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Saving Whyte Ridge’s lost butterfly garden

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Gardener Kelley Lieibzeit is hoping to restore Whyte Ridge’s butterfly garden to its former, monarch butterfly-enticing glory.

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Gardener Kelley Lieibzeit is hoping to restore Whyte Ridge’s butterfly garden to its former, monarch butterfly-enticing glory. Photo Store

"If you build it, they will come," could have been a line written for Kelley Liebzeit’s garden rather than a popular film. In Kelley’s case, it wasn’t ghostly baseball players she was dreaming of; it was butterflies. 

Liebzeit truly started gardening from the ground up. When she and her husband purchased their Whyte Ridge home in the mid-’80s, they asked that the developer not put in a back lawn.
Instead they constructed pathways, trellises and garden beds. 

Kelley knew little about gardening except that she liked pretty flowers. The important factors of light conditions, soil, and moisture levels were trumped by seductive blooms on offer at the garden centres. The results were, as Kelley says, ‘sometimes, just bare sticks’.

So she read armloads of gardening books and eventually took a Naturescape course at FortWhyte Alive. There, she learned about planting to entice wildlife. She enhanced her garden with native species of flowering plants, shrubs and trees. It paid off.

Milkweed enticed monarch butterflies; pearly everlasting asters brought in the painted lady butterflies; and golden Alexander, the Swallowtails. As long as each butterfly had a host plant on which to lay eggs and a nectar plant from which to feed, they thrived in Kelley’s garden.

The birds were equally pleased. These days the pie-shaped garden is a welcoming floral delight for birds and butterflies. 

A few years ago the Whyte Ridge community council started a butterfly garden at the trailhead near the community centre. Over time, the weeds got the upper hand. But, as a master-gardener-in-training, Kelley sees this as an opportunity to offer up her experience. She is hoping other gardeners will come forward to assist in rejuvenating this unique feature. She calls it the ‘search, rescue and salvage’ project and dreams of restoring this lost garden to its intended role as a monarch butterfly way-station. 

Kelley will make a presentation on Growing a Garden from the Ground Up at the Whyte Ridge Community Centre on Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 1 p.m. For more information, call Kelley at 204-489-6804 or email Kim at sitedev@whyteridge.ca

Proceeds will go to the Whyte Ridge Butterfly Garden Enhancement as well as PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization), an organization promoting and supporting educational opportunities for women.

Pat Kelly is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge. She can be reached at
leeandpat2@shaw.ca

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