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New butterfly garden opens at Oak Crest with flying colors!

Irma Seitz creates butterfly-friendly habitat in hopes of helping vanishing species

Created date

May 5th, 2017
A new butterfly garden in the shape of a butterfly, inspired by resident Irma Seitz, at Oak Crest to help conserve the butterfly population.

A new butterfly garden, inspired by resident Irma Seitz was planted at Oak Crest to help conserve the butterfly population.

This spring, monarch butterflies began their northward migration, a nearly 3,000-mile return trip back to the U.S. and Canada from Mexico. Along the way, female butterflies will lay their eggs on milkweed plants for the next generation of monarchs to continue the journey. It will take at least four generations of monarch butterflies to reach their destination. Irma Seitz hopes to attract some of them with a new 50- by 35-foot butterfly garden at Oak Crest, the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community she calls home.   

Irma, who is known at Oak Crest for her volunteer work with the community’s concert committee that brings live musical acts to perform on campus, donated the butterfly garden in an effort to help conserve the threatened butterfly population.

“I love butterflies, and I’m concerned that they are decreasing in numbers,” says Irma. “I started thinking there’s got to be something we can do.”

Second nature

Irma floated the idea of planting the butterfly garden to neighbor Cathy Brodersen, who became fascinated with butterflies while living on Chincoteague Island, Va. 

“I was thrilled when Irma asked me to help her with this idea because I love the outdoors,” says Cathy. “One of the things I loved about living on Chincoteague was every September the monarch butterflies migrated through Chincoteague on their way to Mexico. They fed on the milkweed and goldenrod in order to get the energy they needed to fly about 18 miles over the Chesapeake Bay without stopping. There would be entire bushes covered with butterflies feeding.”

Irma and Cathy scouted locations within the community to find the perfect spot for the garden and began to put their ideas down on paper. The garden would be in the shape of a butterfly filled with colorful plants.

“We had a resident sketch an outline of a butterfly, and then Cathy researched what types of flowers and shrubs attract butterflies,” says Irma. 

Cathy consulted the North American Butterfly Association’s list of flowers, shrubs, and bushes native to Maryland, and then together, she and Irma designed the garden.     

“We considered the colors and the heights of the plants when we were planning where they would go in the garden,” says Cathy. “We designed the wings to be a mirror image of one another with lots of colors, and the body is dark. It was really a lot of fun.” 

Located on a hill to the left as you enter the community, the colorful garden features nearly 400 butterfly favorites like milkweed, Pink Micro Chip Buddleia (butterfly bush), Echinacea Cleopatra, Rosy Purple Liatris, and May Night Salvia. Ruppert Landscape installed the garden and, along with the Oak Crest grounds department, will help maintain it. 

“The butterfly garden is a great conversation piece,” says Oak Crest Grounds Supervisor Frank Lina. “It’s attractive; an enjoyable place to relax or meditate; and most importantly from a landscape perspective, the perennials planted will attract hummingbirds, various butterflies, and other insects increasing the pollination process in this area. A lot of the natural habitat for butterfly migration has been disappearing over the years, and this garden will allow butterflies to reproduce, depositing their larvae in some of the plant material, as well as provide food nectar for the mature butterflies.”  

Spread the word

As Irma and Cathy eagerly await the arrival of the first butterflies, they hope others will be inspired to help the butterfly population by planting their own butterfly gardens. 

“The garden has generated a lot of interest,” says Irma. “There are a lot of possibilities if people want to nurture the larvae and help the butterfly population. “We’ve even had requests to add a bench and some information on the different types of butterflies you may see.”  

This March, a butterfly expert from Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County spoke at Oak Crest about butterflies and their habitats. A trip to Wings of Fancy, the Live Caterpillar and Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens is planned for later this month. 

Lina says he’s been getting a lot of questions related to the garden and butterflies, in general, since it was installed last October.

“Everyone is looking forward to seeing the butterfly garden mature,” says Lina. “I’m going to have to educate myself on the life cycle of the many butterflies that we are expecting to see. I am anticipating a lot more questions from the residents as the perennials bloom and the butterflies arrive.”