Bringing the Butterflies back to Dade City
Have you ever wondered what a garden club does? The Dade City Garden Club states it is dedicated to the education of its members and the public in the fields of gardening, horticulture, landscape design, floral design, and environmental awareness. They are a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose members noticed that the once-prolific Monarch butterflies had have not been as visible in recent years.
Brilliant orange and black Monarchs are among the most easily recognizable of the butterfly species that call the Americas home, and the Monarch migration is one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world.
The Club did some research, discovering that nearly one billion Monarchs have vanished since 1990, with loss of habitat and pesticide use being major contributors to their decline.
This vibrant group of local nature enthusiasts banded together to bring beauty to their City and educate its residents about ways to help the Monarchs. The Dade City Garden Club’s Monarch Butterfly Project was formed.
Dade City Becomes a Monarch City USA
In October of 2018, the Dade City Garden Club brought what they had learned to the public’s attention beginning discussions with the Mayor and the Dade City Commission. The discussions were fruitful and in March 2019, Mayor Camille Hernandez issued a Proclamation declaring Dade City a Monarch City USA. With that proclamation came a pledge to work together to restore habitat in the local community.
In October 2019, the Dade City Monarch Butterfly Festival was held in downtown Dade City. Thousands of people came from local and nearby communities to learn more about the value of the Monarch and how they could affect positive change. Children’s activities and live displays of butterflies were part of the Festival. Host and nectar plants for the Nature Coast area were available, and presentations on why gardening without chemicals is vital to a healthy environment and how to maximize small spaces to build a butterfly garden were held. NatureCoaster was proud to help sponsor of this outreach effort of the Club.
Next, the garden club created a program to encourage residents to plant more habitat with milkweed and began recognizing them for their efforts. The Garden Club created the Monarch Butterfly Haven Certification Program and the response has been positive.
Dade City Garden Club Certifies Monarch Butterfly Haven Gardens
“We think the timing is perfect for our certification project because people have been very receptive to the idea that working together, one yard at a time, we can create pathways around Dade City for our Monarchs and other pollinators to come, visit and breed. Anyone who has already experienced the joy of fluttering butterflies in their garden or who has watched their children marvel at the miracles of nature occurring right in their own backyard knows that this is an experience worth spreading,” said Joan Hepscher, Co-Chair of the Club’s Birds, Bees and Butterflies Committee.
The first garden to be certified was in Scotland Yards, a 55-plus community a few miles south of downtown. Pat Hendricks came to the festival and got excited about the Monarch Project. She went to her community’s manager and convinced him to join the cause!
They went to Mallory Yard and Garden for help designing the beautiful garden, which incorporates the native, drought resistant butterfly attractor and pollinator plants, as well as tribute to America’s Armed Forces.
The First Monarch Haven Garden is Certified in Scotland Yards
The result is a gorgeous location, teeming with color and life, that Scotland Yard residents can visit any time. “In fact, we have several residents who raise Monarchs and release them in the garden,” Pat proudly shares, “We have let over 500 go so far.”
A certification certificate and plaque were provided to Pat and Scotland Yards during National Garden Week in June.
Pat is an energetic lady and has created her own Certified Monarch Haven at her home. It is full of colorful flowers including the all-important milkweed. Fat Monarch caterpillars were enjoying her offerings the day we visited! Her garden is also National Wildlife Federation certified.
Environmental Education is Part of the Program
Education and joy are not the only reasons that the garden club is encouraging residents to help the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch is a pollinator and pollinators are important to our survival. They are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food we eat. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.
“The Monarch is our ‘poster child’” says Joan Hepscher, “and if we can raise awareness to provide for the needs of Monarch butterflies, we will be doing a better job of taking care of our environment.”
Pat and Sandy Goodwin moved to the Dade City area nearly 10 years ago from busy Fort Lauderdale. They started their certified Monarch Haven by ordering 2 milkweed plants from Amazon in June 2020, to put in their pool enclosure.
“The grandkids loved it,” said Pat, “We would watch the caterpillars turn into chrysalis and then beautiful butterflies. They would fly throughout the pool enclosure and it was magical!”
“They were like guppies, however, we had butterflies everywhere and you couldn’t go in and out of the house without having to coax the butterflies back out,” Sandy chimed in, “It got to where we needed to move things outside.”
The Goodwins got the Family Involved
Realizing that their acreage would be perfect for a full butterfly garden, they contact the Dade City Garden Club. With the help of their grandchildren, who range in age from 2 to 9, they put in their certified Monarch Butterfly Haven.
“Kendall, our 7-year-old, has been so excited about all of this,” Pat told us. Only two months ago the Goodwin’s garden was certified, yet there was plenty of evidence that local pollinators already love the spot!
In fact, Pat and Sandy are using nets to protect some plants from overeating by the Monarchs. “After most of the leaves are consumed, we needed to find a way to let the milkweed recover and regenerate so they wouldn’t die off. We contacted Cindy Seifert Art Garden for a solution, and she had these. They are working great!” Pat continued.
Milkweed is imperative to the Monarch butterfly’s survival. It is the only plant that adult Monarch butterflies will lay eggs on and that their caterpillars will eat. It grows easily in Florida but has been disappearing from landscapes.
Creating a Monarch Haven Garden does not have to be Complex
Mona Goosens and her husband Dave live in Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club and had their garden certified in September. Their philosophy of a garden is simple; planting native, easy-to-care-for plants around their beautiful golf-course home. We walked around the home and Mona pointed out several flowering varieties that provide food and respite for local pollinators.
With a simple ceremony, Mona received her plaque and certificate, and their garden was now a Monarch Butterfly Haven.
Getting Help to create Your Own Monarch Haven Garden
To be certified, a garden must contain at least 20 plants total. Gardens must contain a minimum of three different host plants with a minimum of five milkweed palnts being one of them. “The good news is that even a small container garden of plants that support the full life cycle of the Monarch provides a beneficial habitat,” explains Joan Hepscher. “So even if someone only has a small patio or deck to dedicate to planting, they can still participate and make a difference.”
Tips for creating a healthy habitat for Monarchs and other pollinators are included in the application for certification and garden club members are available to help.
At the current time, the Dade City Monarch Butterfly Haven certification project is limited to gardens within the Dade City zip code area (33523, 33525, 33526) and to members of the Dade City Garden Club.
Applications for certification can be picked up at City Hall, The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, The Hugh Embry Library, and area plant nurseries, including Cindy Seifert Art Garden, Cindy’s Secret Place and The Gardens Nursery and Rock Yard, all in Dade City.
About the Dade City Garden Club
The Dade City Garden Club was established in 1947 and is dedicated to the education of its members and the public in the fields of gardening, horticulture, landscape design, floral design, and environmental awareness.
The certified Monarch Butterfly Haven initiative is part of the Club’s Monarch Project, which was awarded first place by the National Garden Club in 2019 for Pollinators. For more information or to receive a digital application to have a garden certified as a Monarch Butterfly Haven, email [email protected].