The Sweet Pollen Garden provides a gathering space for the sharing of indigenous plant knowledge within the Kwakiutl community of Fort Rupert, as well as a market hall that sells produce grown on site. A variety of sweet tasting plants important to indigenous peoples flow through the garden, while bee boxes are tucked within green spaces throughout the site.
In the preliminary planning stages, we were challenged to determine a program by pairing plants found in a deck of Pacific Northwest plant knowledge cards. Published through the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network, these cards provided information on the plant’s characteristics and traditional uses by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Through this process, I came to pair the skunk cabbage, an early bloomer that attracts pollinators, with the Nootka rose, a versatile plant with sweet characteristics.
The development of the site and structure is imagined to unfold over three stages and acts in partnership with external actors. Stage one concerns the acquisition of tools and seeds needed to realize the garden and apiary. Stage two will fully realize the potential of the Sweet Pollen Garden in being a self sustaining business, while the third stage welcomes schools and tour groups.
On the site sits a market hall, kitchen and caretaker’s cottage. The caretaker lives on site and oversees the operation. As plants grown on site are harvested, they’re brought to the kitchen to be packaged and processed before crossing the patio to the market hall and bee gallery. In this building, products are sold in the main room, while the ‘windows’ in the secondary room provide a glimpse into working beehives embedded within the wall. The entirety of the site provides open air, hands on learning for visitors.
The landscape offers a vast garden and apiary, producing a positive feedback loop between the bees and the plants. The bees receive the food they need to support their hive, and the plants are pollinated ensuring seeds for the coming year. By the end of the season the hives provide honey that can be processed and sold, while the garden provides a variety of berries and sweet tasting indigenous plants for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
The plants grown on site are specifically selected from a deck of indigenous plant knowledge cards due to their ‘sweet’ characteristics. For instance, the petals of the Nootka rose provide sweetness when added to tea, while the young stems of the edible thistle can be peeled and eaten for a sweet flavour. In addition, selected plants bloom at various times throughout the growing season, ensuring plenty of food for the bees living on site.