On Sunday, April 21 we're meeting in the attractive garden of group member Debbie Lopez, who transformed a veritable wilderness into a lovely example of how beautiful nature can be. We'll examine before-and-after photos of the two-acre property, inspiring many gardeners to realize that a spectacular small garden can be created from part of what was once a wasteland.
Debbie found gardening in the semi-tropical environment of southwest Florida was very different from the pleasure she enjoyed when gardening in her native New York. Her first attempts here resulted in almost all the plants dying, and that failure made her lose interest in gardening for some five years. Then she happened to attend a meeting in Cape Coral held in a butterfly garden with beautiful flowers, and she gained inspiration.
She started reading about local butterflies and their favorite plants, frequented the lovely butterfly enclosure in the Naples Botanical Garden, discussed plans with nearby butterfly gardeners, and slowly the ideas for her garden became a reality.
As with all large projects, Debbie found the work is more manageable when done in several small stages. She started by building some trellis in a small area, and continued expanding the garden from there. She planted the shrubs and vines preferred by native Florida butterflies and their caterpillars. It took two or three months for the butterflies to discover her garden, but now they regularly visit in abundance. Visitors at this meeting will see the wide variety of colorful butterflies this beautiful garden attracts.
Each species of butterfly typically lays eggs on only one species of plant, the only one that will be consumed by the caterpillars that hatch from those eggs. Debbie will show us how to recognize which caterpillars are currently browsing on which plants, and what the chrysalis (cocoon) of each species looks like when the caterpillar is pupating.
Debbie's garden also features an impressive 9,000-gallon fish pond with a small waterfall that looks as if it were designed by nature itself. She created a filtration system to keep the water crystal-clear, using beneficial nitrifying bacteria instead of chemicals to maintain the clarity. The pond houses about 30 Japanese koi with their long flowing fins, and many African cichlids. A net covering protects the fish from the beautiful but voracious egrets, herons and other water birds that fly overhead.
The meeting will take place from 2 to 4 PM, the prime time to see the greatest number of butterflies visiting the garden. We'll admire them fluttering from flower to flower around us as Debbie explains and we dine on her wine, cheese and other snacks. Members can bring additional foods and drinks if they wish. The meeting will include a guided tour around the large property, with Debbie answering whatever questions you may have.
Meeting hosts have to know how many members to expect, so please indicate if you plan to attend by clicking either Yes or No in the RSVP section in the upper right corner of the screen. All gardeners are welcome at these free events, so you can invite any interested friends and neighbors. Please indicate the number of guests you're expecting when you RSVP. We're sure this will be another very interesting and informative get-together. See you then?