Thursday, September 23, 2021

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Essex Historical Society Welcomes the Birds and the Bees with Pollinator Garden


Volunteers have created a new pollinator garden at the Pratt house in Essex. Photo courtesy of the Essex Historical Society

Volunteers have created a new pollinator garden at the Pratt house in Essex. (Photo courtesy of the Essex Historical Society)

This is a story about the birds and the bees. No, not those birds and bees; this is about the real birds and bees that the Essex Historical Society (EHS) hopes its new pollinator garden beds behind Pratt House Museum will attract. The garden is a join project involving EHS, the Essex Garden Club, the Essex Land Trust, the River Council of Governments, and Sustainable Essex, formerly known as the Essex Citizens for Clean Energy.

EHS will celebrate the new pollinator beds in a casual garden party at the Pratt House on West Avenue on Sunday, July 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Pollination is the fundamental mechanism by which plants reproduce and at present, worldwide, pollinator numbers are in severe decline, the result of everything from air pollution and climate change to the use of pesticides. To encourage pollination, a pollinator garden features plants that provide pollen and nectar for a range of insects and birds.

Chester resident Felise Cressman, also involved in creating local pollinator gardens, points out that pollinators include not only bees and butterflies but also a wide range of other creatures, not only birds but everything from wasps to bats.

“Pollinators,” said Josefiak, “are essential for growing what we eat. They are a vital part of the food chain.”

Pam Peters, an EHS member, headed the garden project. Originally, it was to kick off with a large group of planters, including students from Valley Regional High School on their Community Service Day. COVID-19 changed all those plans.

Peters scheduled volunteers so no more than two people worked at a time and social distancing could be maintained. In all, gardeners put in some 200 plants, including 35 species. The plants were purchased but BK Landscaping donated all the preparation work and the mulching of the garden beds.

It is important, Peters said, to use local species in planting and to make sure there is an array that will sustain pollinators over an entire season. As a result, the garden has been created to provide pollinators with six months of food. The challenge is not simply to use plants that attract pollinators but also to include forage vegetation for the insects that birds feast on.

Both locally and nationally, horticulturists are interested in creating pollinator pathways, a series of gardens spaced so pollinators can travel from one to another. Locally, there are private gardens emphasizing pollinator plants, and the Essex Land Trust has created two pollinator-friendly gardens, the first at the Cross Lots preserve in 2015 and a second one at the Osage Trails property. Peters is also the steward of those two gardens for the land trust.

In Chester, Cressman and Grant Russell-Walsh have just completed two pollinator gardens on Water Street and Cressman has turned her own yard into a pollinator garden as well. She has also started a group mapping pollinator garden pathways throughout the lower Connecticut River Valley.

At the upcoming event to celebrate the new pollinator beds at Pratt House, attendees will also have a chance to visit another garden at Pratt House, the historic kitchen garden, featuring herbs and plants that an 18th century housewife’s garden would have contained.

Visitors will also have a chance to see the ongoing work EHS has been doing on the history of the three villages that make up the town of Essex. An earlier project focused on the Fall River and the latest work involves Centerbrook. At the July 5 gathering, there will be a short computerized video available showing an aerial overview of Centerbrook as it looked in 1910, created with the assistance of Centerbrook Architects.

Josefiak said 1910 was chosen as the date because the beginning of the 20th century saw profound changes in Centerbrook, many created when the community transitioned from horse-and-buggy transportation to the automobile.

In addition the society has prepared a 48-page booklet on the history of Centerbrook, with assistance from Overabove, a local marketing firm.

The booklet covers Centerbrook’s story from the geology of the area and the indigenous people who once lived there to the 20th century. The book, one to a household, is free to EHS members and can be purchased by others.

“We want people to know that even though our doors have been closed, there are still so many ways to connect with history,” Josefiak says, referencing the shutdown that was necessitated by COVID-19 precautions.

At the July 5, event, following guidelines from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, those who visit are asked to wear masks.

Garden Party to Celebrate Essex Historical Society Pollinator Gardens

The Essex Historical Societyhosts a casual, distanced garden party on Sunday, July 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Pratt House, 19 West Avenue, Essex. For more information, visit

Rita Christopher is the Senior Correspondent for Zip06. Email Rita at

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