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Putting the petal to the metal

Martha Bergman (front) was the visionary behind planting a garden in Winkler to create habitat for the endangered monarch butterfly. Members of the Winkler Horticultural Society and Winkler Art Gallery shared her vision. Also pictured are Betty Klassen (l to r) Margaret Penner, Tim Klassen, Valerie Harder, Sue Denison and Tanya Waino.

A 500-lb. monarch butterfly is now featured in the newly planted butterfly garden next to the Winkler Art Gallery. The gallery is Winkler’s former water treatment plant

Planting a butterfly garden is a bit like hosting a party. You get everything ready, then hope those you invited show up.

Members of the Winkler Horticultural Society are now eagerly awaiting the arrival of their orange and black attired guests to their own ‘garden party.’

This spring the group created a specially designed butterfly-friendly garden on the grounds of Winkler’s former water treatment plant. Like other sites around Manitoba such as the Living Prairie Museum, the grounds are filled with flowers specially selected as a nectar feast for monarchs and other types of butterflies.

“Our main goal was to provide food and a haven for a few of our native butterflies and pollinators,” said Tanya Waino, a member of the WHS who has recently earned her credentials as a Master Gardener.

“We put in about 40 different varieties of native prairie plants.” The plants were sourced from Prairie Originals, a Manitoba company specialized in native prairie wildflowers.

Already alighted in the garden is a 500-lb. metal replica of a monarch butterfly — dubbed Teekay after its creator and namesake. Winkler welder Tim Klassen built it over the winter.

He’s modest about his seven-foot metal artwork.

“It’s really hard to tell the shape of a butterfly,” he said. “It would have been nice to have had a live sample.”

They’ll be here soon enough.

And their appearance will please Martha Bergman very much.

This garden has bloomed in her mind’s eye a long time. Bergman said she wanted to see this garden created after reading how urban environments could plant habitat for the imperilled butterflies which are disappearing elsewhere.

“This was my dream. This was my vision,” said Bergman. “I was always hearing about the destruction of habitat for the monarch butterfly and as a result the monarch being on the decline. I’ve had a passion for that for years.”

Members of the WHS shared her passion and put hundreds of hours into creating the garden on the grounds of the art gallery. Artists took inspiration from it too. Sue Denison was so inspired by what the hort group was doing, she set to painting a butterfly garden in its honour. Then the hort society asked her to do it over again — in flowers. Denison’s floral design now blooms in front of Klassen’s metal art.

The butterfly garden is now eligible for certification with several organizations, including the North American Butterfly Association, the Monarch Way Station Program and the Fort Whyte Naturescape Program.

The garden is just one part of the WHS vision for its community. The group has been putting its painterly touch all over Winkler since starting up in 2000, designing many more gardens and planting tens of thousands of flowers in all corners of the city.

And it all began with $250 from the city to fill one planter with flowers, says Margaret Penner, chair of the WHS.

“There were no other public plantings or floral displays in the city,” she said. “The council of the day was impressed. They said prepare a budget for us. And the next year we started dreaming.”

Today the WHS’s roughly 20 members continue to dream up and oversee city beautification projects. Members helped with the creation of Bethel Heritage Park at the public library. In spring they oversee planting of as many as 20,000 annuals, helped by about 50 additional volunteers.

All this is done in a partnership with the City of Winkler, explains Penner. Now, each fall their group figures out flower needs and other resources needed to beautify the city and presents the plan and budget to city council for approval.

Valerie Harder, one of the WHS’s new members, moved here just a year ago. The city’s display of flowers left an incredible first impression on her, she said. So did meeting the people behind it all.

“I realized how hard they’d worked. Forty years ago, previously, when I’d lived in the area, it didn’t look like this,” said Harder.

She jokingly adds she ‘didn’t have a choice’ when it came to joining the WHS.

“They were all so inviting,” she said. “These people are like flowers themselves.”

Meanwhile, their horticultural group will keep on creating living art. The site of this garden is so fitting, said Bergman.

“We are an art gallery of another type,” said Bergman.

The Winkler Horticultural Society named its new metal art monarch ‘Teekay’ after its maker welder Tim Klassen. photo: Lorraine Stevenson

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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