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Butterflies are free

Posted: April 24, 2014 5:08 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.

As I have written here at least once before, only to be proven wrong, Spring is finally here. I really hope I am right this time, but I guess we’re never completely immune in April to a cold front coming through that would bring a rainy day or two and then the drop in temperature that always follows. But, let’s keep the optimism up and say, with faith, that Spring really is here to stay.

One of the signs that really encouraged me was when I visited Bethune Elementary School (BES) on Thursday morning to witness and document students from the lower grades planting a garden of flowering plants to attract butterflies. When you think of it, there’s not much else that indicates Spring more than butterflies. Of course, there are other things -- greener grass, blooming flowers, coworkers sneezing like crazy from the pollen. But imagine a butterfly for a moment. The setting has to include warm, pleasant weather.

The kids at BES had a lot of help from Jackie Jordan of the Kershaw County office of the Clemson Cooperative Extension, a wonderful organization that can provide a wealth of information and advice on a wide-ranging selection of subjects, from gardening to raising healthy livestock and much more. Jordan and her volunteer master gardeners were at BES with a carefully thought out selection of plants lovingly planted solely for the enjoyment and delight of Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The garden is also for the delight of anyone who enjoys watching butterflies in a natural setting.

At the planting, the excitement and enthusiasm of the students was obvious and actually contagious. I found myself caught up in the excitement of the morning. The kids were happy to be out of the classroom for a few minutes. I was happy to be out of the office for a few minutes, even though I technically was “working.” In short, it was fun and enjoyable for everyone.

Jordan and her helpers told the youngsters about the various plants and the purpose they would serve to attract and nourish butterflies. This was definitely a “hands-on” experience, as the kids got to remove the plants from their plastic pots and transplant them directly into the prepared soil in front of the school. Jordan said butterflies would be attracted to the garden almost immediately and a butterfly release event is scheduled for May 12 that will provide even more butterfly population to the garden.

I remember some, if not all, of the special events or field trips I went on as an elementary school student and I feel sure most of those BES students will look back fondly on their butterfly garden for many years to come. So often it’s the little things that really become even bigger things in our memories. Thanks to BES and to Clemson Extension for starting my Thursday off on a very high note. I’ll have a story and photos from the event in an upcoming issue of this newspaper. Watch for it.

On a somewhat related note, I wrote here a few weeks ago in that column in which I was wrong about Spring, that I was trying to start a small vegetable garden. Only a day or two after I wrote that, my little plants started to burst forth from the soil and now are a few inches tall and seem to be doing quite well. I’m still keeping them inside for now, under a grow light and in their peat pots. Another big thanks goes to Jackie Jordan for some sage advice on the subject. I took advantage of having her nearby at the BES event to ask when I should move my plants to their permanent homes in buckets on my back deck. The weather has been so nice this week, I felt like it was time.

She said to be a little more patient and wait until after the first week of May to put the plants out in real nature. Not because of the weather, she said, but because of a tomato-loving insect that is around now but disappears by mid-May. She’s the expert and I bend to her superior knowledge. How could I not? Stay tuned -- garden updates to follow.

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