Barb's Butterfly Garden
Last summer, my big sister, my hero, shed her earthly body, put on her celestial star-suit, and gained her wings. Since then, I have wanted to do something to honor and remember her. As she was a lover of butterflies, I decided a butterfly garden would be just the right sort of tribute. My only goal was to finish it before her birthday, which is coming up the first week of June.
So in the last week of January, when it was cold, I placed an order from Michigan Bulb. The posies I sent for had names like cardinal flower, coneflower (echinacea), keys of heaven, purple rain salvia (don't you just LOVE the name of that?), butterfly bush, agastache, blue sea holly, perennial sunflowers, and liatris.
It arrived in early March: a big box containing mostly bare-root plants in bags, with a few small boxes with itty bitty potted plants inside. Within a few days of receiving them, I repotted those into bigger containers. The bags of bare-root plants went into the garage for storage until I could plant them. Which was a while, as we had a cold snap that followed, and even snow.
I decided on a sunny spot in our front yard, right by the place where the tree fell, which I can see from our front windows. We have been mowing less and less of the yard each year. Strategically, we have decided that a green lawn is wasted space, and that it is better to let things grow a bit wilder. But the area I wanted was covered in weeds, so I asked my husband to mow that part so I could get started on the planting.
Last Monday afternoon, Memorial Day, he mowed that spot for me. It was around that time that I went out and began surveying the area. I drew plans. I got into the shed and pulled out a bunch of trellises and shepherd's hooks and other yard ornaments. I plotted and schemed.
I worked Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and took off Thursday off. Thursday morning, some showers moved through. That afternoon, it cleared, the sun came out, and I grabbed all of my things - my yard carts, my bags of potting soil, my plants, my ornaments, my gloves, my shovel, my diagrams - and I got to work.
The first half-hour or so was just hauling stuff to the site. Then I took the bags and pots of plants and placed them on the ground, roughly where I wanted each one to be. I got the shovel and dug divots out of the lawn; filled each one with potting soil and a plant.
When I was done - about two and a half hours later - I put a tiny bit of fencing around it. I knew I had more fencing somewhere but I didn't have the energy to go find it that day. I put up a few trellises, added a flag with a butterfly on it (so the butterflies would know it was for them!), watered everything, and called it a day.
Friday morning, I got into the shed again and looked around until I found the rest of my little fences. With the fencing all the way around the garden, this first attempt is now complete. I am betting there will be more things I add over time - I have a few ideas in mind, believe me - but this is what it looks like right now. It is full of promise.
Every little dirt spot you see in the picture is a plant. I ended up putting into this garden everything from the plant list above, except the perennial sunflowers, a few of the echinacea, and the liatris. Those went into Gremlin's Meadow this very morning (another hour and a half's effort), and I still have dirt under my finger nails to prove it.
Any time you plant a garden, you plant your own hopes and dreams with it. I wish most of all that my big sister were NOT dead, but still here with me. I wish we were making plans to visit the beach again, like we always did in June.
I wish the phone would ring and I'd hear her voice just one more time. I wish she would walk the beach with me in my dreams, arm in arm, our bare feet in the ocean, our Starbucks cups full of seashells from our morning walks. I wish I could tell her one more time how much I love her, but I think she knew.
But here are some things I CAN do. I can try to be the kind of person that she was, who generously took care of and looked out for other people. I can take care of cats. I can keep on taking pictures, a thing she was so proud of me for. And I can feed and nurture her butterflies.
Happy (early) birthday, big sister!
I hope things are awesome in Heaven.
You are loved and sorely missed.
This butterfly garden is for you. . .
The soundtrack song is this one: John Denver, with The Garden Song.
P.S. A blip from earlier this week told the sad tale of the demise of the blue jays' nest in the rhododendron bushes out front. On this evening, the blue jays came back to the destroyed nest, and moved it, twig by twig, to a much higher tree in a different part of the yard. You may see a photo of one of the blue jays with a twig in its mouth during the nest moving process in the extras. And so it is that we live in the Land of Beginning Again.