(ASHBURN, VIRGINIA) - Every Monday, residents from Ashby Ponds retirement community visit Farmwell Station Middle School to help take care of their butterfly garden while students and staff are on summer vacation. The residents have been volunteering at the garden since mid-June, and plan to continue doing so through the end of August. Those who volunteer from Ashby Ponds are members of the community’s garden club, which is made up of dozens of seniors who find joy in exercising their green thumbs.
The residents arrive at the school early in the morning to work on weeding the garden. One critical component of weeding a butterfly garden includes recognizing, and not removing, milkweed; the general rule of thumb understood by the gardeners is “when in doubt, don’t pull it out,” according to garden club president Joan Sullivan. In a butterfly garden, each butterfly uses a host plant where they lay their eggs. “Gardeners have learned that milkweed is a host plant for monarch butterflies,” said Mary Demo, an Ashby Ponds gardener who is also a butterfly docent in Naples, Fl. While the residents have only seen one monarch butterfly in the garden so far this season, Demo indicates that it’s possible more have visited. “You have to be lucky and see them at the right time,” said Demo.
Along with milkweed, the Farmwell butterfly garden is made up of numerous flowers, shrubs, and even herbs including poppy’s, bachelor’s buttons (cornflowers), black-eyed susans, sunflowers, butterfly bushes, joe-pye weeds, and parsley. According to Demo, parsley is a host to black swallowtail butterflies, but some of the other plants in the garden are more useful in attracting butterflies, rather than hosting them.
Two more gardeners, Don and Harriet Hunt, have been also tending to the four bird nesting boxes located at Farmwell, as well. They have noticed that two tree swallow families and two blue bird families have launched their fledglings from the boxes already.
“We’ve really enjoyed working in the garden, and we know it’s been a help for the school,” said Ashby Ponds gardener, Jane Wilson.
The garden club will be hosting their 4th annual open house at Ashby Ponds to show off their own gardens on Thursday, August 9 at 10 am. The club members grow a variety of plants, flowers, and vegetables in their individual gardens at the community.
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 16 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia (approximately 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.). The community is home to 700 residents and is filled with fascinating people and fantastic opportunities. With over 80 resident-run and resident-driven clubs and groups, an indoor pool, a fitness club, transportation services, 24-hour security, and flexible dining options, life at Ashby Ponds offers a true sense of community and is an exciting alternative to the typical retirement community. More information about Ashby Ponds can be found at: www.ericksonliving.com.