First Lady Michelle Obama adds a Pollinator Garden to White House Garden

A first for the South Lawn fruit and vegetable plot, it is designed to benefit bees and Monarch butterflies…
Washington, DC – On Wednesday as she replanted her Kitchen Garden during the sixth annual Spring plantingFirst Lady Michelle Obama added a pollinator garden to her showcase vegucation plot, the inspiration for her Let’s Move! campaign.

Designed to attract bees and Monarch butterflies, the pollinator garden is a first, Mrs. Obama said, and filled with 34 varieties of non-edible plants–including milkweed, butterfly weed,  phlox, lobelia, asters, and foxglove.

Clad in black jeans, a grey t-shirt, a billowy steel-grey anorak and black leather tennis shoes, Mrs. Obama instantly became America’s most high-profile conservation activist as she described the critical need for pollinator gardens after decades of unexplained bee deaths and butterfly declines.

Digging the pollinator plants into the bed

“A pollinator garden helps to encourage the production of bees and Monarch butterflies,” Mrs. Obama said.

“They pollinate the plants, they help the plants grow.  They’re dying because of disease–we don’t even know why some beehives are just totally disappearing.”

The loss of the insects “could be a problem for the planet because if you don’t have insects and great pollinators to pollinate the plants, it could affect our food source, it could affect our ability to continue to grow things,” Mrs. Obama explained.

“It could affect our ability to continue to grow things.  And that would be a problem. So this garden is going to help to contribute to improving that problem.”

Mrs. Obama’s world famous plot has formerly been devoted to exclusively to edibles.  And the First Lady didn’t mention it, but Monarch butterflies are now part of President Barack Obama’sagenda.  In February as he attended the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico, Mr. Obama joined his counterparts from Mexico and Canada to announce a task force to create a plan for saving the continent’s endangered migration of Monarch butterflies.

“We have agreed to conserve the Monarch butterfly as an emblematic species of North America which unites our three countries,” said Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Many helpers joined Mrs. Obama for the transplanting

The new pollinator garden is located in a long bed on the northernmost side of the 1,500 square-foot plot, which is managed with organic practices.  Mrs. Obama had gloves on as she hoisted a shovel to plant goldenrod,  Shenandoah switchgrass, little bluestem, and spicebush (the full list is below).

The First Lady was joined by Let’s Move! Executive Director Sam Kass, 25 local elementary school students, the White House chefs, National Park Service gardeners, and members of FoodCorps as sheworked under a sunny sky with just enough cloud to prevent squinting, a relief after the District’s long winter that included record snowfalls.

Lobelia for the pollinator garden

The First Lady and her helpers transplanted young plants into the pollinator garden, rather than starting from seed, pulling the new crops from buckets and plastic pots.  The bed also sits across from the White House beehive, the first to be on the 18-acre campus, installed at Mrs. Obama’s behest when she began the Kitchen Garden in 2009.  It’s produced hundreds of pounds of honey in the last five years.

Still, while bees and butterflies may be thrilled with the pollinator garden, First Daughters Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, will not be, Mrs. Obama admitted.

The project “is not going to make the Obama girls happy because they don’t really like bees,” Mrs. Obama said, a subject she’s discussed previously.

“But bees are good.  Bees are a good thing,” she said.  “So you guys are going to help do that, and that’s the first time we’ve done a pollinator garden.  Pretty cool, huh?”

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