Thursday, April 28, 2016

Butterfly Garden Update

Have you been to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge recently, and did you visit the Butterfly Garden?

We are adding plants regularly and cataloging and enjoying those coming back from last year.  Here are just some of the plants currently in bloom:  Bluebonnet, Winecup, Sundrops, Lyre-leaf Sage, Verbena, Mealy Blue Sage (in the photo below), Coreopsis, Huisache and Englemans’s Daisy, Gaura, and Coral Honeysuckle.  A Ruby-throated hummingbird was enjoying the honeysuckle this week.

Milkweed and Passion Vine are returning and we found a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on one of the vines last week! An informal census last week yielded Cloudless Sulphur, Dainty Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Little Yellow, Clouded Sulphur, Monarch, and Black Swallowtail.  Plus – a number of Painted Ladies were released into the garden by Sherman ISD pre-schoolers, who raised them from caterpillars in their classrooms.  Each day, Monday through Thursday last week, two classes brought their little mesh cages to the garden to free the butterflies, and then stayed to learn more about them through games, stories and songs.

A trip to the Heard Museum native plant sale earlier in April yielded more milkweed, an Aromatic Sumac, another Mexican Buckeye, this one red; Prairie Verbena, Wright’s Skullcap and more.  We have also been the lucky recipients of native plants on our list that were dug at various Metroplex locations in a Plant Rescue program.  Our fall seed sowing has produced a good crop of Standing Cypress and Goldenrod, but we have not been so lucky with seeding coneflowers. 

Some uninvited visitors to the garden are Cedar Elm seedlings by the million, thanks to two mature Cedar Elms adjacent to the garden.  Feel free to pull a few whenever you visit!

We thought we had Wind Anemones but they turned out to be Geranium carolinianum, Carolina Geranium, very large and prolific, so out they went with the exception of one or two for the bees. Another take-over plant is Swamp Fleabane, attractive, but enough is enough.

The trees planted as a screen behind the garden have all survived except one small Mexican Buckeye. Another tree note, last week Cedar Waxwings gorged on the Soapberries, from the one tree in the garden and one in the parking area landscape.

Thanks to the generosity of garden sponsors and donors and to the hard work of the garden volunteers, we have been able to use the garden as an outdoor classroom for hundreds of school children this spring, with more to come in May.

For the general public, the garden is open the same hours as the Refuge, and Garden Walks, with docents on hand to help identify native plants and visiting butterflies, are planned for the third Saturday of each month through October, from 10 – 11 am, and on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2 – 3:30 pm, all – weather permitting.

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