Southern Hills Garden Club Blossoming with Butterfly Knowledge



Kathy Clayton

The Ashland Beacon


   Most residents may be unaware of the butterfly garden bordering the Boyd County Public Library, Crabbe Elementary School, and Central Park. The garden is a way station for the endangered Monarch butterfly, as well as other butterfly species and bees.

   The garden, like many other flower beds and planters around Ashland, is maintained by the Southern Hills Garden Club. Its members spent Friday clearing weeds and generally cleaning up the area. The week of June 20-26 was National Pollinator Week.

   “We’re trying to make room for the good stuff,” said long-time member Kathy Setterman. “We’re weeding the butterfly garden – the morning glory vines are taking over the milkweed so we’re getting rid of it. The butterfly garden is self-sustaining, but it needs our care to keep it going.” She said that all pollinators are endangered.

   Member Lee Amburgey explained that Monarchs only lay their eggs on milkweed, and it is the only flower that the larvae will eat.

   Several young men joined the ladies as they worked their way amongst the native habitat they set up in 2013. “We recruited volunteers from Boyd County and Ashland High Schools to help us,” said Karen Hogsten. Mayor Matt Perkins stopped by the garden to see how the activity was coming along.

   Wells noted that the SHGC has been around for about 51 years. Elizabeth Winn, the wife of a local doctor, helped organize the club around 1959, with 13 members at first. Current president Karen Wells noted that the club currently has about 39 members.

   “A lot of pollinators are considered weeds,” noted Wells, “but they are necessary native species to help support natural habitats.” Setterman explained that milkweed had been nearly eradicated by farmers who considered it a weed. “Roadside spraying and pesticides in general have killed a lot of the milkweed necessary to support the Monarchs,” she said.

   Wells said that SHGC is part of the national Garden Clubs of America, and that local clubs have a program to follow. Terri Vanhoose, who was busy weeding, said the garden was dedicated to Jeri Rupert who was head of the program when the garden was planted in 2013. “She decided that the emphasis for her year of service was to save the butterflies.”

   The garden is planted outside the library, and along the back wall is a mural. “The mural was painted by the Paul Blazer High School art department and depicts the life cycle of the Monarch,” said Setterman, who has been a member since 1977. “I was part of a young group of very enthusiastic volunteers who joined at that time.”

   Setterman and Vanhoose explained that Monarchs travel each fall from their North American habitat to  Mexico. “They travel thousands of miles to Mexico, laying eggs and pollinating along the way,” Setterman said. Vanhoose added, “They go back to the same place in Mexico to over winter.”

   They noted that a member who was teacher had taught about the Monarchs in school, and said that teachers can get kits to help teach the butterfly’s life cycle. Vanhoose said the group hopes to set up an exhibit at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center in the children’s section to describe the journey of the Monarchs.

   Wells said that SHGC also is involved in other activities around town, including planting flowers at the riverfront, in the planters at the entrances to Central Park, and in front of the Paramount Arts Center. They participated in Repair Affair, helping some residents maintain garden areas around their homes.

   They also recognize Ashland area residents whose homes have outstanding gardens and landscaping, including Beacon publisher and photographer, Phil and Lora Stewart, last month.

   Wells said the club takes members from all over, and anyone wishing to join can find information on the Southern Hills Garden Club Facebook page.