Friday, August 24, 2012

Postcards from Mount Desert Island: Butterflies

For years, we've spent summer vacations in Southwest Harbor, Maine. And, for years, we've driven past an understated sign on Main Street for the Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden. It's easy to become oblivious and miss treasures simply out of habit.

On the porch at the inn, I met a first-time visitor to the island, a meat cutter from Chicago's renowned Paulina Market. He carried around a notepad he'd filled with choice information about island sights, activities, and restaurants, culled from several guidebooks.

I've never consulted a guidebook for Mt Desert Island except for hiking trails; I probably should. And I have never met a meat cutter who wasn't an exceptionally pleasant conversationalist; my favorite uncle was a meat cutter and he set the standard for me. This meat cutter did not disappoint. Among other recommendations, he sent us to the butterfly garden. (He also told me which cut would be best for recreating my grandmother's roast beef; my uncle has been unusually hazy on that subject.)

The butterfly garden is small but wonderful, planted with old-fashioned, strongly scented flowers that attract not only butterflies but bees. The plants include buddleia, bee balm, heliotrope, verbena, milkweed, zinnias, and echinacea. The garden was established in 1998 "to promote conservation education and gardening instruction in the community." While it was certainly educational, our visit felt more magical than anything else. If seeing one butterfly is a treat, seeing dozens at once is almost out of this world. We'll definitely return.

Some photos:

An old-fashioned garden, tucked between the shoreline and the road.

Monarch on buddleia, or butterfly bush

This monarch was tagged; it should migrate to Mexico for the winter

Rudbeckia

Bees like echinacea

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