By Gail Maifeld – Children’s Garden Chair Person
Have you envied the delicate butterfly as is gracefully flutters about the bright blooms in the garden? The 2013 Dakota County Master Gardener’s Children’s Garden theme this year is Integrated Butterfly. Three butterfly shaped gardens allow the visitor to escape the earth and soar like a butterfly. Just recline, in the space provided, in a prone position, extend your arms above your head for antenna, and let your imagination take flight.
Yellow zinnias, Fire Profusion zinnias, orange and yellow marigolds and Dark Opal Basil are the annuals planted in a shape to resemble a Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch spends the summer in Minnesota frequenting zinnias, phlox, lantana, coneflower, and other vibrant colored flowers for nectar. Butterflies require a large flower to land on since they cannot hover. The butterfly then unrolls the proboscis (long tongue) to reach deep into the bloom for nectar. Three to four generations of Monarchs hatch each season on common milkweed. The caterpillar eats only milkweed until it spins a cocoon. Ten–fourteen days later a butterfly emerges to begin the cycle again.
The last generation of Monarchs is a marvel of nature. This butterfly has the instinct to migrate hundreds of miles to the forested mountains of Mexico. Here the butterfly attaches itself to a tree branch to wait for spring and the migration north. This butterfly flies to areas in Texas, lays eggs on the common milkweed plant and dies, completing a unique cycle of nature. Relax into the Monarch Butterfly shaped garden and take flight.
Mourning Cloak Butterfly garden is represented by Red Ruffles Coleus, Rustic Orange Coleus, Dark Chocolate Coleus, White Alyssum, Blue Ageratum, and Dark Opal Basil. The coleuses are recently developed sun loving varieties. The basil can be picked for eating. This garden captures the subtle dark brownish red wings edged with blue and white spots on top and green spots underneath. The coleus leaves give depth and texture to this garden.
Mourning Cloak butterfly is a harbinger of spring. This butterfly does not hibernate, but emerges from under overhangs and trees when the sap begins to run in Red Maple, Green Hawthorne and American elm, trees that provide habitat for the Mourning Cloak. Tree sap provides nectar until plants such as the common milkweed and bull thistle grow. A large butterfly with a wingspan of up to 3.5 inches, it lays pale yellow eggs under the host trees’ leaves. The adult’s wing edges have a ragged appearance that is a camouflage from predators. Mourning Cloak’s fly until hot summer days then find shelter in host trees until the cooler days of September arrive. Stretch out with this unique Minnesota butterfly in the garden.
Moss Roses create a carnival of colored flowers for the third butterfly shaped garden. The sun loving drought tolerant succulent offers a special texture to the garden. This unique garden plan rewards the gardener with abundant orange, yellow, pink and purple effervescent blooms. The blooms actually close at night and on sunless days. Become a part of this glowing garden butterfly.
The Gazebo will sport a hanging gauze shroud to imitate the cocoon butterfly caterpillars spin. This cocoon or chrysalis protects the pupa stage of a butterflies’ development. Wrap your self in the feathery fabric as a caterpillar does in preparation to become a butterfly.
The Children’s Garden is located next to the big Red Barn on the Dakota County Fair Grounds. Signage will provide facts and trivia of the Monarch and Mourning Cloak Butterflies. Signs will also direct the garden browser how to interact in the Integrated Butterfly Garden. Stretch your arms for antenna or select a butterfly activity sheet at the picnic table. Either choice will enhance your knowledge and let you soar like a butterfly.
The Dakota County Fair runs from August 5 – 11, 2013.