Apollo Butterfly Park in Milson is a great example of what happens when one person takes initiative to enhance their own neighbourhood. Paul Vandenberg (with the help of many volunteers) has created a sanctuary for monarch butterflies to spend the winter in Apollo Park, Milson. The idea came to Paul after he noticed hundreds of monarch butterflies resting in pre-existing Willow trees in a park near his home. He was amazed at the sight and decided to see what he could do to protect and enhance this natural phenomena. The butterflies sleep in the trees during winter. During winter the butterflies are in a period of dormancy similar to hibernation. In this state, they cluster together in the trees, occasionally taking flight if the sun comes out. The first plantings for the project were made in March 2011, and since then the project has grown into a large, established park.
Paul Vandenberg said of the beginning of the park, ‘In order to get this project off the ground I needed donations. Brent Barrett (PNCET Chairperson) encouraged me to pursue my passion and build my dream butterfly garden. Brent invited me to apply for funds through PNCET, so a business plan was put together and presented to the trust. I would like to say a huge thank you to Palmerston North City Environment Trust, as without their support and contribution my project may not have got off the ground. It’s organisations like PNCET that make a huge difference to projects like this which make Palmerston North a better place.’
Paul said of the future for the garden, ‘As the architect and project coordinator of ‘Monarchs In Apollo Park’ our plan is to continue to add to these gardens, to not only be more interesting, but to have better educational outcomes for young and old to learn about butterfly life cycles and the part they play in our ecosystem.’ Paul is also hoping to attract other species of butterflies to the park, like the red admiral, yellow admiral and the copper butterfly.
The park volunteers are currently working to build up the underplanting of the main butterfly trees with caterpillar and butterfly-friendly vegetation, like swan plants, nettles and native shrubs. (They find it challenging to keep up with the demand for swan plants and will happily accept donations of swan plant seedlings.)
As well as the willow trees where the butterflies rest, volunteers have created a butterfly-shaped garden plus playground equipment to make the park even more of a destination for locals. Apollo Butterfly Park has received support from PNCET, Manawatu Native Plant Nurseries and Palmerston North City Council.