Local News

Clubs Savors Backyard Butterfly Gardens

SEBRING - First-graders on a field trip wouldn't likely point and gasp as often as a group of backyard gardeners did Tuesday. While many of the about two dozen women on a butterfly tour were far from school age, they became more excited than most kids on their first visit to the zoo. "Whenever I see a butterfly, I chase it and run to find out what kind it is," said club member Lucy Wheeler. Hundreds of colorful plants in Betty Podmore's backyard butterfly garden, near Harder Hall, attracted dozens of butterflies during a club tour of seven local gardens.
Podmore spends eight to 10 hours a week gardening, and countless hours with a cup of coffee, enjoying the vibrant plants and the butterflies they draw. "It is so tranquil and peaceful to just sit and observe what a beautiful thing nature has done for all of us to enjoy," Podmore said. "It's rewarding to see just how many you can see." Butterfly Friends is a 20-member club that meets every two months at a member's home. Club members share advice, clippings, plantings and seeds. Butterflies require plants for nectar and camouflage. Each individual butterfly type lays eggs only on one particular host plant. The butterfly club also visited Shirley Cordray's garden. "I can't wait to get out there and see what's new," said Cordray, about visiting her garden. The club members were thrilled to view a Sweet Bay tree, which was caged, and protected a rare tiger swallowtail butterfly egg that would soon become a caterpillar and then a butterfly. "It's amazing that nature creates such a thing out of a caterpillar," said Wheeler, who has spent five to six hours a week in her backyard garden for the past three years. Dee Dee Jacobson is an urban horticulturist for Highlands County and she learns much at the club meetings. Homeowners with good butterfly gardens earn bragging rights as a reward, but everyone in the county benefits from these butterflies. "It's a big help," said Jacobson. "They're producing a lot of pollinators, and without pollinators, there wouldn't be any food. "Anything we can do to encourage any pollinator is great." Butterfly gardeners can also change attitudes, said Jacobson. "It teaches people that not all insects are bad," said Jacobson. "For many, the first mindset is to destroy." For more information, or to join the Butterfly Friends, call Podmore at 385-2601.

Bill Rettew Jr. may be contacted at 386-5857 or wrettew@highlandstoday.com