Guest Opinion: Village Matters – Are you the next inspiration?

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ann christoph
By Ann Christoph

There is a lot of weeding and maintenance to be done at the South Laguna Community Garden Park. A few months ago, we were struggling to remove the persistent invasive Mediterranean nightshade from the slope between the two levels of the Garden. I looked up to the path above the slope and there, a man and woman were delicately carrying a netted cage. Within were two butterflies they later explained were raised at their condo. They were about to release them. Their babies. 

Flitting off to experience the whole world for the first time.

It turns out that Maury and Damon Weaver had been releasing butterflies at Garden Park for a while. Not only monarchs, but Gulf fritillary, swallow tails, and cloudless sulfurs. From eggs and caterpillars, they raise them in a safe environment, releasing the developed butterflies when the time and place are right.

“We have traveled all over San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties searching for the best release spots, and we found it right here in the Garden Park. There is such a variety here—not only nectar, but host plants like fennel, passionflower and milkweed, and a lot of mature trees in the surrounding neighborhood,” Maury explained.

A couple of weeks later, new gardener Debbie Meeker and her two grandchildren, Stella and Jack, were helping weed that very same slope. It’s not easy work, and it’s hard to get between the shrubs to pull out the weeds peeking up between. “That’s the advantage of being little,” Jack emphasized. “I can just climb up there, no problem.” He proudly showed off a big section of nightshade root he was able to extract. Debbie and Stella were there, too, gamely working between the developing native shrubs we had planted to replace the nightshade.  

Just then, Maury and Damon arrived with two more of their charges. Stella and Jack had to see, and they were able to be part of the release, reaching into the cage, encouraging the butterflies to climb on their fingers, and then letting them flutter away. Wonder.

The Garden Park is not a nature program on TV. It’s real nature right there. Happenings like those take place perhaps unpredictably. But in a way, it’s also predictable because when an inspiring natural place is offered, it’s likely something/someone inspiring will be drawn to it, adding their inspiration to embellish what is already there.

On Saturday at the Garden Park there will be a Garden Dream event. We’ll be celebrating 13 years of garden and community building and give an update on the acquisition status. Maury and Damon will demonstrate their butterfly conservation story. The Garden Band and Moon Police will play, and we’ll have farm-to-table hors d’oeuvres amid the garden plots. Come and be part of the extended family and join in wondering what or who might be the next inspiration. Maybe it will be you. Visit SouthLaguna.org/garden.

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