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Plaza 98 transformed a short strip of ordinary road right off Miami Shores' main drag into a happening place where neighbors can gather, talk, play, learn, dance, eat and more, and endangered native butterflies and plants can find sanctuary.  It involved a whole lot of planning and a lot of grease from numerous neighborly elbows, and it all came together on Saturday night.

It is hard to imagine what is about to unfold on 98th Street.

A clever and artistic resident came up with a design of two rows of stylized pineapples, a salute to our historic past when pineapple plantations were more abundant than cars. The design had to be approved by the county, and laid out in stencils by volunteers.

Other residents of all ages and sizes showed up and, armed with brushes and rollers, filled in the shapes with bright colors.

A smattering of local artists, hanging out and having fun!

Rows of stylized pineapples planted in paint.  This project was completed in record time, thanks to all the volunteers who showed up to help.

Besides the painting, tasks included furniture assembly and planter preparation.

One of the crack teams of volunteer DIYers that helped turn wooden pallets and plywood into benches.

Preparing the planters required attaching wheels and drilling holes. Who knew that Councilwoman Burch was so handy with tools?

With the road painted, furniture assembled, and planters prepared, Bound by Beauty stepped in with a team of volunteers to fill the planters with beautiful native plants, several of which are threatened or endangered in the wild.

We began by filling the bottom with aluminum cans and styrofoam pellets, which allow for drainage without adding to the cost or the weight. When you don't recycle, upcycle!

Potting soil was added next.

Volunteers helped place the primarily native plants in the planters.  Here we have non-native Giant milkweed and native porterweed, which will soon be sending little purple flowers skyward to entice passing pollinators.

The plant in the background is coontie. Bound by Beauty will soon be publishing a very special report on this plant, and the treasures it enfolds.  

Those handy wheels enabled us to push the very heavy planters into place. In the future, the wheels will give flexibility as to how the planters will be used when the plaza is closed once a month to traffic.

Last but not least, we had help watering the plants. Although drought tolerant when established, they need watering every day for a couple of weeks until they show signs of new growth.  In this planter we put coreopsis and red tropical sage.

So much for the preparations!  Now it's party time in the Shores!

There was music by the Hoy Polloy.

And activities for kids.

Patting dogs was the most popular activity for some kids!

Miami Shores' very own Lucio's was on hand with delicious libations and food.

Neighbors happy to mug for the camera.

When is the last time so many people gathered in downtown Miami Shores? Plaza 98 is breathing new life into our village.

Thank you to all who came out to work and party with your neighbors.  Stay tuned for more information on Plaza 98 on the second Saturday in December, when Christmas will be in the air.

The Green Day Fair is a wonderful event in the life of Miami Shores.  We close our main street to traffic, and come together as a community to shop for food and plants and gifts, to chat with neighbors, to listen to live music, to eat all sorts of delicacies, and, if fairgoers stopped by Bound by Beauty's booth, to be awestruck.

That's Susan Howell there in the center. Susan donated beautiful treasures to Bound by Beauty, which she unearths at estate sales. Loved that amazing frog box with green rhinestones. I wonder who the lucky buyer was?

What struck people with awe?  Was it our booth, which was like no other, thanks to the easy-to-install, beautifully constructed cedar walls created by the talented Mike Oliva for his lovely wife, Melanie, an artist and activist extraordinaire (click here and here to learn more about this amazingly talented human being)?

Melanie Oliva, artist and activist and the love of Mike's life.

Or maybe it was Maria Font's warm and winning smile as she greeted those who entered through the back door (besides being powered by passion for pollinators, Maria is a truly gifted photographer who could find magic in the mundane.  Click here to see her marvelous images)?  Plus, we were the only booth with a back door....and we had awesome vintage Polish cutouts of brightly colored birds and flowers, visible in the background, and all sorts of other unique and wonderful nature-themed items for sale.  And did I mention we had oodles of handsome guys helping out, like that guy back there?  

Or were passerbys awestruck by our amazingly stylish friends, like Wendy Doscher-Smith and Jill Leslie?  Too bad you can't see Wendy's go-go boots in this photo!

Come to think of it, our outfits were pretty awesome.  I mean, who doesn't think Monarch wings and antennae are the next "hot" thing in Miami?

Wendy and Maria modeling butterfly couture.

Beverly and Jill solving the world's problems, right there on Main Street.

Yes, that's Melanie Extraordinaire again, as she kindly loaned BbB the butterfly gear that had been broken in during the March Against Monsanto. Go, Melanie!

Maybe it was our beautiful and unusual notecards featuring -- you guessed it: butterflies -- which proved a favorite with the crowds?

Kate Eaton, the creator of the Ruah service at the Ancient Spanish Monastery left, laden with our butterfly notecard sets (you can read about Kate's magic here). All butterflies were captured, figuratively, in Mary Benton's garden, right here in Miami Shores.

Was it our wonderful educational tools, that highlight the magical process of metamorphosis?

