Mission Monarch’s community actions gathers inspiring tales of citizens who contribute to the preservation of the monarch butterfly.
There are multiple ways of contributing to the conservation of the monarch butterfly. As it happens, a number of actions are harmoniously integrated into the Mission Monarch program. Michèle Nadeau, a resident of Lachine, transformed her lawn into a welcoming garden for pollinators. And though that garden gave rise to uncertain looks in the early days, it succeeded in convincing the neighborhood skeptics.
Where did the idea come from?
Everything started in 2014, when a roadwork truck backed up onto Michèle Nadeau’s land, leaving deep tracks. The municipality undertook to regreen the damaged space with a lawn. Earth and seeds were delivered, but nothing grew. That was the moment Michèle realized that “it’s not very useful to have a lawn in front of the house.” With southwestern exposure in summer, the lawn turns yellow, and even the shrub has difficulty growing.
The stars seemed to be in alignment. Michèle’s daughter’s boyfriend studies urban planning and has a deep interest in ecology. If the idea of a flower garden had already taken root in Michèle’s mind, he was the one who allowed it to germinate. Sensitive as she was to the decline of insect populations, including butterflies, Michèle had two criteria for the design of her garden: ease of maintenance and positive environmental impact.
Where to begin?
Like hosts on the young-audience interior-design program Méchant changement, Michèle and her family, highly motivated, tore out everything! Forget about digging with a spade, they used a machine – but it was still a challenge, the Lachine gardener makes clear. Next, she bought sacks of soil and a number of plants to put into it. Michèle Nadeau reckons her initial investment was in the order of $500 or $600.
“In the beginning, it looked a little strange,” she admits. Michèle had to decide on a choice of plants, but she knew she wanted a shrub in the Buddleja genus to attract butterflies. For the rest, her daughter’s boyfriend suggested opting for fast-growing plants and a variety of species that would produce flowering throughout the summer months.
When laying out a garden for pollinators, it’s advisable to include native plants like swamp milkweed, goldenrod and large-leaved aster.
A neighborhood converted
Many neighbors were skeptical at the beginning. “People are very attached to their lawns,” Michèle notes. “They’re even reluctant to let dandelions grow.”1
We have to try to convince the community. One of Michèle’s neighbors confided that she didn't find the garden very pretty while the plants were growing. But when summer was well under way, the same neighbor came back to see her and admitted that her opinion had changed. Another neighbor even let her know that the garden brought calm to her mornings and that she wanted to do the same thing.
Michèle is excited about finding monarchs as well as very small pale-blue butterflies, a profusion of bees, and lots of other insects! “These days, people stop by,” Michèle proudly explains. “I saw a grandmother showing the bumblebees to her grandson. For us, insects give us pleasure and a variety of colors! Every day is a discovery.” Even the tree in the middle of the yard, the one that struggled to grow before, seems to be in better shape!
Advice for a successful garden
Michèle stresses that it’s essential to get information before choosing the plants that will help achieve the desired objective. “Our goal was to attract insects like monarchs and bees.”
And incidentally, you can have your Monarch Oasis certified thanks to the Space for Life program. That program provides good advice for surrounding yourself with flowers and greenery, and for feeling closer to nature while helping preserve monarchs. These butterflies, known for a migration that is unique in the world, are steadily declining in number.
The gardener has no intention of resting on her laurels. Her projects for next year will have her moving some of the plants. “Now that I’ve seen how high they grow, I’m thinking of moving the tallest ones to the back, close to the house, so that they don’t hide the smaller ones.”
Integrating milkweed and nectar-producing plants near home represents not just an excellent way of supporting the monarch, but it’s also a wonderful open-air laboratory to make monarch observations and share them on the Mission Monarch platform. Michèle has also joined forces with the people in the community-science program to share her future observations with them.
Unfortunately, a number of municipalities still don’t authorize arranging front yards as gardens. To avoid a sticky situation, it’s better to find out about the maintenance standards for private land in your city or your borough before undertaking any work.
1 Dandelions are among the first flowers to appear in the spring and early summer. They constitute an excellent source of pollen and nectar for pollinators at a time of year when few nectar-producing resources are available. Which is why good neighbors will tolerate the presence of dandelions while they’re in bloom and let pollinators forage on them.