ARLINGTON – The Smokey Point Walmart store was chosen by the company to join in a pollinator garden pilot project that will beautify the grounds while keeping local bee and threatened butterfly populations healthy.
The Smokey Point Walmart created the garden in early May, and planted it with various perennials and annuals.
Wendy Widener, a member of Walmart’s environmental, health and safety compliance team, said, “These flower gardens enhance our landscaping and serve as an important habitat for the birds and insects that play a vital role in plant, vegetable and fruit reproduction.”
Widener in August stopped by the store, which is close to completing a planned expansion in a few weeks. “We saw a lot visitors to the garden, a lot of butterflies and bees, and customers were parking nearby to eat their lunch,” she said.
A goal of the pollinator garden program is to inspire customers and communities to take action in their own back yards. She said planting blooming flowers, especially native species, is a great way to help conserve bees and other pollinators like butterflies.
“It’s a good thing for the community,” Widener said. “It’s easy to put these gardens in.”
While the Smokey Point store’s pollinator garden north of the main entrance over in the stormwater pond area wasn’t the prettiest garden among stores due to an extra-dry August, customers liked the idea, she said.
The company plans to evaluate how the gardens tough it out after the growing season is done, and make adjustments.
“We’re going to keep the garden in Arlington, but going to do things a little differently next year,” Widener said.
The retailer has planted milkweed in some of its gardens, which monarch butterflies use for shelter, food and laying eggs. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the population of monarch butterflies has dropped 90% in the past 20 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering adding the butterfly to its list of endangered and threatened species.
The monarch butterfly population west of the Rockies and found mostly in California has declined since the 1990s. It remains low, but has leveled off some in the past two years, according to the Xerces Society, a pollinator conservation nonprofit group that creates habitat for bees, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Walmart planted 21 pollinator gardens at retail stores in Washington, Oregon, North Carolina and the company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Walmart got positive responses from customers and associates to expand the project to more stores, Widener said. Pollinator gardens are located in 15 cities statewide including Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, Lakewood, Port Orchard, Sequim and several Walmarts in Eastern Washington. The pilot launched in April 2019 when the first garden was planted in Garner, N.C.