By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – From migrating monarchs to adoptable dogs, the Felty Farm’s annual butterfly garden open house introduces people to the butterfly way station while helping a local animal rescue raise money.
Verne Felty, 62, and her husband Randy, 61, of Southgate, invited the public to the “Felty Farm,” 16227 Windermere Circle Aug. 26 to tour the garden and raise money for Non-Breed Specific Animal Rescue through a silent auction and raffle, while the Brownstown Animal Shelter and other pet and garden-themed vendors offered specialty products for sale.
In both the front and backyard, a riotous rainbow of blooms form a butterfly buffet, from asters to zinnias, in a chemical-free environment that helps protect monarchs, which in turn pollinate plants and are a part of the food chain.
Verne Felty also is a member of the Non-Breed Specific Animal Rescue, a foster-based canine rescue that helps rehabilitate healthy dogs and puppies to successfully prepare them for adoption. The Brownstown Animal Shelter, 23700 Lillian, in Brownstown Township, also had volunteers on site to raise money for its veterinary bills.
She said migrating butterflies lay eggs on the garden’s milkweed plants, so both caterpillars and butterflies are present in the garden.
“At the end of September, we have hundreds of butterflies in our yard,” Verne Felty said. “We built a pond about 10 years ago, and the monarch butterflies started coming with one specific pond plant, and I just started from there.”
She said they do “lasagna gardening,” where they leave all the perennials, and cut them back in the spring, then layer dirt, mulch and compost on the beds.
They have lived in Southgate for 30 years, and are past recipients of a Southgate Home Beautiful Award.
Randy Felty said he plants the flowers his wife selects, and is a “good follower.”
“I am the worker bee, not the queen,” he said with a laugh.
He said the concentration of monarchs will appear at the end of September, when they begin to migrate to Mexico, and their neighbors are fascinated by their garden and its winged wayfarers.
“We have people stop all the time,” he said. “They are interested in the milkweed plants and the native plants.”
He said the milkweed and the butterfly bush are the host plants on which the butterflies lay eggs. They have three types of milkweed in their backyard: common, tropical and swamp.
“We have more luck with the swamp milkweed than the other two,” Randy Felty said. “The monarchs lay their eggs there because milkweed is poisonous.”
He said the poisonous plant helps protect the eggs from predators, but there are still many creatures higher up on the food chain that like to eat the eggs and caterpillars.
“If you don’t get ’em quick, the caterpillars or the eggs, there is always something that’s going to eat them,” Randy Felty said. “That is why we kind of gather them up and raise them in cages and release them into the wild.”
The Feltys have many butterfly-preferred flowers, including phlox, butterfly bushes, Mexican sunflowers, Joe-Pye weed, latanas, zinnias and coneflowers.
He said efforts like theirs try to counteract the pesticides and other human hazards that take a toll on the butterfly population. Butterflies, like bees, are needed to pollinate plants.
“The Wyandotte Golf Course is now dedicating big parcels to milkweed for the monarchs, which is awesome,” he said. “You get the word out there, and people come to events like this to learn something.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)