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Take the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

See hundreds of butterflies and help Powell Gardens put the Kansas City region on the Million Pollinator Garden map at the 19th annual Festival of Butterflies. The garden challenge is a nationwide call to action to help revive the health of butterflies, bees and other pollinators by planting gardens and landscapes that provide nectar and pollen.

The festival will be held July 31 to August 2 and August 7-9 with family-friendly activities including creating a Monarch waystation, exhibits, storytelling and garden cooking demonstrations. Learn even more about monarchs and other native species in two outdoor butterfly breezeways.

The pollinator map campaign dovetails with the festival’s focus on protecting the monarch butterfly—an iconic butterfly that has been losing an estimated one-million acres of habitat every year, according to Monarch Watch, a Kansas University-based research group.

In early July, fewer than 20 gardens from the region were documented on the Million Pollinator Gardens map. Powell Gardens hopes to change that over the course of the festival by building awareness and selling plants that will meet the Pollinator Garden criteria. Visitors will find a selection of nectar-rich plants, milkweed and native plants that sustain butterflies and many other important pollinators.

“No effort is too small,” said Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture. “If you only have a deck or patio, you can still create a great pollinator garden in a container. Every garden helps!”

Monarch Watch will be on site throughout the festival to share hands-on, close encounters with the monarch butterfly in all of its life stages, plus to show visitors how to create a Monarch Waystation. A waystation is a garden or landscape that includes the butterfly’s host plant (milkweed), nectar sources, shelter and plenty of sunshine. These habitats can be certified through Monarch Watch and also registered with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

For landscape inspiration, Branhagen encourages visitors to take time to study plantings at Powell Gardens that are designed with nature in mind. In particular, the plantings in the Terrace Gardens on the north side of the Visitor Center were selected to attract pollinators, including moths and butterflies. The Master Gardeners exhibit during the Festival of Butterflies will help budding gardeners learn about host and nectar plants to attract butterflies to the garden.

Why take the challenge?

Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

How can you participate?

To qualify for the challenge, gardens (no matter what the size) must include plants that provide nectar and pollen sources. An ideal pollinator garden also will provide a water source, be planted in sunny areas with windbreaks, create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants, establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season and eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides.

If you already have a garden that meets the criteria, go to and register your site on the map. The challenge is open to all types of gardens—schools, community gardens, farms, institutions as well as individual homeowners. Once you’ve registered you can add photos and challenge your friends and neighbors to join in. Use the hashtag #polliNATION to help spread the word.

Who’s behind the challenge?

The challenge is an initiative of the National Pollinator Garden Network—a collaboration of stakeholders from the garden, pollinator and conservation communities working together to support the health of pollinating animals. Powell Gardens is a member of the American Public Garden Association, a stakeholder in the project.

Powell Gardens is located at 1609 N.W. U.S. Highway 50 in Kingsville, MO. Learn more about the Festival of Butterflies at Powell Gardens.

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