No, I think the answer was right outside our amazing booth, as filled with treasures as it was.  What are they looking at?

What does she see?

Awestruck!

Maria's at it again, drawing children of all ages in to a world of beauty and mystery and magic and wonder and awe.

What was at the root of this beauty and magic and wonder?  It was our wonderful Monarch tower, made by Geoff Lee for the love of his life, Jean (I think we have a theme going here) and donated to Bound by Beauty, bejeweled with gold-crowned jade chrysalises and pupating caterpillars.  Talk about performance art!

The sharp-eyed among you might notice that this photo was taken elsewhere. True, but the magic at the fair was no different.

Dreaming their last caterpillar dreams as the inner pupa takes over.

Many passersby were lucky enough to see a pearly white Queen chrysalis. Here is a photo of the Queen herself, newly emerged.

All in all, it was a most wonderful day, and Bound by Beauty is grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for having conjured up a Green Fair.  All of us at Bound by Beauty thank everyone who came by and supported our critical mission of transforming how we interact with neighbors and with nature, using butterflies as the catalyst for change.  All of us at Bound by Beauty are passionate about safeguarding the beauty of nature for future generations. #GreenDayMiamiShores

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.

 

Mad dogs, Englishmen, and, apparently, members of Bound by Beauty are out in the midday sun.  You can see from our rosy cheeks and noses, not to mention the glistening sweat, that we worked hard today to prepare the bed for the planting of the pine rockland plants on Saturday.  Lucky for us, we love doing what we do!

Bound by Beauty members Helen Perry, Mary Benton, and Patty Doukas

So what did we do?  We removed the plastic tarp that was solarizing the bed, then started sculpting a pine rockland, using coral rocks donated by members of the community.  We just may have created the highest point in Miami Shores!

In the process of sculpting our pine rockland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, we took the plants donated by Fairchild Garden's Protect to Connect Network and other generous folks, and placed them in a mockup of the garden to come.  We thought it looked pretty good!

Last, but not least, we took the potted plants to the shade, where they will await the moment when their roots can stretch out into the soil.  

 

Come join us on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Miami Shores Community Church for the planting and a celebration of Miami Shores' Community Garden.  Bring your lawn chairs and favorite beverages, and join your neighbors in the relative cool of a summer evening.  We look forward to seeing lots of friends and neighbors!  

Bound by Beauty connected recently with Jennifer Possley and Peter Vrotsos, both of whom are involved in Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden's Connect to Protect Network, which seeks to protect the critically endangered pine rockland habitats of South Florida.  We met them at Fairchild's nursery on a day of threatening skies and downpours, to pick up Bound by Beauty's five native pine rockland plants, which include host plants for butterflies, as well as plants that provide food for butterflies and other wildlife, and 10 pine rockland plants for the Miami Shores Community Church school's community garden.  Read more about this very important effort to save pine rockland species, and learn how you can become a member of the network and receive your own native plants here.  We will be scheduling a planting at the school soon, so stay tuned!

Jennifer Possley of Fairchild Garden, flanked by Mary Benton and Helen Perry of Bound by Beauty. Not pictured, Peter Vrotsos

Bound by Beauty teamed up with the AT&T Pioneers, the Girl Scouts of Troop 1305, members of the Miami Shores Community Church, and friends and neighbors in Miami Shores, to create a magical community butterfly habitat and the beginnings of a pine rockland, in an overlooked, grassy area of the church next to the school.

We began last Thursday, one of the hottest days of the year, by carving up the beds.  This might sound simple and straightforward, but St. Augustine grass has a tenacious grip on the earth, and is loathe to let go.  For those of us engaged in the fight against climate change, ripping out St. Augustine grass is a apt metaphor for the struggle to replace the unhealthy with the healthy, in order to heal our planet.

The hard work of loosening the grip of St. Augustine grass

One after another, our weed wackers failed in their attempt to cut through the tough leaves and roots of the grass.  James Ard, a friend of nature who lives up the street, showed up in the nick of time with his powerful gas-powered edger, which one of the Pioneers employed to good purpose, while the rest of us used hoes and rakes to remove the remnants of the grass, which we piled up in another bed where the pine rockland habitat will be created.  We almost finished the job, but the extreme heat leading to tomato-red faces dictated our temporary withdrawal.

Building up the future pine rockland ridge with the remnants of St. Augustine grass.

Saturday, the day dawned bright and sunny, but a nice breeze off Biscayne Bay, along with lemonade and snacks provided by the Girl Scouts, provided some comfort to those who returned to finish the job.  After removing the last remnants of St. Augustine grass, the crew got to work smoothing out the butterfly meadow planting bed, while others got to work labeling each plant and wetting down the future pine rockland and covering it with a plastic tarp in order to solarize it over the next few weeks. The wet soil will conduct the heat of the sun and kill the grass and other weeds (nb: we now recommend piling up layers of newspaper and cardboard, which will eventually turn into compost rather than killing beneficial soil organisms).  The Girl Scouts covered the ungainly plastic-wrapped pile with gaily colored butterflies, caterpillars, and a sign indicating its future use.

