LAKE COMO, NJ — What if you threw a party and the guest of honor did not show up? For those attending the grand opening of Lake Como’s butterfly garden that may have been the case, but it did not bother them in the least.
Although no butterflies were spotted at the event, its attendees were more than content to get a first-hand look at a garden that is now flush with foliage to entice the elusive butterfly to the specially designed lakefront habitat.
Some 60 people gathered at Lake Como’s western banks for the grand opening celebration hosted by the borough’s environmental commission. The event marked the culmination of three years of work by its members and other volunteers to make the garden more butterfly friendly — an important endeavor to support the migration patterns of the Monarch butterfly, whose numbers have been declining in New Jersey during the past 20 years (see box below).
“This has been three years in the works,” said Karen Zielinski, the commission’s lakefront projects manager who spearheaded the restoration effort.
It involved taking out poison ivy and other invasive species of plants that had inundated the garden, excavating it and filling it with new soil and then planting it with hundreds of native butterfly-supporting plants, including 120 that were purchased this season through a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC).
In order to support the Monarch butterfly’s lifecycle and migratory patterns, the garden includes pollen-rich plants that will bloom at three different times throughout the spring and summer. “We have to have constant blooms throughout the season to keep the butterflies comfortable and happy,” said Zielinski, who applauded the many volunteers involved in the restoration project.
Environmental Commission Chair Jon Gibbons thanked Arnold and Chris Clemenson of Clemenson Farms Native Nurseries in Estell Manor for giving the commission such a good price on purchasing the garden’s plants, it was able to buy some 40 more plants than originally planned.
Jenine Tankoos of Manalapan, a representative of ANJEC, commended the borough for its efforts to support the butterfly population, particularly ensuring that the one plant on which the entire Monarch butterfly survives on — the milkweed — continues to grow on the banks of Lake Como. “By just planting one milkweed plant makes a difference since it’s the only plant the Monarch butterfly eats and lays its eggs on,” said Tankoos, who along with her son, Aaron Diament, recently published “Let’s Go Green Together,” a guide for children on how they can make their world a cleaner and greener place.
As a way of officially opening the garden, children gathered around it to toss in wildflower seeds, donated by the Monmouth Conservation Foundation. It was their way of wishing the garden “good luck” in bringing butterflies to the banks of Lake Como.
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