Wild Ones Lexington: Monarch Waystation Tour

Wild Ones is a national organization that advocates using native plants in the cultivated landscape, increasing natural landscape areas, and education. There is a national chapter and smaller local chapters throughout the nation. The Lexington Chapter of Wild Ones recently held a Monarch Waystation Tour, highlighting 10 monarch waystations in our city. They comprised of both residential and public/private places such as a landscaping company, hospital, a park, and a church.

All of the way stations were designed in different ways. Some had concentrated plantings mostly in the front or mostly in the back of the homes, some had the front and back yards heavily planted while others had left space for a lawn. Two of the non-residential waystations had their waystation concentrated in a large rain garden. Total there were 10 stops.

Monarch Waystation Stop 1
Monarch Waystation Stop 1
Monarch Waystation Stop 1
Monarch Waystation Stop 1

The first stop was at a private residence where the owners own a highly recommended tree service company in town. The design of their front and backyards were done really well. Some plants I remember are wild hydrangea, joe pye weed, black gum tree, nine bark, corkscrew willow, and a big leaf magnolia.

Monarch Caterpillar
Monarch Caterpillar
Spicebush Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar
Cecropia Caterpillar
Cecropia Caterpillar

They also had a table set up for different caterpillars to help people identify the good bugs in their landscape. All of these caterpillars host on specific plants. This means the butterflies only lay eggs on certain plants, because that is what the caterpillars need to eat as they grow and make a cocoon. It is like how humans, while we prefer a lot of different foods, there are many many plants we won’t eat! Many of these caterpillars only eat one or two types of food. Just think, if all we ate was strawberries and cheese, we’d want to make sure there was a lot of it around! For the monarch butterfly that is just milkweed, for the spicebush swallowtail that’s just spicebush and maybe sassafras. The cecropia has a little bit larger scale of food, mostly of trees including oak, cherry, maples, elms and others.

Monarch Waystation Stop 2
Monarch Waystation Stop 2
Swamp Milkweed
Swamp Milkweed

 The second stop was also at a residential area with a smaller sized front and backyard. Their monarch way station was mostly concentrated to one patch of wildflowers including purple coneflower, wild petunia, bee balm, blazing star, swamp milkweed, and common milkweed. At this spot in the same photo used to stand a giant oak tree that heaved out of the ground not too long ago due to saturated soils.

Monarch Waystation 3
Monarch Waystation 3

The third stop, at another residence, had a larger front yard and backyard. The front yard was heavily planted with some lawn, and you couldn’t tell you were in the middle of a neighborhood once you were in the middle of the garden (such as seen in the photo!). The front was planted with many individual different species. The backyard was largely shaded, also heavily planted, and had two beautiful yellowwood trees.

Monarch Waystation 4
Monarch Waystation 4

The forth location was at a company that does large scale landscape maintenance. They have a really neat rain garden that receives runoff from a large parking lot. There is a drainage culvert where the water goes when it reaches a certain level of rain. This is the second year of its growth and there are many well chosen plants that makes it a good example of plants to use in a rain garden/monarch waystation. My favorites are buttonbush and swamp hibiscus.

Monarch Waystation 5
Monarch Waystation 5
Hibiscus
Giant Hibiscus Flower

Another residence we visited had their front yard nearly 100% planted and had a good amount of the backyard planted as well. The backyard had a parts designated for an edible garden and a patio. The rest of the backyard was planted mainly around the perimeter, allowing a lawn to still be kept in the middle. This is a good idea if you would like a lawn for recreation, the kids, or dog. I liked how the homeowners created different spaces within this backyard.

Mrs. Hall with Caterpillars
Learning about Caterpillars
Cecropia Moth Nest
Cecropia Moth Nest

Monarch Waystation 6

The last residence was at the home of a lady who does great native plant and wildlife photography. Her website is here, Betty Hall Photography: Celebrating the Ordinary. I like Mrs. Hall’s yard because you can tell she puts a lot of effort into having everything look nice and neat. Just because these are wildflower gardens, does not mean that it will or should necessarily look wild. It all has to do about the gardens design and its upkeep. If you feel like you need help with such endeavors, feel free to contact EARTHeim and browse around more on this website.

Two other stops I forgot to take photos. One was a church that also had a large rain garden with a lot of button bush, joe pye weed, and sumac. Another residence that has a nice front yard arbor with native honeysuckle, and a native plant shade garden in the back under a large pecan tree. There were two other gardens, a park, and a hospital, which we did not get to visit in time (although we live near and have visited them before) and it had been a pretty hot day too. We look forward to next year’s and we hope we will be on the tour!

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