VENTNOR – Volunteers have toiled for weeks to beautify the broken fountain and revitalize the landscaping behind the Ventnor Cultural Arts Center. According to Susan Van Duyne Hunter, the garden beautification project is a collaborative effort between several Ventnor organizations, including the Ventnor Green Team and Atlantic County Library/Ventnor, which will supply the garden’s new habitants.
“It’s a pollinator garden using native plants, such as milkweed, which is a food source for Monarch butterflies,” Hunter said.
In addition to supplying the nectar to nourish the orange and black beauties during their migration, Monarchs use the plant as their breeding ground, Hunter said.
“Monarchs only lay their eggs on the milkweed plant,” she said.
Much of the weeding and planting being done throughout the somewhat neglected landscaping beds is being done by Sue and John Miller and a rotating crop of volunteers.
On Thursday, June 7, a woman visiting the park learned about the ongoing project and volunteered to come back the next day to do some weeding.
“It’s a lot of weeding, but they stay on top of it,” Hunter said.
Other species being planted in several garden beds include Joe Pye weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed, sunflowers and other native plants that thrive at the seashore and will attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.
“Liz of the Garden Goddess in Longport gives us lots of ideas,” she said.
The fountain, which is in need of a major plumbing overhaul, has not been turned on this summer. Instead, the Ventnor Beautification Committee purchased several “Smart Pots,” which are reusable fabric containers that can be removed at the end of the growing season, folded up and stored for the winter. They have been placed atop pallets in the fountain to hold EcoSoil and flowers.
The Ventnor Cultural Arts Centerfunded the purchase of some of the annuals that will provide color all summer long, but others were donated by residents, Hunter said.
The garden beds that are scattered throughout the park are being lined with mosaic creations made by children and their parents in the Ventnor City Municipal Alliance “medicinal pottery” program.
“It’s an art program for children 10 and up and their parents. It’s a way to bring them together for some quality time and encourage personal expression. We did it for three years with pottery, but this year we switched to mosaics,” Hunter said.
The colorful mosaic bricks line one of the garden beds and more will be added as their projects are completed.
Meanwhile, indoors at the library, children’s Librarian Jaimie Vigue, is facilitating a program that started at the Pleasantville branch – raising butterflies that will soon be released into the garden.
“This area is right in the flyway of the Monarch migration,” she said.
Young children who come to the library to read stories about butterflies and nature, such as Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” are fascinated whey they see the caterpillars, each in their own little container, evolve into chrysalis and emerge as beautiful Painted Ladies.
“They like it so much we do it every year,” Vigue said.
The tiny caterpillars were purchased online from Insect Lore, a teacher resource that encourages observation and investigation of the butterfly lifecycle.
The full kit comes with a butterfly garden habitat, an airy mesh enclosure that can be used each growing season. Refills come with little habitat cups with a tiny dot of Velcro on the lid where the chrysalis grow.
Their release date depends on the weather, she said.
“It can’t be too warm or too rainy,” she said. “When they hatch, we’ll keep them in the cage for up to a week before we release them outdoors.”
The butterflies are on display near the children’s section of the library.