Sonoma Valley and Carriger Creek made public and well received:
Bartholomew Park Winery is creating an Earth Day promotion which includes the Butterfly & Hummingbird gift which I created along with the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance and Sonoma Syrup. See following link to their post: https://www.bartholomewestate.com/earth-day- butterfly-hummingbird-seed-packets/
Celebrate Earth Day
Celebrate Earth Day! Every day is Earth Day at Bartholomew Estate Winery. It is a haven for pollinators. Located within the 375-acre Bartholomew Park, the winery has intentional plantings to attract these helpful creatures – in front of the historic mission-style winery building, and on the Oak Knoll and Courtyard Patio tasting areas. Antonia’s Garden picnic grounds is just adjacent to the winery. It is also host to a selection of attractive plants, trees and flowers.
Among the pollinator-friendly plantings are blooming fruitless apricot and flowering plum trees, a variety of salvias, cat mint, rosemary, germander, iris, lavender, agapanthus, rock roses, and ceanothus – all attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees who have made the park their home. The crabapple trees that line the driveway entrance, as well as the cherry trees in the garden behind the Villa, are also delightful attractions to these pollinators.
We source 22 acres of organically farmed vineyards on the estate to make Bartholomew Estate wines. Grapevines themselves are self-fertilizers so don’t require pollinators. However, the pollinators are extremely beneficial to the cover crops. They help with its overall health of the vineyard and the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
This Earth Day, we are happy to share seed packets with our winery guests. They have been specially curated to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The packets are provided by local real estate agent & founder of the Sonoma Nature Club, Brenda McNeill, with the support of Sonoma Syrup Company, and help of the mentors and mentees of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance (who assembled the packets together). This outreach program is designed to share the beauty of a spring garden, as well as provide habitats for the treasured contributors to our larger ecosystem. We hope you join us in the celebration and plant the seeds at home!
Learn more about our winery experiences and book a wine tasting here. Make a day of it! Hike the 3+ miles of trails in the park. Or, bring a picnic to enjoy in Bartholomew Park. Pick up at bottle of Antonia’s Garden Rosé of Zinfandel from the winery and toast to our pollinators.
Sonoma Index Tribune article in paper: Sonoma Index
Picture in paper for creating and distributing 350+ gardens with 27
businesses and wineries
How to make oak gall ink video on YouTube Channel
The Sonoma Valley Chamber Of Commerce interviewed me on their “Chamber Chat radio spot.” It was a fun conversation about the real estate market, buyer and seller needs, favorite cookies and owls. That was with Bob Taylor on KSVY at 11:20 to 11:45sm. Hope that you tuned in.
To help a local falconer and my Nature Journal Club I created a video of a Barred Owl which is being rehabilitated and learning to fly on my 1120 Napa Road listing. You can see the video on the YouTube channel here or this is the direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywMAQRRlFLs
Check out this feature in the Sonoma Index Tribune, “New Nature Journal Club Launched.” I am looking forward to many fun adventures in nature with members of the Sonoma Nature Journal Club that I have recently created for kids of all ages:
The fall issue of Sonoma Magazine is out and online, grab a copy and see this article which re-visits the Sonoma Ecology Center Victory Garden project that I was very involved in when COVID just began. Here I can be seen placing a few plants in one of the 300+ boxes which we donated to the community.
Pick up a copy of this newspaper and front page article on, “Sowing The Seeds Of Victory” which features the Victory Garden project and commemoration of Earth Day which I am heading up for the Sonoma Ecology Center. This is a community outreach to celebrate the Sonoma Ecology Center’s 30th Anniversary at the beginning of COVID. The SEC donated 300 Victory Garden starter packs to the Sonoma Valley community in just a few hours on Saturday morning:
Just Links For Press
Check out this feature in the Sonoma Index Tribune, “New Nature Journal Club launched.” I am looking forward to many fun adventures in nature with the Sonoma Nature Journal Club that I have recently created for kids of all ages:
The fall issue of Sonoma Magazine is out and online, grab a copy and see this article which re-visits the Sonoma Ecology Center Victory Garden project that I headed up at the beginning of COVID:
Pick up a copy of this newspaper and front page article on, “Sowing the seeds of Victory” which features the Victory Garden project and commemoration of Earth Day. This is a community outreach which I headed up for the Sonoma Ecology Center to celebrate their 30th Anniversary at the beginning of COVID. We donated 300 Victory Garden starter packs to the Sonoma Valley Community: