monarch butterfly at Plymouth Harbor When the sun and the weather are just right, it’s easy to imagine the peace to be found in a well-appointed butterfly garden.  Sarasota abounds with these delightful creations filled largely with native plants and the 170 species of butterflies that find their homes here at one time of the year or other (that’s nearly a quarter of 740 species found world-wide!)

Tillie Bessemer appreciated the delicate natural beauty of butterflies and the restorative powers of a garden in which to appreciate them. For this reason she designated a gift from her estate to provide for a butterfly garden to be maintained on the grounds of Plymouth Harbor after her passing.

Resident Fran Rehl became a member of the Grounds Committee very shortly after arriving at Plymouth Harbor in 2006. Fran never knew Tillie personally; however, she and her fellow committee members have kept her wishes in the years since.  But the labor of planting every spring, not to mention weekly weeding and pruning, can be difficult to maintain.  Butterfly gardens take loving care and attention. This is where Girl Scout Nichole Peal steps in.

Nichole, a junior at the Sarasota Military academy, is a hardworking and high-achieving young lady. She’s been in Girl Scouts for 11 years and is now an Ambassador Scout working on the coveted Gold Award, which is the highest ranking Girl Scout award one can achieve.  She got the idea to develop her service project around the Plymouth Harbor butterfly garden last autumn when she met resident Ann Brackett and VP of Philanthropy Becky Pazkowski on a visit to the Girl Scout Headquarters.

“I had just finished my Harvest Award where I had learned about butterfly gardens on a visit to the Florida Native Plant Nursery in Myakka,” says Nichole referring to another prestigious Girl Scout Senior award.  “There are so many elaborate rules for butterfly gardens like the number of plants and which ones are for the butterflies to eat and which are for laying their eggs.”

Nichole was no stranger to Plymouth Harbor having visited several times for Christmas caroling and the idea of creating a project that would have a lasting impact on this community was appealing. In fact, in her words, “It sounded cool.”

With the support of the Gulfcoast Girl Scout Council and executive director Sue Stewart, Nichole was ready to go to work.  And it’s a lot of work required to earn the Gold Award; work that she has to fit in between classes at her high school as well as at State College of Florida where she has started early, and her part-time job!

First she had to conduct serious research and prepare her plan following the first five of seven required steps – identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, get help and build your team, create a plan, and then present the plan and gather feedback.  She’ll be purchasing the plants and getting ready for planting in mid-May. 

Be on the lookout for updates on Nichole’s progress and the rejuvenation of a beautiful butterfly garden for all to enjoy.