EASTON — It’s a postage stamp-sized plot of land, but for four members of Girl Scout Troop 1308 in Easton, their tiny garden represents more than a year of hard work, research, time and — most of all — devotion to the wellbeing of monarch butterflies.
With their parents’ help and encouragement, they created an award-winning project that not only benefits the pollinators but the community, as well.
Emilee Cohee, Madison Bauer, Katie Jenkins and Autumn Redman constructed and planted a sustainable monarch garden in RTC Park along Rails to Trails at Plum Street that would provide not only butterfly weed — the main plant that monarch caterpillars need to thrive — but plants to attract other butterflies, bees and pollinator insects.
On June 2, the scouts won a Silver Award from Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay for their project.
Prompted to find an area of need for their community or the environment to design a project, the Scouts did their homework, seeking help from staff at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton.
Educational Director Mary Helen Gillen provided information on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, their migration patterns, reasons their population have declined and important tips for creating a garden with plants native to Maryland.
They planted butterfly milkweed, bee balm, goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, coneflower, yarrow, mistflower, butterfly bush, pink sedum and white gayfeather donated by local garden supply businesses.
The Girl Scouts learned monarch populations have declined significantly because of changes in climate patterns, a decrease in their natural habitats and the scarcity of the butterfly milkweed plant, which they need to survive.
They also approached the director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Easton, Lorraine Gould. She helped them pick a spot near Plum Street, just off Rails to Trails in RTC Park, to plant their garden. The project was endorsed by the parks and rec board of directors.
“Oh, I love it. This is really awesome,” Gould said. “The girls actually did a lot of research,” planning the garden and graduating the height of the plants, Gould said. “And the butterflies seem to love it.”
“It was wonderful to see … The girls become passionate about making a difference in their community,” said Autumn’s mother, Christine Redman. “They not only provided a beautiful garden full of flowers to attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators, but a bench for those using the trail to rest upon.”
The Girl Scouts also visited several local nurseries to ask for donations of plants and soil. They sold baked goods and jewelry to raise money to buy materials for the raised garden bed.
They also bought a bench made from recycled materials to provide a resting spot for walkers and joggers to sit and enjoy the garden. The phrase “Inspire Change” is engraved on the bench, evoking not only the metamorphosis of a butterfly, but the larger theme of bringing about positive change to own’s community and environment.
“They provided food for monarchs to help increase their population, as well as a monarch mosaic (of recycled glass) that provides beauty all year round, even when the garden is not in bloom,” Redman said.
“My favorite part of our project was making the mosaic,” Madison said. “I enjoyed planting the flowers while learning which plants the monarchs like best.”
“I like knowing that I was making a difference to increase the monarch population, and it was nice to help people who walk on the trail to have a place to sit in the butterfly garden with our mosaic,” Autumn said.
After planting the garden in June 2018, the Scouts returned weekly throughout the summer to water and weed the garden. They harvested seeds from the milkweed plants and gave them to Environmental Concern as part of a Seed Steward program.
“I enjoyed planting the garden and watching it grow, and I’m proud that we were able to grow something that made our community pretty and helped support the monarch community,” Katie said.
Since this was an educational project, the girls also researched and submitted an application to become a Monarch Way Station. Their application was approved, and the garden is listed on a registry of sustainable gardens to help provide food for monarch caterpillars and nectar for adult butterflies. The Scouts installed a Way Station sign with a box containing brochures to educate the community. Those visiting the garden can read information on the importance of increasing the population of monarchs and other pollinators.
“It was great to see them take ownership of the project all along the way — from fundraising to purchasing the bench and wood for the mosaic and raised flowerbed — all built by the girls — brainstorming inspirational quotes for the bench, planning native plants to put in the garden, soliciting garden centers for plant donations and working on the mosaic,” Redman said.
“Even after the project was finished, the girls did an amazing job taking turns weeding, mulching, watering the garden and filling in new butterfly milkweed plants as needed to help the garden thrive,” Redman said. “They wrote thank you letters to show gratitude for donations they received.”
Gould said it was obvious the Scouts wanted to follow through with the project. “This wasn’t something (like), ‘Oh, we’re going to do this to get our honors for this,’ but ‘We’re going to do this and take care of this.’ And they do. They actually come in here and water it, check things out — and it’s really awesome. They’re claiming it.”
The Scouts appreciate the generosity of Eastern Shore Nurseries, Tom’s Green Thumb, Garden Treasures and Environmental Concern, which donated plants to support their Silver Project
“The best parts of planting the garden was learning what flowers would benefit the monarch population and working on the glass mosaic. I am proud of how it all came together,” Emilee said. “I hope that the community will enjoy it and learn about monarchs.”
Although the garden is in RTC Park, Gould encourages those who would like to see the garden to use the parking area off Springdale Street near the Talbot County Education Center and walk the short distance to it on the Rails to Trails path.
The Scouts not only learned about monarch butterflies, they learned valuable life skills, as well.
“I was proud to see them develop skills through this project of researching native plants and gardening skills, communicating with businesses and staff at the town office, creating a garden plan and demonstrating team work and cooperation with each other,” Redman said.
“I’m proud of our group for building our garden to help save the monarch butterflies,” Madison said. “I hope people will enjoy our garden for many years.”