Butterfly haven will meld education, ecology
Mica "Echincea" Lobelia (right) and Stephanie "Lavender" Zell work on completing a brick border on Wilmette Library's new butterfly garden on Thursday morning. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
WELCOMING TINY WINGS
WHAT: New butterfly garden
WHERE: Wilmette Public Library, 1242 Wilmette Ave.
WHY: Providing haven for native insects, growing space for edible plants and herbs, and education for everyone.
Updated: November 12, 2012 10:59AM
WILMETTE — The butterfly garden that Eran Rhodes and his young team from Sacred Earth Edible Landscaping created last month at the Wilmette Public Library isn’t lush yet, nor are there any Monarchs or Swallowtails fluttering over its beds and paths.
The loamy earth in which tansy, foxglove and chamomile herbs nestle together with thyme, lavender and milkweed, columbine, comfrey, yarrow and rue, is rich with natural nutrients. Combined, they offer a dark brown promise of what the garden will look like after a winter sleep.
“This won’t just be a sanctuary for butterflies,” Rhodes said, looking over the garden last week. “It will bring in honeybees and insects, and it be a place where people can walk through and see productive plants, and get a hint of a different way of looking at them.”
His comments illustrate the confederation of ecology and education (and sustainable agriculture) that library officials hope the garden will represent to patrons and passers by.
“I wanted the project to enable the library to contribute to the environmental quality of the community, and to decrease the library footprint,” Reference Librarian Jill Franklin said. “I think Eran’s vision fits in with that, and with the library.”
Franklin who has been a part-time reference librarian at the library, and who still works there on a substitute basis, trained last summer at an American Library Association-sponsored advocacy workshop.
She came away energized and looking for projects that she could promote to library administrators. She wanted to back a project that would be visible to the community, and looked to her own interest in the environment and sustainability issues for inspiration.
Franklin decided to advocate for the construction of a butterfly garden, one that would attract native species and provide somewhere they could feed and lay their eggs.
“This is important, because both the plants and the animals that need those plants have lost a lot of habitat,” Franklin said. “The idea would be that we could have an entire butterfly life cycle for people to see, from laying their eggs to turning into caterpillars, then spinning their chrysalises and becoming butterflies.”
She also envisioned the space as a welcoming area for many of the library’s education programs, and as a teaching tool for children from nearby schools. After reviewing landscaping companies, she settled on Rhodes, a former Wilmette resident to whose fledgling business she was introduced when he presented a program on composting at the library.
Library staff and board members appreciated Rhodes’ presentation, and thought the project could tie into a number of needs.
“We have a board that’s very interested in green initiatives, and was open to the idea,” Director Ellen Clark said. The library had recently been forced to take a tree down on its grounds, which provided an open space for the garden. Members of the library’s veterans discussion group also hoped to plant a tree to commemorate their late leader William Rooney, which also tied in well with the plan, she said.
Clark and Franklin share Rhodes’ hope that the garden will educate youngsters and adults while they enjoy its beauty.
Rhodes praised the library for allowing him to create what he called “a glimpse into a new world” in a corner of their front yard.