The Cheshire West Community Butterfly Gardens project has soared to new heights with a beautiful display this summer.
Executive Director Gary Richards began the project three years ago with Michaela’s Garden, a plot in remembrance to Michaela Petit. He got a good start with the help of Jennifer Reynolds and, from there, signed up eager volunteers, whom he dubbed “Pollenteers.”
And the garden has expanded to what it is today.
This season, CWCBG welcomes Jo deBear as head gardener. A Cheshire resident who recently retired, deBear is working on her Master Gardener certification through the University of Connecticut.
Richards and deBear said they will continue to add to the garden. “We also ask for native plant donations,” Richards said.
“We don’t have Joe Pye weed,” said deBear, of one item on the group’s wish list. “That’s a really good native to put near the flood zone. It can stand wet conditions very nicely.”
Other plants on the wish list include cardinal flower and salvia.
According to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, a native plant is one that has evolved over hundreds or thousands of years and is found naturally in a particular region or ecosystem. Native plants vary from growing zone or region, so what is native to southern New England is not necessarily native to northern New England, for instance.
“We want to encourage everyone to plant natives in their own yards,” deBear said.
The CWCBG comprises three gardens, totaling 3,500 square feet. The first of the gardens — Michaela’s Garden, located off West Main Street — features four o’clocks. In the other gardens, which flank the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail parking lot on Railroad Avenue, visitors will find a diverse range of colorful flowers.
“I like the idea of creating an immersive experience, '' Richards said.
Not to be missed are the turtle nests, Richards said. “Last year, we had about eight turtle nests. We marked them with stakes and signs and the turtles have returned this year, too.”
This year, the CWCBG focus is on a fall garden, for a “fall show,” Richards said.
Another goal is to work with the Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire, which is playing out now through Cheshire’s Summer of Sunflowers, “a community growing project.” Sunflowers were gathered last fall by Reynolds from the garden’s mammoth sunflowers, packaged by Richards and given out for free at various locations in town.
It’s hoped that by the time the Cheshire Fall Festival rolls around, there will be sunflowers throughout town. Cheshire West Community Butterfly Gardens will join Cheshire Pollinator Pathway and the Coalition for a Sustainable Cheshire at this year’s festival.