Sixteen years ago, Dr. Richard Roberge recalled seeing a beautiful rose garden on The College of Idaho campus, one that was tended by Leslie Hoover, the wife of former C of I President Robert Hoover. As a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, Roberge enjoyed the garden’s positive impact on the campus landscape, but was saddened when the flowers eventually withered and faded.
“Roses need to be taken care of all the time,” Roberge said. “When I heard the garden wasn’t being cared for, I started coming over and did some of the trimming. Eventually, I got busy with other things and I had to stop, but I still wanted to do something.”
That old rose garden is gone, but a gift from Roberge is allowing new life to bloom in its place. Thanks to his donation and the work of more than 30 student and alumni volunteers, the C of I Sustainability Stewards have installed a pollinator garden outside the J.A. Albertson Activities Center pool, featuring local, flowering plants meant to attract pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies.
“It’s been a plan of ours to do a garden like this for the last couple of years,” C of I senior sustainability steward Isabel Palmer said. “This is an area we want to be totally safe for local bee colonies. Dr. Roberge said we could do anything as long as we put something good there, so that gave us an in to promote healthy bees that we already have in the area for crops.”
Roberge originally made a donation to fund another rose garden, but when he received a suggestion from the College’s Facilities Department about the possibility of the pollinator garden, he agreed to help fund the project. Palmer and the other sustainability stewards immediately began researching specific plans for their garden, seeking out plants that would attract a variety of pollinators. Palmer said the group received considerable guidance from alumnus Dr. Ron Bitner ’68, an internationally renowned entomologist and winemaker, in choosing good sources for native flowers popular with local pollinators.
“We wanted to make sure we had attractive flowers as well as local flowers,” Palmer said. “Before we started this, I didn’t realize there were more than 500 different kinds of bees in Idaho alone. We wanted to provide for as many of the bees as we can.”
Palmer helped organize a major volunteer effort to complete the garden’s planting by the end of the school year. With the help of students from multiple clubs and organizations, the majority of the garden was planted in a single Saturday. Roberge himself came to campus and chipped in on planting day.
“When I was in college, Saturday morning was about sleeping in, not planting pollination gardens,” Roberge said. “It was amazing to see all these students come together for something like this.”
Palmer said the sustainability stewards will maintain the garden, which may someday expand to additional pollinator-friendly flowers to be planted along the Margaret Sinclair Memorial Walkway. For Roberge, this promise is one he is excited to see fulfilled.
“I would hope that future classes will take this garden on just like the first one,” Roberge said. “In another month when all these plants bloom, I know they’ll be beautiful.”
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.