Parking Lot Pollinator Garden

Beginning in the fall of 2020, Arts at the Palace has been working with naturalist Morgan Elmore and artist Tim Rand to create a native pollinator garden in the parking lot adjacent to the Palace Theater, which is owned by the Hamilton Initiative

The 30′ x 6′ garden has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation and will include native plant communities that sustain native insects and birds.

A public, outdoor mural has been created on the side of the Palace Theater building within the garden space.

The garden is a year-long project that includes a site-specific native plant garden design and installation, site-specific mural design and installation, pop-up mini-gallery, educational activities, and community engagement opportunities. Arts at the Palace will maintain a project web page, where community members can follow the progress of the project and learn about opportunities to participate.







Compiled by Morgan Elmore, Spring 2021


Colgate senior Cassie Ferrante joined the parking lot pollinator project this fall with academic interests in sustainability and permaculture.

Together with Arts at the Palace executive director, Elizabeth Douglas, Cassie completed a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed parking lot pollinator garden. The following information is a summary of their findings:


The urban garden site is adjacent to the tall brick building wall that is the southwest side of the Palace Theater. It is 30′ long and 6′ wide. The site faces a southwest direction and bordered by a curb and asphalt parking lot.

Sun and wind

The site receives full-sun exposure. There are no prevailing winds, and the site is somewhat protected from wind due to the surrounding buildings.

Water and drainage

The site seems well-drained, and the planting bed slopes slightly from the street toward the back of the parking lot, where there is a storm drain. Roof run-off seems generally handled by a gutter system, although it is possible that in strong storms, water falls onto the planting bed. There is enough rain water now to sustain butterfly weed and wild carrot plants, as well as nearby red maple trees. Snow is ploughed on top of the garden in winter.


The first 7″ of the planting bed are decorative gravel. Next, there is a layer of heavy-duty landscape fabric/weed membrane. Cassie and Elizabeth dug out a section of gravel, cut the landscape fabric, and excavated a soil sample that was then sent to the Cornell Extension lab for analysis. Those results showed there is very low percentage of organic material in the soil, which can be observed on-site. The soil is sandy and rocky such as one would find around a building after construction. The lab results also showed normal salinity, indicating that winter road salt is not an issue for the site.

Elizabeth met with a local contractor who agreed the best way forward will be to remove the gravel layer and landscape fabric, and replace with topsoil. Our naturalist Morgan Elmore has requested topsoil that is not amended in any way, so as to reduce weed growth and more closely match what is typically found in an urban setting.


There is no evidence of deer browsing at the downtown site, however there is a grassy lot behind the Palace theater shed in the parking lot which might support deer, who do browse occasionally in the Village Green, which is not far away. We will have to study this further and ask the community for input.

USDA plant hardiness zone

Hamilton lies generally in zone 5a, meaning our average annual extreme minimum temperature is -20 to -15 degrees F. However those of us who have gardened here for any length of time know that sometimes our area acts more like zone 4 in terms of the plants that can be supported. Lately, however, Hamilton gardeners often worry more about damage from warm winters, rather than cold ones. We’ll have to wait and see how our parking lot site plays out.

About Morgan Elmore

Morgan is a native plant enthusiast and recent transplant to Hamilton. She graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Environmental Studies and Geology. She spent many years building digitized collections of rare books for university libraries before launching her native plant landscaping business. Now Morgan works with nonprofits and home owners to create functional landscapes that nourish biodiversity, invite exploration, and kindle a sense of place using native plants. She works with, rather than in opposition to, ecological principles to amplify the functionality of outdoor spaces while easing the burden of caring for them. Morgan finds great pleasure in noticing small things about her environment; It is the things that happen in the garden rather than the garden itself which fuel her passion for gardening with natives. Morgan is a PA certified tree tender, NYS master composter and mama to Lena (age 12) and Hazel (age 9). Her husband Paul teaches in the Colgate University Geology department. Photo credit: Morgan Elmore

About Tim Rand

Rand started the Life Is Sweet project in March 2020 with a painting of a honey bee, an homage to nature’s essential worker and all those who were making sacrifices for the greater good during a worldwide pandemic. The series quickly grew, with oil paintings and murals of pollinators cropping up both in the studio and all over Central New York in the coming months. What started as a way to connect with family, painting a mural seen through the kitchen window for his parents and 100 year old grandmother, led to murals on West Park Row in Clinton and a larger piece at the Utica Zoo. “To me, this pandemic is all about how we can come together and help out our neighbors and community as a whole when times are tough.” Rand recently completed a successful fundraising raffle as part of the Life Is Sweet project, raising over $200 for the Country Pantry.

Tim opened TRand Art Studio & Gallery in 2011 with the mission of creating art in his hometown of Clinton and connecting with the community through art. He has work in private collections across the country, with public works at the Adirondack Bank Center (Utica), Clinton Pottery (Clinton), and New England College (Henniker, NH). Studio visits at TRand Art Studio & Gallery at 84 Utica Street in Clinton are encouraged any time by making an appointment. You can contact Tim at (315) 527-4774 or via email at and learn more about his work at

Photo credit: Tim Rand

The parking lot pollinator garden is made possible by a grant from the Faith T. Knapp Memorial Fund and Small Grants Fund of the Central New York Community Foundation. We would also like to thank Golden Artist Colors for donating the mural paint for the project.

The GOLDEN Paintworks Mural Paints officially launched in June of 2018. 5 years into its existence, we are expanding in our capacity to develop relationships with muralists and non-profit organizations, both at local and national scale. It is our joy to be able to supply paint to a talented local muralist whose work highlights the beauty and profound importance of biodiversity within ecosystems. Visit our website and Follow us on Instagram: @gpwmuralpaints. 

This program has also been supported by past grants from the Mid-York Foundation and the Central New York Community Foundation.