By Lee Roberts
ASHLAND CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 3, 2017) – The staff at Cheatham Lake is cultivating several flower gardens for bees and butterflies, and seeks volunteers to help certify the site as a Monarch Waystation.
Park Ranger Dina Henninger and Cheatham County Master Gardener Intern Suzanne Hale spent several hours Sept. 30 tidying up the gardens and planting an assortment of purple asters, burgundy ajugas, and pansies, additional food sources and ground covers to improve the habitat for the Monarchs that will soon be migrating to Mexico for the winter. They also collected seeds from existing flowers to plant in the spring.
Henninger said the gardens have flourished this year, especially with a wet spring. But more needs to be done, and she is seeking gardeners who would like to join the team responsible for developing, maintaining and improving the gardens, working toward certification. Volunteers are encouraged to learn more about gardening and getting involved at a workshop 10 a.m. Oct. 21, 2017 at the Resource Manager’s Office located at 1798 Cheatham Dam Road in Ashland City.
“This was started last year for National Public Lands Day,” Henninger said. “We’re trying to have some workshops during the winter months to get people interested in the volunteer opportunities here, to offer their skills and knowledge. We’re always open to more people, more ideas and additions here at Cheatham Lake.”
Hale said to certify as a Monarch Waystation in support of the conservation effort, the team will need to ensure plants are native and free of pesticides, a water source is available in the garden, and that the habitat has the necessary milkweeds, nectar sources and shelter required to sustain the butterflies, as required by the Monarch Waystation Program.
“You can really get into this and decide what type of butterflies you want have to come to your garden, and you can plant those host plants, and that’s basically what I’m trying to do here,” Hale said. “Caterpillars that will eventually become butterflies have specific host plants that they feed on.”
While tilling the soil and planting new flowers that will benefit migrating butterflies, Hale expressed her pleasure with the flowers that are already in the garden that continue to bloom into the month of October.
“Those of us who plant know that working in the dirt is therapeutic. To plant something and see it grow; I don’t think you can have more satisfaction than that,” Hale said. “We’re serving a purpose here. One person can make a difference for the bees and especially the butterflies.”
The flower gardens are also attracting visitors who have an interest in seeing the pollinator habitats that help bee and Monarch butterfly populations thrive.
“It’s really interesting to see up close these different caterpillars, butterflies and the different types of bees that are attracted to this pollinator garden, identify them, and see what they look like,” Henninger added.
According to Monarch Watch, development and widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides is threatening natural habitats, creating the need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults for butterfly populations. Hence the creation of butterfly waystations that provide safe havens for butterflies and bees.
Tadd Potter, Cheatham Lake Natural Resource manager, said the staff intends to use the garden as an educational tool for visitors, students and others by conducting on-site programs intended to highlight the success of pollinator gardens and to help encourage others to create their own.
“I’m very proud of our pollinator garden and all the aesthetic and functional qualities that comes from it,” Potter stressed. “Not only does the garden look great and provides for an attractive entrance to our building, it also provides important benefits.”
The gardens are fulfilling their intended purpose, attracting pollinators that help contribute to a productive food system through pollination.
Potter said he is thankful for the work and coordination that Henninger has put into establishing the garden at Cheatham Lake, volunteering her own time on weekends to maintain the garden. He is also appreciative of the partnership with Hale, who also has volunteered much of her time on the project.
“Ms. Hale has been instrumental in keeping the garden attractive and functioning by providing regular and general maintenance,” Potter said. “It’s my hope that through our continued efforts, we may be able to certify our garden as a Monarch Waystation.”