On July 25 we had our fifth session of our Bournelyf Butterfly Garden and Special Camp training. I conducted this session on Propagation along with Nick Russo. Although I had assisted with a few of the other sessions, this time I was responsible for providing the campers with both an educational and enjoyable experience. Needless to say, a lot of effort has gone into every session that we are teaching and our class wasn’t an exception. But, judging from the wonderful note we received from one of our enthusiastic campers, it was well worth all the preparation.
We were finally blessed with a sunny, humidity free day. Most of the sessions have taken place in hot, hot, hot and humid conditions so we were grateful. Before camp started for the day Nick and I, along with Barb Rinehart and Marian Post (our MG helpers for the session) were able to take a few minutes to survey the garden. Considering the heat wave we have been having and the fact that all the plants were put in later than they normally would have been, the garden looks fantastic! A twice a day watering and a good layer of mulch have certainly helped the plants to survive and flourish. We have only had one casualty, and even that plant seems to be making an effort to come back!
While looking around the garden our eagle eyed Barb Rinehart discovered a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar chomping its way through the Asclepias curassavica (Mexican Milkweed), and a Black Swallowtail hanging out in the Foeniculum vulgare (Bronze Fennel) and the Anethum graveolens (Dill). Yes the curassavica attracts aphids but the aphids attract ladybugs. And as we discussed in our previous post on ladybugs they just love to dine on aphids!
Ladybug to the rescue!
Our goal for this session was to help the campers to understand where all these plants that they have been helping to put into the garden came from. We talked about seeds and what it takes for them to grow: Soil, Sun, Water/Rain and Air.
We also did a lima bean exercise that let the campers see the beginnings of a baby lima bean inside when we opened up softened dried lima beans. This was a way of helping our campers understand the connection between a seed and the plant it develops into. To see how to do this click here.
Our next activity was making a grass head. This exercise was a lot of fun for the campers and they were excited about being able to keep their individual grass heads. The idea is to connect putting a seed into the soil, providing it with water, air and sunshine, and seeing it sprout into a plant – in this case grass. Below is what our grass heads will look like when they sprout. For some information on making your own grass head click here.
Next Nick took over leading an exercise in root division. Clumps of Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan) were divided by the campers and then repotted. The campers will water the potted plants for the remainder of camp and then take them home if they choose to do so. Extras may make there way into the garden.
The next exercise was to use a cutting and root it in water. Cuttings of various kinds of mint were used. One camper related that she had mint growing at home and we also talked about how mint is used in tea and summer drinks. They wanted to know if the chocolate mint tasted like chocolate. This simple activity requires fresh plant cuttings and a container for water (we used small plastic bottles with a hole drilled in the cap), The lower leaves are removed from the cutting and it is inserted into the hole in the cap until it can make contact with water. The campers were able to see an example of what their cutting would look like when it developed roots and we were able to again stress the importance of roots to the development of a plant.
Our final exercise was centered around a spider plant and the little baby spiders it produces. After viewing the mother plant with all its babies and identifying a blossom on the plant that will become a new baby, we clipped enough little plants for each camper to plant. We emphasized the need to water sparingly so that the plants got just enough water to thrive. We learned that too much water is as bad as not enough. I had rooted two plantlets in water to show the campers how their plants will make roots in the soil. We also examined the babies to find the beginnings of roots before planting them. Campers loved the idea that someday their baby spider could grow as big as the mother plant we used for our activity.
Mother Spider Plant
Here you can see both a baby spider plant and a flower.
There are so many activities that can be done to teach young people about plants and propagation but our day was drawing to an end. (Check out this resource to get some ideas.)
We finished up with a tour of the garden, looking at the newly discovered caterpillars and admiring what has been achieved. There is even a new garden bench where all the garden activity can be viewed. The bees were buzzing and the butterflies flitting and campers were enjoying it all as we finished up our day. Here are a few more pictures…