Native Plants For A Healthier Ecosystem

Library Adds Butterfly Garden

While there has been a lot of buzz about the endangered honey bee population in recent years, Milanof-Shock Library volunteer coordinator Carrie Whitlock said that monarch butterflies are another species desperately in need of help. "We have such a diminished monarch population that they are now at risk," Whitlock explained.

With that in mind, staff members from the Milanof-Schock Library decided that adding a butterfly garden to the library's property at 1184 Anderson Ferry Road, Mount Joy, would have a multitude of perks. "We have this enormous lawn, and we're trying to make good use of it," said library director Barbara Basile.

The garden is intended to attract and sustain an assortment of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators by providing nectar and pollen sources from a variety of perennials and annuals. To attract monarchs, Whitlock learned that milkweed plants are key. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, so the plants are critical for their survival.

According to Whitlock, the eradication of milkweed is one of the main reasons that monarchs are in danger today. Currently grass is the biggest crop in the United States, and it provides nothing for native insects to eat, Whitlock said. Plus, she added, the pesticides and herbicides used to maintain lawns kill off a lot of the insects needed for a thriving ecosystem. Pollinator gardens that incorporate a variety of native plants can help native species to thrive. "These gardens end up being self-sufficient," Whitlock pointed out, noting that when native plants are chosen, they will naturally be able to survive the weather cycles.

Library staff sought the expertise of Mount Joy resident Denise Morrison in deciding what to plant. "When I mentioned that I'd like to do this, everybody said, 'Oh, talk to Denise!'" recalled Basile. Eight years ago, Morrison and her family opted to turn their lawn into a pollinator garden, and she has gained a lot of gardening knowledge along the way.

Under Morrison's guidance, a group of approximately 10 volunteers planted the garden in May on a slope in the library's front lawn. "It's really been an amazing community project," Basile said. "I'm insanely grateful for our group of volunteers." After a long streak of rainy weeks in May and June, Morrison said the garden finally started to come alive all at once toward the end of June.

In addition to milkweed, the Milanof-Schock Library's butterfly garden includes golden ragwort, wild bergamot, bee balm, butterfly weed, inland sea oats, garden phlox, black-eyed Susan, New England aster, wrinkle-leaf and stiff goldenrod, anise hyssop, wingstem, switchgrass, and more.

Besides attracting neighborhood pollinators, another goal is for the garden to become certified as a Monarch Waystation in the future. To learn more about Monarch Waystations, readers may visit http://www.monarchwatch.org. Readers may also visit the library to check out some of the new books that have been added to the collection about gardening to attract wildlife and bees.

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