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The St. Lawrence County Youth Bureau Program works with Cindy Quackenbush on the garden. Photo: Jasmine Wallace
The St. Lawrence County Youth Bureau Program works with Cindy Quackenbush on the garden. Photo: Jasmine Wallace

Garden welcomes butterflies and their hungry catepillars

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Toward the end of her career as a schoolteacher, Cindy Quackenbush realized that the number of monarch butterflies in the area was dwindling. She decided her retirement project would be encouraging monarchs and other butterflies.

She's creating new habitats for the butterflies. One butterfly garden is taking shape in front of the new E.J. Noble Hospital Building in Canton.

Jasmine Wallace caught up with Cindy and the youth crew working on the garden.

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The butterfly garden beginning to bloom. Photo Martha Foley

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Jasmine Wallace
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Cindy Quackenbush can’t wait for people to see the butterfly garden she’s working on. One half looks almost finished, and it has a winding walkway lined with light purple and yellow flowers. The other half of the garden is going to have a mini forest and more flowers, but right now it’s swarming with local kids pushing around wheelbarrows and carrying shovels. The garden will be a sanctuary for all types of butterflies, including Monarchs.

“The garden is beautiful. It’s huge; it’s way bigger than I thought it would be and it is shaped like a giant butterfly. And if you go upstairs, you can see, and perhaps when you can walk on our walkway, that the whole garden is symmetrical like the wings of a butterfly so the plants on one side mimic the plants on the other side,” said Quackenbush.

She thought the garden would take a week to build. Instead, she’s dedicated the last three months to planning, preparing the site, and building the garden. It’s been a lot of work, and she and her husband drive from their house to water the garden every night. But she says it’s been worth it. She said, “Oh, the design was in my heart forever. And I mean, people thought we were just going to dig out some dirt and put some pretty flowers in, but we had to build the bones of that garden from below ground-level up; we had to dig down, we had to provide new soil, new compost, special mulch, and then all of these beautiful plants.”

The garden has two types of plants: nectar plants to attract the butterflies, and host plants for them to lay their eggs on. Cindy hasn’t been building the garden on her own; she’s gotten several crews from the St. Lawrence County Youth Corps to help out. She said, “And they have come quite a few days this summer and worked so hard. And, of course, the weeks they could come were those horribly hot high eighties, low nineties, those days. Unbelievable: one day we went through 84 bottles of water and about 40 bottles of Gatorade. It was a crazy day.”

Adam Randall is the supervisor of the Canton crew. He said, “My six workers are from Canton or the surrounding area, so, you know, they’re working on something they’re going to see constantly and possibly interact with in the future so it, you know, means more to them than just somebody coming from a different town. So far it looks really nice; it’s a lot better than what used to be here. It was just kind of a barren, half-grown lawn, just a buffer zone between the sidewalk and the hospital. But now it’s full of bushes, pretty flowers, mounds, different angles and colors.”

Jared Adner has worked for the crew for the last four years, and he explained, “We’ve actually been filling dirt in to make the trail better to walk through so you can plant flowers and what not, just making it look better for the hospital and Canton.”

“My dad wanted me to get a job over the summer, and he thought this was a good opportunity to get some experience," said Cole Zeller, another crew member. "Everyone here is a good person, and a good crew leaders and good supervisor. I think it’s going to look really good because we’ve put a lot of work into this; I think it’s just going to look great.”

Even though the garden isn’t quite finished yet, it’s already a success; Cindy’s parsley has been devoured by Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars. Cindy hopes that her garden will be more than just a safe habitat for butterflies, and she said, “Just being here working on it, every single person who comes in or out of the hospital stops; you see them just look at it and then they start to smile and they’re all so happy to look at it. And I think that, you know, if you come out of a doctor office and you got some bad news or some scary thing you’ve got to go through, and you can look over here and see all this beauty, maybe it’ll make it a little easier for people. That’s what I hope.”

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