From Sod to Sanctuary: The Joyful Transformation of a Churchyard

Update on the pine rockland and butterfly garden plantings: one of Bound by Beauty’s members watched an Atala butterfly christen a newly planted coontie with her eggs several days ago; and two of us watched this morning as a Sleepy orange butterfly deposited her eggs on the Bahama senna!  It is a wonderful feeling to provide a safe sanctuary for pregnant female butterflies and their offspring!

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Bound by Beauty gathered together with friends, neighbors, members of the Miami Shores Community Church Garden Program, and AT&T Pioneers to install a pine rockland, marking the second phase of the transformation of a spacious, sod-covered rear churchyard into a community garden and sanctuary for butterflies and other pollinators, as well as endangered native plant species.

Pine rocklands are an incredibly rich, critically endangered habitat, containing numerous flora and fauna that are found nowhere else on earth.  Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden has a wonderful program designed to connect the few remaining fragments of pine rocklands, through plantings in urban gardens.  You can read more about the Connect to Protect Network here.  By joining this network, the Community Church school was given ten free pine rockland plants.  Additional plants and other supplies were purchased thanks to a donation from Meg Watson, Pastor at the Community Church.

We started by gazing in delight at a pair of mating Monarch butterflies in the previously planted butterfly garden, which you can read about here.

Monarchs mating on native blue porterweed, a pine rockland plant

We added some yellowtop plants to the butterfly garden, as well as a Chaya, or Mexican tree spinach cane, whose lovely white flowers will attract nearly all native species of butterflies to its nectar (you can read how humans benefit from this plant here).

Madeliene, Mike, and Melanie introducing the yellowtop plants into their new home.









Susan is easing the largest pine out of its nursery pot, with Rolando, Mike and Melanie.

Others, meanwhile, started adding plants to the pine rockland.  We planted three Florida slash pines, a tree whose disappearance due to urbanization in South Florida has led to the near-extinction of the Flying squirrel and the Red-cockaded woodpecker.  

Helen and Susan planting a pine.
Susan standing on what is arguably the highest point in Miami Shores, while Adriana, Rolando, Helen, and Doug work on the pine rockland.
Helen and Rolando carefully position coral rocks donated for this project by members of the community.


In addition to the Florida slash pine, we planted coontie, the host plant for the Atala butterfly; wild lantana; pineland croton, the host plant of the critically endangered Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies; Chapman’s liatris, as well as sunshine mimosas  (the only species not associated with pine rocklands).  All of these species are drought-tolerant once established.

The pine rockland, finished off with leaf mulch donated by members of the community.

From sod:

Before the planting: the rear yard of the church was underutilized and covered in sod

To sanctuary:

A butterfly garden and pine rockland that are full of beauty and interest and life.

The pine rockland may be little, but its message is mighty: we must join together to save nature, which we depend on for our existence.  It was a joyful experience for everybody involved to take such positive steps toward healing nature and creating a sanctuary for butterflies, endangered plants, and humans.  Stop by and take a look!  And stay tuned as we find creative ways to expand Miami Shores’ first community garden.


10 thoughts on “From Sod to Sanctuary: The Joyful Transformation of a Churchyard

  1. Janet Carabelli Reply

    Lovely, thanks so much for sharing — and most of all for generating this marvelous project!!!

    1. Mary Benton Reply

      We are healing our community, and making it more resilient.

  2. Susan Howell Reply

    So happy our church and Bound by Beauty connected to create this sanctuary. Mary, you are amazing and Helen thank you for your time and expertise on this project. Looking at the before (sod) and after (sanctuary) photos makes my heart sing- we are transforming our village one garden at a time.

    1. Mary Benton Reply

      It is a joyful feeling!

  3. George Fishman Reply

    Beautiful christening of your project. And surely some of the parishioners will be inspired to bring the idea home with them.

    1. Mary Benton Reply

      We hope to inspire the parishioners, the school children and their families, as well as members of the community-at-large. Thanks for your comment, George!

  4. Jennifer Possley Reply

    Dear Miami Shores Community Church and Bound by Beauty,
    Thank you so much for helping to reclaim a patch of land for Mother Nature! It is heartening to see so many Miamians embrace our native plants and pollinators. Great photos and wonderful blog!!

    1. Mary Benton Reply

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! It was wonderful meeting you and Peter, and finding the perfect spot for Fairchild’s pine rockland plants!

  5. Mary Neustein Reply

    It must bring a tremendous amount of joy to see what Mother Nature provides for us. Continued success with your new sanctuary.

    1. Mary Benton Reply

      It truly does! Those of us who gathered that day to plant the CTPN plants were afloat with happiness!

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