A new home for pollinators

With rising global temperatures and an ever-growing amount of pollution in the environment, a certain group of animals faces the threat of habitat loss every day: pollinators. After discovering their unique role in distributing pollen throughout ecosystems and fertilizing plants, junior Srijani Krishnan initiated a community garden with plants that provided them with food and shelter, called “Partnering with Pollinators.” 

“Beginning in eighth grade, I was interested in the pollinator issue because they’re responsible for producing most of our food supply,” Krishnan said. 

Her mother then referred her to one of the community garden coordinators at the Diamond Bar Community Church (located on the corner of Diamond Bar Boulevard and Morning Canyon Road) in December 2016. Elizabeth (Betsy Haffner) was the Master Gardener at the Diamond Bar community garden and Krishnan’s mentor throughout the process. 

“We met each other at the local library and then we started coming up with ideas, plans, what we’re trying to achieve with this pollinators garden,” Krishnan said.

 After discussing the topic more in depth, the community garden coordinators agreed to let her start her own project on their grounds. 

Krishnan’s plan was to create a garden that attracts pollinators such as bees, monarch butterflies and hummingbirds, with plants that they rely on for food. The church had given her the pre-existing butterfly garden to expand and enhance, but finding the funds for her project was all on Krishnan. 

“To initiate this, I applied for a grant from Youth Service America and Disney [Disney’s Summer of Service] and I got $500,” Krishnan said.

With the money, she was able to buy milkweeds, kangaroo paws, poppies, tulips and various kinds of perennial and biennial bulbs. The rest of the funds went toward buying new gardening tools for the community garden and toward a party for the project’s completion.

Throughout the rest of her eighth grade year, Krishnan reached out to various service clubs, such as CSF, NHS, Planet Arboretum and Leo Club, at Diamond Bar High School to assist her in planting the garden. By the beginning of freshman year, almost all of the work was done. 

In addition to providing community service events to clubs, Krishnan’s garden also gave junior Evan Thomas an Eagle Scout project idea. In February 2020, Thomas and his Boy Scout Troop replaced the old wire fence with a taller, stronger wooden fence. He also altered the garden’s entrance to make it wheelchair-friendly. 

Currently, the plants are watered by a drip irrigation system and maintained by the community gardeners. Krishnan said she still visits every two weeks to check on the garden’s health. However, her visits are about to become much more frequent due to a new gardening project she has coming up. 

“I’m applying for a grant from the Diamond Bar Community Foundation for a $900 to $1,000 grant,” Krishnan said. 

Some of the money would be used to offset the maintenance costs of the pre-existing pollinator’s garden. Meanwhile, Krishnan hopes to use the rest of the money to create a seasonal activities garden. This garden would feature different plants that could provide fun events for families and students to do at different times of the year; for example, a pumpkin patch in the fall or cherry trees for cherry picking in the summer. 

“It’s to promote, like seasonal activity in the Diamond Bar community and to invite and to engage the community members to have to go to their church and to have their children participate in activities,” Krishnan said. 

She also notes how much she’s changed her view on gardening since early days of her pollinator’s garden. 

“When I was introduced to it by Betsy, at first I thought, oh, this is so hard. I don’t know how to do these basic things,” Krishnan said. 

Now she sees it as a meaningful hobby that also provides relaxation.

“It’s something I go to when I want to take my mind off things, when I want to engage myself and serve,” Krishnan said. 

She also hopes that through her experiences, other peers might come to take initiative in environmental issues they care about.

“I want to motivate the youth of Diamond Bar to come and speak out on this issue, by participating and being leaders of this project as well,” Krishnan said. “They can also encourage the next generation in Diamond Bar to encourage others to see what they can do about these issues.”