- Marilyn Cavicchia
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The pollinator garden/monarch waystation at HPNC is famous! Make sure to check out these articles from Hyde Park Herald and from Block Club Chicago. Both mention the garden and also a new monarch-related group that's been formed within the University of Chicago Service League. UCSL is a longtime supporter of HPNC, so this new group, which is focused on highlighting and protecting monarchs and milkweed in and around Hyde Park, is a nice bridge between the two organizations.
For my part, leading this new UCSL monarch group is a way to get to some community-wide work that has been on my to-do list for a long time but that has remained on that list because the garden itself takes a lot of time and attention during spring and summer. Things are still taking shape, but I envision that we'll be able to do a lot of community outreach to support planting and protecting milkweed throughout Hyde Park, and also that there will be some ways for HPNC and UCSL to work together. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, the garden itself is not quite ready for its closeup. One reason is that it's not time yet to break down and clear the old stalks (because bees and other beneficial insects use the old stalks as habitat, and also because stepping on the soil after this much rain will compact it). Another reason is that the old rope and wood fence in front of the garden finally gave out, and replacing it is a multi-step process (which is now under way, thanks to Tommy Inglis, who also provides the hydroponic garden that was new last year).
In more photogenic news, the milkweed seeds in the milk jugs in the pollinator garden and in the front yard are beginning to sprout:
Over the next month, more of them will continue to sprout, and then we'll have more of an idea of how many seedlings we actually have of the two species we planted in the winter: common (asclepias syriaca) and swamp (asclepias incarnata). From there, we will know how many to keep for the HPNC garden and how many can be shared to help encourage others to plant milkweed. Also, next month, I have a flat of butterflyweed (asclepias tuberosa) arriving through Monarch Watch. This is a native species that isn't the most popular one for monarchs to lay eggs on, but it's wonderful for many other reasons. It does attract *some* monarchs to lay eggs, and its nectar is a magnet for many other kinds of butterflies. It also really likes rocky, sandy soil, which is what we have where the old fence was and where the new fence is going. This means that we'll have monarchs and other butterflies at the front of the garden, where it will be easy for kids to enjoy observing them. It's also very pretty.
That's all for now. A lot will happen over the next few weeks, so watch this space (both online and in the garden).