Leila S. Case: Butterflies flutter along winding trail

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It’s time to start thinking about planting your spring garden simply because it makes your inner spirit rise to envision blooms bursting with color to replace the bleak landscape of winter.
Mother Nature’s friend Jack Frost left his calling call recently by scorching the perennials that were still hardy and vibrant and the early blooming camellias.
I was in Thomasville, Georgia’s City of Roses, early last month, where everything comes up roses beginning in April, and thought about our roses which have gone by the wayside. Like everything, roses don’t last forever. Planted by Gary and Dianne Reeves shortly after we moved into our home 15 years ago, our hybrid tea roses were prolific, producing big, colorful blossoms and we immensely enjoyed them. We followed the “rose rules” and tended them constantly, spraying, feeding with special rose fertilizer, mulching, watering and pruning. As they aged and died one-by-one, we ordered replacements that Billy and Kitten Carter planted but they grew old and died, too.
Last year we took Billy’s advice: dig ‘em, dump ‘em. We gave them a proper, rosy burial. What remained were four barren beds that have yet to be replanted because we couldn’t decide on the plant material during the growing season.
Finally, we’ve come to a decision: a butterfly garden.
And we can’t wait to begin digging in the dirt.
Annette Wise of Plains, founder and coordinator of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, planted the seed during an interesting talk I heard her give on the subject.
Rosalynn Carter, reading that the Monarch butterflies were declining, asked for Wise’s help in creating a butterfly garden at the Carters’ home. The project began by adding butterfly-loving host and nectar plants, cone flowers and black-eye Susans to their already established garden. They made container gardens closer to the house and a roadside garden near the gated entrance, attracting many species of butterflies and providing a big burst of color in mid-growing season.
With the involvement of others, Carter’s butterfly garden grew from her home to containers and in-ground flower beds in downtown Plains and locations encompassing the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.
Wise then suggested opening the trail to others outside of Plains. Thus, the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail was established in April 2013, and since then butterfly gardens have been registered by schools, other public places and individual conservationists from as near as Callaway Gardens in LaGrange, the Carter Center in Atlanta, to sites across the country, Canada and Japan.
Wise said there is no cost to register your butterfly garden with the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, which can be done online: www.jimmycarter.info/Carterfutterflytrail.htm. She plans several events on how to create a butterfly garden and container gardening later this spring. I hope to attend so I can spruce up our barren old rose beds.
“Each of us can make a difference by being a habitat provider for pollinators,” said Wise. “Everybody loves butterflies.”
We sure do.
Meanwhile, it’s not every day that President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn dine at your home. Ceegie and Allene Haugabook of Plains invited the Carters and other guests for dinner at their historic home in Plains last Sunday. How this amazing story materialized actually began last November. Hanna Elshoff, 73, of Minnesota, a native of Germany and naturalized U.S. citizen, is on an adventure called “Hanna’s Dream Ride,” traveling throughout the country on a solar bike. She registered to vote for Carter in the 1976 presidential election, but was too late, and she wanted his signature on her U.S. citizenship papers in addition to President Gerald Ford’s. Elshoff set out last May, reaching Columbus in November. Active in the Lion’s Club organization, she attended the Columbus Lion’s meeting and talked about her mission. Her story caught the attention of member Alice Stagg who related it to her cousin, Allene, who immediately solved the problem by doing what every southern hostess has done for hundreds of years: throw a party. Meanwhile, Elshoff flew home, stored her bike in Columbus, returned to retrieve it last week to pedal to Plains for the liaison at the Haugabooks’. Allene says her guest list quickly grew to include a wait staff composed of their daughters, Beth Nesmith of Americus, Amy Lockwood of Decatur, and granddaughter, Dallas Nesmith, who was home from Georgia Southern for the weekend.  Allene reports the occasion was “delightful.” Her husband made movies and took photos of all the “happenings” including Carter signing Elshoff’s citizenship papers. This was a pure act of southern hospitality and kindness extended by everyone to make this naturalized U.S. citizen’s dream come true. Elsewhere, a standing ovation for “Séance It Isn’t So,” a farce written by Kim Fuller for Lake Blackshear Regional Library’s 27th annual fundraiser. It was too clever and a pure joy to watch.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.