A garden fit for the Regent neighborhood

The perennial pollinator garden the garden holds close to 45 different species and attracts numerous pollinators. (Jen Gragg/Madison Commons)The perennial pollinator garden the garden holds close to 45 different species and attracts numerous pollinators. (Jen Gragg/Madison Commons)

When David and Jeannette LeZaks moved into their home in the Regent neighborhood two years ago, the city-owned land next to them was mostly grass. But what some would see as simply an empty space, they saw as an opportunity.

“We’ve been beekeepers for four years, so we thought it would be nice to have a lot of flowers nearby,” Jeannette said.

With the help of the Regent Neighborhood Association, the LeZaks applied for and received a City of Madison Neighborhood Grant program for $4,000 to begin building a native perennial pollinator garden. Some neighbors and the Dudgeon Monroe Neighborhood Association also helped finance the project.

The Regent Neighborhood Association understood the importance of helping the LeZaks apply for the grant.

“The Regent Neighborhood has made green space and sustainability high priorities,” Jon Miskowski, the Past President and Membership Chair of the Regent Neighborhood Association, said. “The neighborhood has a concern about automobile traffic and accompanying noise and safety. The bike path is growing in popularity, and a site that brightens the neighborhood is a great investment.”

The LeZaks began planting last year.

“We had about 1,400 plants, so we knew we would need help with the planting,” Jeannette said. “We had about 12 to 15 neighbors come out and help with that.”

Since then, the garden now holds close to 45 different species among the 2,000 plants.

The variety in plants also creates a variety of pollinators.

“There are a lot of different pollinators in the garden,” David said. “We have dragonflies, butterflies, moths, bumblebees, mason bees, flies and many more.”

Pollinators play a key role in maintaining the ecosystem. By spreading pollen, pollinators not only help the spread of these plants but also ensure that their place in the food chain is not disrupted.

The garden is home to only native plants. The LeZaks purchased the seeds through the Plant Dane! Cost-Share Program, which sells native plant seeds for half of their original price. Plus, there are many benefits to buying native plants.

“Some non-native plants may be more aggressive,” Jeannette said. “And native plants are very aesthetically pleasing since they fit with the landscape.”

Now that the garden is more established, the LeZaks have noticed another opportunity to make a difference within this plot of land. This time, the opportunity is educational.

“We’re in the process of making booklets that have information about all 45 different species we have in the garden,” David said. “They will include information like a plant’s common name, its Latin name, where it grows, and what it’s a host to for pollinators.”

A seating area also is currently in the works. Though having a seating area was part of the requirement for receiving the grant, the LeZaks saw this requirement as yet another chance to do something innovative.

“We could have just put in a park bench, but we decided to go with the more complex route,” Jeannette said.

When finished, the seating area will consist of six boulders with wooden tops for sitting. These will be arranged in a semi-circle with flat stones underneath.

“We really want it to look like part of the landscape,” David said. “We just planted some plants that are surrounding the seating area, so when they get tall enough you’ll be surrounded by this sea of plants when you sit out there.”

The LeZaks also hope that this seating area will create a sense of community for the garden.

“It’s not just something people will look at as they drive by,” David said. “We want it to be something where people can stop, converse with their neighbors, and just have more face to face interactions.”

The garden is located at the intersection of the Southwest Commuter Path and Commonwealth Avenue.