True Perennials- Seniors and Butterfly Gardening
When people ask me about the size of our gardens at the Butterfly Pavilion, I usually reply that our facility sits on about four acres, much of which is developed habitat gardens. However, this time of year our gardens seem even bigger; indeed, they seem to stretch over the entire Denver metro region. (I’m not just saying that because I’ve been weeding in the hot sun for hours, either!)
Truth is, the Butterfly Pavilion has been responsible for the installment of butterfly habitat gardens at senior centers throughout our community. The program began in 2002, as the brainchild of Sarada Krishnan, the Horticulture Director at the time, and the National Wildlife Federation. Every year since then, the Butterfly Pavilion has selected at least three centers and planted butterfly gardens at those facilities.
These pocket gardens provide habitat for native butterflies, including shelter, host plants for caterpillars and nectar for adults. They improve the environment in spots that were often neglected or relatively barren. To me, however, the most important result is the engagement of local seniors. Many activity directors have noted to me that their residents use the outdoors more often to exercise or simply to relax once the gardens are in place. And, every community seems to have a handful of folks who love to garden and are eager to care for the new butterfly garden.
Each winter, we receive dozens of applications for this program. Indeed, the hardest challenge of the Senior Butterfly Gardening program is trying to choose just three! Once we narrow the applicants down to six, a horticulturist from the Butterfly Pavilion visits the sites to further evaluate them. The three that are chosen each year receive one of our stellar outreach programs about butterfly biology, and soon after, Butterfly Pavilion gardeners and volunteers bring plants, tools, soil amendments and a lot of enthusiasm.
Planting day is always lots of fun. Some residents can’t wait to get their hands dirty and plant, while others tell us that they enjoy “watching somebody else work for a change”. We make sure there is something for seniors at every level of ability to enjoy, whether it’s planting seeds, helping to water the garden or just chatting about their own experiences, gardening and otherwise. The Butterfly Pavilion horticulture staff and volunteers are always amazed at the garden knowledge that many of these folks have; some have gardened for more than 70 years!
This year, we chose Clear Creek Care Center in Westminster, Sunrise Senior Living of Boulder and Northglenn Heights for our senior butterfly gardening program, and we’ve enjoyed meeting the friendly, enthusiastic bunch of residents at each one. These folks are the true perennials, eager to experience life to the fullest no matter what their age, and the Butterfly Pavilion is thrilled to offer opportunities for lifelong learning. We look forward to watching these gardens grow!
Posted by Amy Yarger