The future pine rockland habitat, which will be part of Fairchild's Connect to Protect Network.

when solarizing is complete.

When the butterfly meadow bed was raked smooth, Bound by Beauty placed the potted plants in their assigned location, educating those gathered on the purpose of each plant, while the Pioneers and other volunteers began digging holes and adding some homemade compost.

Placing the plants.

Then the leaves donated by numerous members of the community were added to the bed to the depth of a couple of inches, followed by one inch of natural eucalyptus mulch, to mollify those who don't believe that leaves should be used as mulch ;-).

Leaf mulch from pesticide-free gardens enriches the soil and keeps it moist, and discourages weeds from growing.

The final task was to thoroughly water the new plants, and to place a temporary fencing around the meadow to ensure it survives recess!

The purpose of the fence is to protect the plants as they become established.

Here is a list of the plants that went into creating this butterfly meadow:

Nectar plants:

Lantana involucrata

Lantana depressa

Beach verbena

Havana skullcap

Beach creeper

Porterweed

Brazilian buttonflower

Coreopsis

Tropical sage

Host plants:

Fogfruit

Bahama senna

Tropical milkweed

Giant milkweed

Many thanks to Pastor Meg Watson and the Miami Shores Community Church, the AT&T Pioneers, the Girl Scouts of Troop 1305 (and their mothers!), James Ard (who schlepped the plants up from Homestead and lent us his powerful edger in the nick of time), and members of the community who donated their time, their labor, their leaves, and their rocks!

To be continued......

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The barren beginnings

The playground was a dry and barren place, and Miami Shores Presbyterian Church Preschool Director Catherine Woods was determined to change that.  She wanted her students to leave their classrooms and enter into a magical realm, where caterpillars turn into jewels that open to unleash nectar-sipping butterflies into the world.  She knew that their experience in the natural world was at least as important as what they learned in the classroom.  She applied for a butterfly garden grant and held her dream close to her heart.  She won the grant and connected with Bound by Beauty.

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Clearing the ground of mulch.

Bound by Beauty designed the butterfly garden, and connected with a Boy Scout who was looking for an environmental project on which to show leadership in order to soar to the Eagle Scout rank.  What better way to bring a butterfly garden to children than by putting a young man in charge?

Armando Espinosa, from Scout Troup 529, bought the plants on Bound by Beauty's list (with some last-minute substitutions due to lack of availability which is, sadly, a not uncommon occurrence with native plants), soil and mulch, and showed up on planting day with a large troop of eager helpers, ranging in age from 10 to 60-something, directing the operation like a general overseeing his troops.  Bound by Beauty volunteers, as well as teachers and administrators from the school, worked alongside.  It was like an old-fashioned barn-raising, albeit with donuts and children and butterfly plants!  As we were cleaning up, we all paused to watch a beautiful Gulf fritillary butterfly approach.....and lay an egg on a newly planted maypop passion vine, starting the cycle of wonder for the children to observe.

Planting underway

Planting underway

The crew, minus a few who had to leave early.

The crew, minus a few who had to leave early.

After. Over time, the plants will fill the mulched beds.

After. Over time, the plants will fill the mulched beds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bound by Beauty wants to thank Preschool Director Catherine Woods for understanding the importance of  offering her young students a natural learning environment in which they will have many opportunities to observe the beauty of nature and the awesome wonder of the process of metamorphosis, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly.  We also wish her and her students success in raising money and volunteers to create a larger outdoor learning environment.  Thanks as well to Cindy McCoy, school board member, for connecting Bound by Beauty and the school.

Congratulations on the fine job that Scout Armando Espinosa did in providing leadership on this project.  It was wonderful to have children see that young people can -- and must -- be leaders too!  Thanks to Scott Davis, Miami Shores Director of Public Works and Scout Troop 529 leader, for making Armando's participation possible.

And thanks to the many volunteers who gathered to bring the garden to life!

Butterfly host and nectar plants

Butterfly host and nectar plants

Several factors dictated Bound by Beauty's design for this garden.  First and foremost, there is no irrigation on the playground other than a hose, so plants must be drought-tolerant.  Second, the planting area is in full sun for most of the year, except for when the sun hides behind the school building for a few winter months.  The plant list includes the following Florida native nectar plants: fiddlewood; scorpion-tail; beach verbena; porter weed; seashore ageratum, yellowtop, and wild petunia.  Non-native nectar plants include chaya, pineapple thistle, and tropical milkweed.  Butterfly host plants include coontie; maypop and corky stem passion vines; blue plumbago; tropical milkweed; and bahama cassia (which proved difficult to locate and will be planted later).

Bound by Beauty wishes the children at the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church school many happy hours in their new butterfly garden!

 

 

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