The Monarch Gardener
A PICKY EATER:
Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed. It is the only plant the monarch caterpillar can eat. As open fields are lost to development, farms are rid of milkweed, and their cool winter forests are warming, the monarch population is headed into serious decline.
A LONG DISTANT MIGRANT:
Every fall, monarchs that emerge from chrysalises in the Northern US and Southern Canada migrate all the way to their wintering grounds in the cool mountain forests of central Mexico. The following spring they begin their journey north where four generations breed and die along the way before the southern migration begins again.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Gardeners can help this magnificent insect, as well as other native pollinators, by planting native milkweed to ensure the monarch's reproduction and nectar plants to sustain their journey.
Katie Banks Hone (AKA The Monarch Gardener) has been gardening for her entire adult life. She is known for her eight foot tall tomato plants adorning her front yard as well as the riot of flowers she planted at her Ipswich, MA property. Recently her home's wildlife gardens and the monarch conservation initiatives she's started were a front page feature in the Ipswich Chronicle.
Katie was a 2012 recipient of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Slow the Flow grant. This helped her transform her family's Ipswich River-front property from the traditional foundation plantings they inherited from the former owners into a haven for wildlife, while also minimizing storm runoff into the river. (You can read about this major undertaking, and the wildlife she has attracted, on her blog: A Riverside Garden Makeover) Ever since, she has been helping local residents install native pollinator and wildlife gardens at their properties.
Recently she added native milkweeds to the already beautiful flower gardens at Ipswich's Bialek park, which was lacking milkweed to sustain monarchs. Three weeks later she found the first two monarch eggs ever laid there.
As a former Senior Aquarist and Educator at the New England Aquarium, Katie cared for hundreds of different animals including endangered piping plovers, Nile crocodiles, jellyfish, Atlantic puffins and even an African pygmy hedgehog. She also created two-story tropical waterfalls, Boston Island shorebird landscapes and brought marine biology-based education programs to schools throughout New England.