Sunday, August 1, 2010
A butterfly garden is more than a place with pretty flowers: It’s a safe haven for delicate beings and their young.
That is one reason the Jana Mackey Memorial Butterfly Garden is so striking to me. The garden, located in the courtyard at the United Way Building, is a refuge to people as well as insects.
The garden contains all the elements necessary for attracting butterflies and keeping them around. The area is protected from strong winds and has flowers that provide nectar to adult butterflies along with plants that are food sources for butterfly larvae. Also essential is a water source, provided here in the form of a shallow concrete bowl in one corner of the garden.
The garden is a quiet place.
A volunteer designed and built the garden, and the effort was led by Sarah Jane Crum. Crum is executive director of the GaDuGi Safe Center inside the United Way Building and was friends with Mackey, who was the victim of a homicide in 2008.
“When Jana died, we wanted to find a way to make her presence real for people,” Crum says. They chose to make a butterfly garden because of the personal connection. “The butterfly in some cultures is a symbol of transformation, change and spirit. All of those things were what Jana was.”
As Crum shares the comfort the garden brings to her, I spy a dainty yellow butterfly. The insect lands on the red petals of a bee balm flower and rests there for a minute as it slowly raises and lowers its wings.
Blooming next to the bee balm are tall garden phlox, butterfly bushes, black-eyed Susans and Culver’s root. Red and yellow lantana grows nearby and also provides nectar for adult butterflies. Several different species of milkweed are tucked amongst the flowers and will soon provide food for butterfly larvae.
Catmint, lavender and sage grow amongst the more ornarmental selections. Their blooms are less showy than those around them, but the herbs provide a little fragrance to the garden when the plants are disturbed.
McKenzie Brungardt, a Red Cross youth volunteer, eyes the flowers and talks about the comfort she finds in the garden. “Whenever I’m volunteering here and I get to take a break, I like to come out here and just look at the flowers,” she says. “I like the nature, and I like being around the plants.”
Crum shares in Brungardt’s enjoyment. “It’s hard sometimes to let the worries go. This place holds a lot of compassionate energy.”
In a few months, fall blooming chrysanthemums and garden sedums will fill in where the summer-blooming annuals leave off. Blue-mist spirea will continue blooming through the fall.
Logan Brown, an intern at the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, says she occasionally comes out to the garden, too. She volunteers at the GaDuGi Safe Center and will be an intern there next year. “The garden aids the GaDuGi’s efforts in everything that they do for the community.”
Crum adds “What it was and what it is now is all of us working together.”
Some butterflies will only feed and lay their eggs on certain types of plants, so it may help to do a little research on appropriate plant species when planning a butterfly garden. Information on good plant choices for butterfly gardens is available by calling the Extension Master Gardener hotline at 843-7058.
Crum says the garden is open to the public, and visitors are welcome.