- February 12, 2016
After a two-hour drive west from Mexico City, University of Florida Master Gardener P.M. Reddy and his family were surrounded by millions of monarch butterflies in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve during a trip in February 2017.
“It was unimaginable,” Reddy said. “You look around 360 degrees, and it’s nothing but monarchs.”
Reddy shared his captivating experience at the reserve and his lifetime of knowledge with 68 guests under the Palm Coast Arts Foundation tent on its outdoor stage, located at 1500 Central Ave. in Town Center, for the foundation’s inaugural garden party.
PCAF garden party co-chairwomen Marilynn Sternberg and A.J. Barr partnered with the Flagler County UF/IFAS Extension in Bunnell for the event on Saturday, March 24. Guests enjoyed a catered lunch while donning festive spring attire and colorful hats, suiting the season.
“It was an idea we had just looking at the property we have here, just saying ‘Wow, it would be wonderful to do something outdoors that involves plants and have a luncheon,’” Sternberg said.
Barr and Sternberg handcrafted and hand-painted the many flower pots and table centerpieces that were then filled with plants that attract butterflies — emphasizing the presentation theme.
UF/IFAS Extension Flagler County Horticulture Agent Sol Looker said the extension donated about 20 milkweed plants, including native and tropical varieties, for attendees to purchase at the garden party.
“(PCAF) contacted us asking if we could perform some type of presentation,” Looker said. “I immediately thought about P.M. and thought this would be a good match. So, this is kind of our first interaction together. We’re here to promote the extension services that we provide, which are diagnostics, plant identification, soil testing, boarder-friendly landscaping — things of that nature that are designed to make homeowners lives easier, save money and protect the environment and resources.”
Milkweeds provide a food source for monarch larvae, and the milkweed flowers offer high-quality nectar to pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
During the spring and summer seasons, monarchs breed throughout the U.S. and southern Canada. But come fall, adult butterflies of the eastern population migrate to Mexico, traveling up to 3,000 miles, while in the western U.S., they migrate to scattered groves along the California coast.
Looker added that the presentation helped to inform people “about the plight of the monarch and their delicate situation,” as overwintering sites in Mexico and California have documented a steady decline in the monarch population.
Sternberg said the milkweed plants “flew off the shelves” at the event, as guests purchased them to attract butterflies to their home gardens and yards.
She said the event’s gross earnings were upwards of $3,000 between plant sales and admission of $35 for members and $40 for nonmembers.
“It’s very rewarding because we know that Picnic and Pops has been a success,” Sternberg said. “And this will be our first garden party, so we’re hoping we can grow, so people understand that every year we’re going to be doing something exciting here.”
The 11th-annual Picnic and Pops, featuring the Jacksonville Symphony with conductor Deanna Tham, is set for Sunday, April 15. Visit palmcoastartsfoundation.com for more.