Volunteers create butterfly haven behind Midland Library

See volunteers from “Jane’s Park Group” as they take the next step in Midland Park’s development.  And‚ learn why this project could help YOUR garden grow‚

Arlene Kimura, Velda Altig and Dorothy Drews work with other volunteers to plant a butterfly-attracting garden at Midland Park, just west of the library’s parking lot of SE 122nd Avenue.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it comes to helping keep outer East Portland “green”, many folks agree that Linda Robinson would qualify for an award, for her volunteerism.

When we caught up with Robinson‚ and seven additional volunteers‚ on March 31, she was working at Midland Park.

“We are planting a Butterfly Garden,” Robinson explained. Burying insects and hoping they’ll grow, we asked?

No indeed: We learned that a “butterfly garden” is one that includes plants which provide both nectar for the adult butterflies, and also plants on which caterpillar-stage butterflies can dine.

The butterfly is more than a pretty insect, Robinson assured us. “Sure, one can see pictures of butterflies in a book, but it’s always better to see them live, and in nature. More importantly, they are pollinators. Pollinators are especially important here, now that our honeybees are having problems with colonies collapsing. And, our native bees are more important for pollinating.”

About Midland Park
It was a grant that funded the purchase of Midland Park’s land. “It was written in the grant that the park be created and maintained as an urban bird and butterfly sanctuary park,” said Robinson. “When we did the master plan for the park about 10 years ago, the butterfly park was planned. We’re fulfilling the plan.”

Looking around the area, one sees rocks and some open area‚ butterflies warm themselves up on the rocks before they fly off, we learn.

This is the garden’s first phase. According to Robinson, planting will continue in the southern area of the park. “We’re planting the more colorful perennial plants right now. Then, we’ll plant some Oregon Grape. We’re doing this over a three-year span. We don’t want to plant more than we can maintain.”

Volunteer project coordinator Linda Robinson helps the garden’s designer, Sharon Perala, of “As Seasons Change Landscape Design”, shows us the plan for the Butterfly Garden.

Meet the designer
Robinson said this kind of garden doesn’t “just happen”. The garden used the services of Sharon Perala, of “As Seasons Change Landscape Design”.

“I like contributing to the community,” said Perala. “I’ve volunteered many hours, as well as being a contractor of the Jane’s Park group.”

Perala says there were many challenges in designing the garden. “We wanted to attract butterflies, and to have as many native plants as possible. But then you have to consider crime aspects‚ we couldn’t place any large dense shrubs which would hide criminal activity. We couldn’t have areas that would become too weedy; the garden needs to be low-maintenance.”

A favorite of butterflies, she says is the Snowberry. “But, the berries are poisonous; with kids coming into the park, we can’t have toxic berries next to the libraries.”

Even with these restrictions on the plant choices, the garden today is looking good. Included in it are Red-flowering Current, Rosemary, dwarf Red-twig Dogwood, Corabells. And, butterflies use grasses as places to hide and feed.

Around the edge of the garden are Douglas Iris and evergreen iris. We’re told rhododendrons will be planted later.

“It is more satisfying to design a park than, say a someone’s back yard. Everyone can come and enjoy it, and it’s for the whole neighborhood,” Perala commented.

You can help
Do you enjoy gardening? Come help out with their next planting. Contact Robinson at lrobins@pacifier.com and she’ll let you know when you can join the volunteers at Midland Park.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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