Louisville Nature Center Sensory Garden Summary for 2016

The LNC Sensory Garden flourished in 2016.  Never have we had such robust plants and so many plant volunteers emerge from the rich soil.  We never would have dreamed that this garden would be so lush and inviting in just a few short years!

We always start out our new year with a planning meeting where we go over our goals and wishes for the garden.  Our main goal for 2016 was to create a frog pond so that we could attract more amphibians to the garden.  Digging the pond turned out to be very difficult due to the soil which contained a lot of gravel and rocks.  We even found a few large cobblestones that looked like they could have been used for a foundation to a building. Digging took several months of hard labor, mainly provided by MG Gary Michael. This project has been very educational for all of us.  To our disappointment we only had a few tadpoles this year due to our late start.  We hope that 2017 will be the year of many!  We also had three small turtles (we assume someone released them into the pond), and dragonfly larvae (who knew that the larvae looks like crawfish?) who both eat frog eggs and tadpoles!  We got lots of plants donated for the pond to make it more appealing to the creatures.  We look forward to 2017 when an Eagle Scout will finish a cedar fence that will surround the pond.

In April the Master Gardeners and other LNC volunteers participated in the Mayor’s Day of Giving by mulching the SG. This is always a large task so the help from the public was appreciated!  The soil in the garden is very rich in nutrients now due to the mulching each year.

Every spring we invite the Dreams with Wings folks to come and plant one of our raised beds with annuals.  We always choose annuals for their bright colors, scents, and textures. This is a very fun program enjoyed by all. The other raised bed is planted with tomatoes and other veggies, many of which were enjoyed by the deer and raccoons!

This year LNC participated in the Louisville Free Public Library’s Cultural Pass Program which meant hundreds of visitors for the Sensory Garden.  LNC participated by offering youths a chance to go on a scavenger hunt and receive prizes.  The names were then entered in an August drawing for a free family membership to LNC.

In the summer LNC had a butterfly release in the Sensory Garden where many participants were able to tag and release a Monarch butterfly.  The SG has always had many species of butterflies including the Monarch, American Painted Lady, Clouded Sulphur, many types of Swallowtail, Red Spotted Purple, and more.  Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars were found on the Pawpaw trees in the garden.  Three Pawpaws were planted in 2015. Sadly, drought conditions in 2016 meant hand watering the trees.  We then had trouble with some deer who decided they liked the foliage.  We are guessing that no one told them that they weren’t supposed to like Pawpaw leaves!  It all paid off with a Zebra Swallowtail, or more, laying eggs on the trees this year.  This butterfly is an uncommon breeder in the Metro area because they lay eggs on Pawpaw, an uncommon urban tree.  Once eggs hatched, the caterpillars were monitored.  The LNC staff gave MG Gary Michael four to rear at home, which were raised to the butterfly stage and released in the Sensory Garden.

Gary also nurtured an injured pupa monarch that was saved after it fell into the concrete pond at the SG.  He took it home and placed it in his cool basement and increased the humidity.  The pupa had a gash so Gary covered the gash with a bandage gauze and then attached tape over the gauze.  He used extra tape to secure the pupa inside the hatchery.  The bandage and tape prevented further desiccation at the wound.  The pupa insect naturally moves and vibrates a bit, so the extra tape was used to keep the gauze from being rolled off.  The butterfly emerged and was released on a butterfly bush after a few meals of orange Gatorade!

We continued our task of labeling plants in the garden so that they can be easily identified.

The summer at the SG is always a busy time with many visitors enjoying its beauty and serenity.  There are neighbors who visit every day, out of town visitors on vacations, children on a field trip at camp, mothers and dads with little ones in tow, all enjoying this beautiful space.

The late summer, early fall, brings on a multitude of students and teachers from the LNC camps. They are looking for that special leaf, or that flower that still has gorgeous bright colors, or the herb that has a fragrance enjoyed by all.  This garden is like an open book that draws you in to enjoy its many layers of beauty and wondrous creatures!

We don’t rest in the fall since there are still jobs that need to be done to put the garden down for its nice long nap.  The raised beds are cleaned out of all the veggies and annuals to help prevent disease from rotting plants.  The banana trees were cut back and mulched over to protect them from the freezing winter temperatures. The seeds on most of the plants are left for the overwintering birds in the garden.

In November the Sensory Garden Group presented a program on Caring for Trees in conjunction with the LNC Free Tree Giveaway.  The many trees offered in the giveaway were described so that the attendees could choose the right trees for their yards.  This program will be repeated again in the spring of 2017.

Many thanks to the Sensory Garden Group for making this garden a fun educational venue for its many visitors.  We are lucky to be able to work in this beautiful setting and talk with the many folks from the community, answering gardening questions, and showing off our little gem of a garden!

So, come sit a spell, relax, and enjoy the many sights, sounds, and fragrances that the Louisville Nature Center Sensory Garden has to offer!

Submitted by Janie Kanzler

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