Becky Graham is creating a pollinator sanctuary in the land surrounding the Astoria Co+op.
As the greenskeeper for the co-op and other properties on the North Coast through her business, Harvest Moon Design, Graham said she feels honored to take care of this piece of earth.
“Everything is grown organically and naturally because healthy soil makes for healthy plants,” Graham said. “I’m trying to create a healthy microbial life. There’s so much going on under our feet.”
She’s been taking care of the co-op’s plants since 2014.
When she first took on the grounds of the new co-op location, Graham brought in high quality soil and soil amendments like cow manure and mulch. She brought in new plants from a nursery in Hillsboro and was very strategic in where she planted each item. The plants next to the outdoor dining area will grow specifically to create a screen for the traffic noise as well as an aesthetically pleasing display.
“This is a very young garden,” Graham said. The co-op has been in its new location since December 2019, and Graham has planted a variety of new plants since then. “They say the first year a plant sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps.”
She planned the garden to encourage beneficial visitors like bees, butterflies, insects and birds. The nectar and pollen nourishes the pollinators, who in turn keep the garden healthy. The variety of plants and plant shapes are intentional, as hummingbirds can access some flowers that insects can’t, and vice versa, and some plants have higher amounts of pollen and nectar.
“I’ve put food here for them and they show up and are feasting and that makes me very happy,” Graham said. “I have something blooming 12 months of the year. Even in winter I’ll have beautiful fragrant plants that will bloom.”
In addition to garden visitors, she’s hoping to see garden residents make the place home with nests to lay eggs, or for insects to go through the larva stage.
At the end of the summer, Graham collected seeds from wildflowers she had already planted on the grounds so she could use them to plant more.
“I always look to see what a weed is before I pull it because a lot are native wildflowers that want to come back, like lupin and purple clover,” she said. “One is called phacelia, or ‘bee’s friend,’ which is not native but the bees love it.”
Many of the perennials at the co-op garden, like the pollinator-magnet Agastache, bloom nonstop from June until the first frost.
“I always make sure what I’m doing is a tamed wild look that’s aesthetically pleasing, beautiful and kept-up,” Graham said. “It’s function first and beauty second.”
She said a well-organized organic garden with a diversity of plants creates its own balanced ecosystem that takes care of itself and is less prone to disease and other issues that non-organic gardens deal with.
“I’m hoping the co-op is a place where other businesses can look to as an example of what I’m able to do that’s beautiful, easy to maintain and makes a difference for birds, bees and butterflies,” Graham said.
She added she’s open to talking with co-op customers who have questions about the plants.
“It feels like a gift for me to share my love of nature, plants and design here,” Graham said. “I have so many people take the time to tell me the garden makes them happy and they love it.”
Graham is hoping to get Astoria on the map as a Bee City USA, a designation that would require City of Astoria staff and community members to work together to make the area a better place for pollinators. Graham is currently looking for volunteers who would be interested in talking with the city, maintaining spaces with native plants and reducing the use of pesticides.
To get in touch with Graham, call her at 503-791-7664 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.