The pollinator garden with new plantings

How a garden on Capitol Campus attracts birds, bees and butterflies – and people, too

Where a bare concrete pad used to sit, a blooming garden now flourishes—attracting both pollinators and visitors.


Without pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies, many plants, flowers and trees wouldn't exist. In fact, 85% of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce! To support pollinator habitats in Washington state, public works projects that include landscaping must allocate at least 25 percent of the planted area for the feeding, nesting, and reproduction of all pollinators, including honey bees. 

On the state's Capitol Campus, DES buildings and grounds staff saw an opportunity for a new pollinator habitat by repurposing an area where rapidly growing bamboo was harming the concrete. After the state legislature approved funding to repurpose eight large concrete planters into a large pollinator garden, DES went to work to design and develop the new garden.


The project was in collaboration with many organizations during the process, including the Office of the Governor, Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Woodland Park Zoo, Xerces Society, Squaxin Island Tribe, Nisqually Indian Tribe, and Chehalis Tribe. 

At about 1,000 square feet, the garden sits over the 14th Avenue tunnel in Olympia. In addition to attracting pollinators, the garden was designed to attract human visitors and educate on the importance of pollinators. The Woodland Park Zoo donated interpretive signs for visitors to read while enjoying the garden.

"This historic pollinator garden is a true testament to the value of partnerships between state agencies and community organizations," said Rubai Aurora, manager of government and community partnerships for Woodland Park Zoo. "We were all inspired to not only bring our professional expertise, but our passion for pollinator conservation to make this project happen. It’s only the start of much more that we can accomplish together."


The new pollinator garden was unveiled during National Pollinator Week in June 2022. Governor Inslee attended the open house, along with partners that supported the effort. DES was recognized by the Professional Grounds Management Society for its design and implementation of the Pollinator Garden, along with another recent project, the Sunken Garden. 

In 2023, more interpretative signs will be added on campus to highlight the other pollinator gardens on the Capitol Campus.   

Seven staff members from DES and Woodland Park Zoo stand in a semicircle on the grounds of the future garden, discussing the design plans
Staff from DES and Woodland Park Zoo met early in the process to discuss the layout and design of the garden.
DES staff person bends over the garden to plant starter flowers and plants
DES staff planted starter flowers and plants into the large, above-ground concrete planters.
A colorful interpretive sign installed in the garden titled "The real dirt about soil."
Once the plants were in, colorful interpretive signs were installed in each planter. This one talks about "The real dirt about soil." 
Governor Jay Inslee stands at a podium in front of the garden with the capitol building in the background
Governor Jay Inslee spoke at the open house for the garden. "Washington is the most beautiful state in the country and our pollinators are a contributor to that,” said Governor Inslee. “They allow for diversity in our environments and are crucial to the health of those environments."

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