Sunday, April 11, 2021

Rethink, Regrow & Replant for Calusa Garden Club

The “butterfly ladies” (Susan, Linda, Donna and Sue), as they are fondly referred to, visited the Butterfly Garden on Calusa Park as soon as it was safe for them to assess the damage. On this post-Irma visit it was a miracle to see monarch butterflies inspecting the surviving milkweeds.

The flowering golden trumpets and orchid trees in Calusa Park were destroyed, and it will be a less colorful spring without these showy harbingers of spring.

Post-Irma, milkweed, the host plant for the monarch butterfly, was found blooming at the Butterfly Garden. Such is the miracle of nature. (Photos by Maria Lamb)

Many members also lost fruit trees, such as avocado, mango, banana and citrus. Next summer, there will be less fruit to harvest and share.

If it were up to Susan, Linda, Donna and Sue of the Calusa Garden Club, they would have tried to save all the downed trees and shrubs. As they drove around to inspect the debris a month after Irma, they spotted a grouping of healthy looking plumeria limbs with healthy tips, dumped as part of the vegetation debris. The ladies took action, as they were certain the limbs could be re-purposed. Come next summer, they hope to see beautiful, fragrant flowers. Plumeria is easy to regrow – just cut a piece of the limb and replant.

One month after Irma, a green passion vine is starting to emerge. It is a host plant for the zebra longing butterfly.

Like everyone on Marco Island post-Irma, Donna Kay of the Calusa Garden Club had her own share of lost trees and shrubs. On the upside, her backyard is now sunnier and she has a better view of the canal. Susan LaGrotta will miss her Bismarck palms with its striking “steel blue” fronds. She is planning on planting something new in its place. Twenty years ago, Sue Oldershaw planted a pink plumeria, and she is hoping it might bounce back.

It is not easy to look for the silver lining while dealing with the massive task of debris clean-up. But there are numerous silver linings to be found. While the old garden was shady, now sunlight is more plentiful; October is the time to bring in better soil for the sun-loving plants; or better yet, plan a better footprint or take gardening to a newer level. The transition to a newer garden can be very exciting. The garden club members are excited to be part of the renewal process and to watch as their new gardens emerge just the way they planned.

“Butterfly Gardens, Anyone Can Have One” presentation by Donna Kay, with yellow butterfly wings.

Monday, October 9th marked the first meeting of the Calusa Garden Club since April, and members were anxious to reconnect and share their hurricane-related experiences. Donna Kay and Susan LaGrotta gave an in-house presentation on the Butterfly Garden. The Butterfly Garden has sustained some damage, but is in the process of regrowth.

For more information on the Calusa Garden Club, visit their website at or Facebook page.

The “butterfly ladies,” Donna Kay, Sue Oldershaw, Susan LaGrotta and Linda Colombo. They will try to re-stake the Butterfly Garden sign.

At the Butterfly Garden, a young cassia tree was bent over and Donna Kay trys to push it upright. In the background are Susan LaGrotta and Sue Oldershaw.

From left: Sandy Wallen (newly-elected president), Sue Oldershaw, Donna Kay, Susan LaGrotta and Sara Wolf.

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