We manage over 2000 sq. ft. native pollinator habitat on the Tufts University Medford/Somerville campus.
Our gardens are located at 574 Boston Avenue courtyard, Tisch Library patio, outside 527 Boston Avenue, and Barnum Hall. Each garden contains a wide diversity of native plants, each species selected to thrive in the city and be attractive diverse pollinators.
Plants in our gardens bloom from May through October, meaning there should always be at least one plant in flower during your visit, and plenty of pollinators to see! Let us know what you find; post your sighting to our iNaturalist project.
Read on to learn about our pollinator gardens and see the process from planting to blooms!
574 Boston Ave
This is our flagship garden, planted with over 20 species of native perennials that are attractive to people and pollinators.
In 2019, we adopted this ornamental garden with hopes of making it native habitat for insect pollinators. We moved around some of the existing perennials and made room for our new plugs from Prairie Nursery. Most plants in the garden spend this year building strong, deep roots that would allow them to flower for years to come.
In May, our established garden is lush! Wool-carder bees, leaf-cutter bees, and sweat bees love the white flowers of foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis). By mid-summer our garden beds offer a diverse menu including culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum), and sweet coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa). As fall descends on the city, goldenrods (Solidago spp.) and asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) move into the spotlight, feeding pollinators until frost.
In spring 2021, we expanded the pollinator habitat at the 574 Boston Avenue courtyard. We added new species that were not included in the tiered beds, including cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and boneset (Eupatoriam perfoliatum). We cannot wait to see how this garden fills in! We invite you to explore our gardens at the courtyard.
Our Tisch Library garden, located in the middle of “The Hill,” greets campus visitors of all kinds: pollinators passing through, students on their way to the library, and future Jumbos on college tours.
It took hard work to get this bed in shape for planting. The soil was clayey, hard-packed, and shallow. We removed non-native day lilies and salvias and chose 15+ native perennial species for this bed. We planted this garden in spring 2019 and some additional native perennials were added in spring 2020 to fill in remaining gaps.
In spring, this garden feeds pollinators with red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata). Come summer, our garden pops with fireworks of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), and cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata). Into fall, New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) and New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) take center stage, providing food and shelter to pollinators preparing for hibernation.
527 Boston Avenue
In collaboration with Tufts Facilities, we planted this garden across from Semolina Kitchen to serve as a stepping stone between our 574 Boston Avenue and Tisch Library gardens. This garden was planted with a palette of white, yellows, and purple plants in mind to be attractive to both people and pollinators! Check back for updates as this garden fills in.
Barnum Research Garden
This garden serves two purposes: to support insects and to grow seedlings for our annual native plant sale. Each year, we harvest seeds from our demonstration gardens, germinate them in the Tufts greenhouse, and take care of them until they’re big enough for your garden.
In winter, we stratify seeds outside on bare soil. Stratifying seeds in cold temperatures breaks down chemicals within seeds that inhibit premature germination. Most native New England plants need some form of winter in order to germinate in spring.
In early summer, we transplant our seedlings in pots to the Barnum garden for summer growth. Our seedlings appreciate the extra space.
Tisch Library Green Roof
The iconic “TUFTS” green roof garden underwent a partial revitalization Fall 2020 through a GreenFund project carried out by the Tufts Student Garden Club in consultation with TPI. Weeds and dead plants were removed from a portion of the existing flats in the line underneath “TUFTS” as well as the “S”. The flats were replanted with native pollinator plants including bird’s foot violets, black-eyed susans, butterflyweed, and others.
Some of the plants you can find in our pollinator gardens:
- foxglove beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
- wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)
- purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
- false white indigo (Baptisia alba)
- goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
- great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
- New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)
- joe-pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum)
- marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima)
- black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
- cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata)
- New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
- smooth blue aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)
- swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
- wild senna (Senna hebecarpa)
- white turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
- anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)