With the arrival of summer weather, Karl Lievense noticed a small patio outside of DTE Energy’s Ashley Mews building in Ann Arbor was often empty when it seemingly should be an ideal spot for lunch.

“People who bring their lunch to work kind of forget about it. Sometimes it’s a beautiful day and people aren’t out there,” said Lievense, who is a planning and strategy analyst for DTE’s Generation Optimization business unit. “It is mostly a brick patio and there is a little section that used to have shrubs and they were pretty much dying. It is a nice outdoor area, but the landscaping hadn’t got much attention.”

DTE Group photo at gardenA member of DTE’s Green Team since joining the company four years ago, Lievense and about 10 fellow employees volunteered their afternoon recently cleaning up the area, adding top soil and planting several different types of perennial flowering plants and milkweed to attract more people to the courtyard as well as butterflies, birds, bees, and other animals that will pollinate the garden and help it grow – a perfectly timed project to begin National Pollinator Week, which runs June 18-24.

“June is peak pollinator season,” said Matt Shackelford, DTE biologist. “Everything starts moving from a biological standpoint.”

Birds, moths, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinating animals travel from plant to plant carrying pollen that transfers genetic material critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants – the very plants that bring us countless fruits, vegetables and nuts; half of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials; prevent soil erosion, and increase carbon sequestration. In fact, pollinators affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, or one out of every three bites of food.

However, many pollinator populations are shrinking due to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats attributed to pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns.

That’s why pollinator gardens, like the one built by Lievense and his fellow employees in Ann Arbor, are so important. It’s the most recent, and possibly the smallest, of the more than 30 pollinator gardens at DTE facilities. “There’s no such thing as a small project,” said Kristen LeForce, DTE biologist. “Every little bit helps pollinators.”

The gardens utilize Michigan native plants, are chosen specifically to benefit pollinators, and are created, designed, implemented, maintained and monitored by employee volunteers.

Lievense said the new garden outside the Ashley Mews building supports the Ann Arbor facility’s Wildlife Habitat Council certification. “I think the people who volunteer will keep it nice and inviting, and it will be used more often for lunch,” Lievense said.

If you want to get involved by planning pollinator gardens at home, check Pollinator Partnership’s  ecoregional plant guides.

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