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Tucker Butterfly Garden An Inspiration for Brook Run Project

Dunwoody Garden Club gets ideas for plants, signage on visit to mature garden.

If imitation is the finest form of flattery, the Dunwoody Garden Club paid the stewards of the Tucker Butterfly Garden a nice compliment last week.

The Dunwoody club is co-sponsoring the new pollinator garden in the greenhouse-barn area of Brook Run Park. Club members and volunteers from the Community Garden, the other project co-sponsor, tilled the ground and amended the soil in the garden last Saturday, and both groups began planting the garden the same day.

As preparation for installing plant material, Karen Converse led the Dunwoody Garden Club on a visit to the Tucker Butterfly Garden last week. She wanted club members to meet , a co-sponsor of the Tucker garden, and to see the type of established pollinator garden the club and Community Garden would like to install in Brook Run Park.

The Tucker Butterfly garden, located in front of the historic 1860 Browning Courthouse at the on LaVista Road, features nectar plants, host plants, a basking rock and a puddling area. Outstanding signage identifies plants in the garden on small metal labels. Larger, professionally produced white-on-black markers tell the story of the different stages of the butterfly life cycle. A white picket fence at the back of the border and in front of the courthouse adds a period touch to the setting.

Hines, who also is a Master Gardener, led the Dunwoody Garden Club members through the Tucker garden. Club members huddled around her as she identified butterflies (an orange Gulf Fritillary [Agraulis vanilla] was especially beautiful), pointed out the larva (caterpillar) stage of butterflies (there were several black swallowtails [Papilio polyxenes] in different places in the garden) and explained the role of various host plants (including a new miniature goldenrod [Little Lemon] and several herbs, such as fennel).

Other Master Gardeners volunteering at the Tucker garden who watered plants and answered questions during the Dunwoody Club’s visit were Jill Jane Clements, a co-sponsor with Dawn of the Tucker garden, Betty Knight, Vickey Cooper, Mary Evans, and Carol Rappaport.

Hines also took time to talk about Ms. Fritillary, a traffic-stopping scarecrow of the Southern Lady type that stands as a silent sentinel high above the garden plants she protects. Ms. Fritillary, Hines told me, is the garden’s best-known landmark and got her name because of the abundance of gulf fritillary butterflies in the garden. Ms. Fritillary’s wardrobe mistresses, Master Gardeners Lee Leach and Gail Douglas, change her outfits, makeup and accessories throughout the year to match the season.

Hines said the garden had suffered from the drought and some plants had been lost, such as profusion zinnias. Other plants, notably the butterfly bushes, were showing the effects of the drought. Still, there were plenty of plants in bloom and, despite the drought, the garden sported many blooms, plants were lush and the overall appearance was beautiful.

When asked after the trip what had left impressions on the Dunwoody club members, Converse singled out the Longwood Blue caryopteris that was in full bloom, the large healthy clumps of rue that were covered in caterpillars and the Rose Creek abelia. She also noted that the bronze fennel, which had been cut back severely, was showing new foliage. Hines pointed out that fennel is one of the host plants that the black swallowtail butterfly will lay her eggs on.

With impressions of the Tucker garden fresh in their mind, volunteers from the Dunwoody Club and the Community Garden began planting the Brook Run Garden Saturday. Members and friends of both groups donated plants for the garden. Volunteers also found plants at Mullinax nursery in Cumming, the Hall County Master Gardener Expo on Friday and at Home Depot.

The Dunwoody garden, like all gardens, will be a work in progress and evolve over time. Visitors can expect to eventually see signage and a whimsical figure such as Tucker’s Ms. Fritillary, though no one is sure right now just what that figure will be. The final decision will come from the imagination and creativity of our members, Converse said. 

Given what we’ve seen so far, it will be fun to watch this grow from, literally, the ground up. The mature garden will, no doubt, be something very special.

For your library

If you would like to read more about host plants, butterflies and other pollinators, consider adding these books to your garden library:

  • Butterflies of Georgia, Lucien Harris
  • Butterflies of Georgia Field Guide, by Jaret C. Daniels
  • Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives, Paulette Ogard and Sara Bright
  • Bringing Nature Home, How You can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Douglas W. Tallamy

For your calendar

The Community Garden has rescheduled its Food Day Open House for Monday, Oct. 24 from 2 - 6 p.m. Both the garden and greenhouse in Brook Run Park will be open to visitors. Volunteers will be available in both locations to answer questions.

The open house is one of several being promoted by the DeKalb County Board of Health and other organizations to showcase the innovative activities of urban agricultural at garden sites around DeKalb. The events are being held in conjunction with Food Day 2011.

The open house was originally scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23 but was moved to Monday, Oct. 24 to avoid conflicting with heavy foot and car traffic in the park for the Oct. 22-23 Dunwoody Music Festival.

 

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