Flowers and the bees and butterflies that visit them are important to the Lombard Garden Club. The club’s interest in pollinators began with programs about the decline of honey bees and monarch butterflies. The fragile beauty of butterflies and the threats they face inspired members to find ways of providing what they need, safe places for eating and laying their eggs. For the past 20 years, the club has made the most of every opportunity to plant flowers in their own gardens and local parks that will help save bees and butterflies.
The first opportunity to get beneficial plants in the ground came from the Lombard Park District when the club was asked to design, plant and maintain a butterfly garden in Lilacia Park, the district’s premier park. Lilacia Park, the former estate of early Lombard settlers Colonel Plum and his wife Helen, was originally designed by Jens Jensen, a landscape architect known for combining aesthetics, history and nature in his designs. The park is a showcase for over 700 lilacs, a plant favored by the Plum’s, and draws crowds of visitors each spring during Lombard’s Lilac Time Festival. The butterfly garden adds special interest throughout the summer months by attracting a variety of butterflies.
All butterflies need nectar and special food for their caterpillars, such as milkweed, the only thing monarch caterpillars eat. The garden was designed to provide several varieties of caterpillar food and sources of nectar, like the rich nectar found in garden phlox. The garden has thrived for 23 years under the care of garden club volunteers and was recently enlarged with a second planting.
In 1998, the park district began converting a pond shoreline at Terrace View Park from traditional mowed turf grass to native grasses and flowers to discourage the presence of Canada geese. The garden club contributed financially to the effort for the first couple of years then adopted it as their conservation project.
Volunteers initially worked with park district staff on maintaining the existing plantings, then collaborated on preparing and establishing additional naturalized areas. Over the years, the club funded the purchase of plants, shrubs and seed and the construction of an informational kiosk. Volunteers conducted tours and offered classes on native plants and their pollinators. Educational outreach culminated in Prairie Days, a community celebration of the Illinois native landscape which was held for several years.
When the garden club became aware of ComEd’s Green Region Grant’s special focus on pollinators, a meeting was initiated with the park district to discuss ways of adding features at Terrace View to enhance the community’s engagement with native plants. With the support of the garden club, the Lombard Park District applied for and received a matching grant in 2019, which was used to create a native plant demonstration garden for showcasing the beauty of natives and their importance for pollinators. The information kiosk was refurbished and signage was placed throughout the garden for visitors to learn about the plants and encourage adopting eco-gardening practices in their own gardens.
The club added a third civic project in 2006 at a local museum. In a collaboration with the Lombard Historical Society, members designed and established gardens at the Sheldon Peck Homestead using native plants .
The Sheldon Peck Homestead was completed in 1839 and was the home of Sheldon Peck, a folk artist and abolitionist, and his wife Harriet, until his death in 1869. The house was family owned and occupied until 1997 when it was donated to the Village of Lombard. It is now registered on the National Park Service Network to Freedom as a verified stop on the Underground Railroad.
The gardens feature native flowers and grasses as a tribute to the prairie landscape that covered much of northeastern Illinois during Peck’s lifetime. Today, they offer a refuge for Illinois’ native bees and butterflies. The gardens were registered with Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation in 2021.
New challenges created new opportunities for the club to help bees and butterflies. The garden club responded to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 by adopting new technologies for hosting virtual programs and keeping members connected in the absence of in-person meetings. The new ways of engaging with members also expanded their outreach about the plight of pollinators into a broader audience. The club’s Conservation Committee created a video about the declining population of monarch butterflies and how they can be helped, which was shared with members and posted on YouTube. It was recognized by the Garden Clubs of Illinois and National Garden Club for its educational value on an important conservation issue.
Lombard Garden Club members are truly committed to finding solutions to the loss of biodiversity in their gardens and local parks. The actions taken now are the seeds of hope that will make a difference for our future.
Lombard Garden Club joined DuPage Monarch Project in August 2022