As anyone who has tried to start an exercise program or break a bad habit knows, deep change takes time. At the museum, we are currently in the process of changing our butterfly garden from a simulated rainforest environment to a real and sustainable ecosystem containing plants and insects that can be found in Virginia. If you look into the garden from outside, you will see change is definitely taking place but it is taking some time.
When you plant a garden, you start with seeds and seedlings. Sometimes it feels like they will never grow into a big healthy plant, but eventually they do. In our “garden in the sky,” it has been a challenge to find native plants that thrive in our very specific soil and lighting conditions. Some of our plantings are beginning to grow stronger while others will need to be replaced with different species.
While nibbled plants might worry many gardeners, for us they are a sign of solid progress. Some of our plants are doing well enough that we have been able to introduce a few caterpillars that are enthusiastically munching holes in the leaves. So far, we have Gulf Fritillaries and Monarchs (and Spotted Ladybugs to help with pest control). Bringing the caterpillars into the garden is only the first step. Now we are waiting and watching as they go through their life cycle from caterpillar to adult butterfly and hoping we will see them lay eggs in the next few months.
A living, dynamic ecosystem can be difficult to establish and it’s exciting to see ours beginning to take shape. We will open the doors and share it with you as soon as it’s healthy enough for regular visitors.
As a reminder: we are offering a butterfly garden rain check with your paid admission throughout the time that the garden is closed for renovations so that you will be able to return and enjoy our new Hidden Garden once it’s open to the public.