Frey Vineyards Native Plant Garden
By Carolyn Brown, Lead Gardener at Frey Vineyards
Some of the most engaging aspects of gardens are the visiting butterflies, birds, and other wildlife they attract. About ten years ago our friend and neighbor, Cathy Monroe, inspired and educated us about the importance of gardening for monarch butterflies with her California Naturalists capstone project. Katrina Frey has been an adamant supporter of establishing native milkweed plantings and providing habitat for these regal fluttering beauties and we have planted out several small pilot project gardens in the Frey vineyards. In the winter of 2020 and ‘21 we built a greenhouse and shade house and began propagating California native trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and bunch grasses for our one-acre butterfly and pollinator garden.
The garden is located at our new winery on a 12’ tall berm. In addition to providing wildlife habitat, trees and woodland shrubs, it will provide a living privacy screen for our neighbors and the chaparral plantings on the sunny southern side will create a seasonally changing landscape for the winery. The garden has plantings of three of the four species of milkweed that are native to Mendocino county. Milkweeds are the sole food of monarch butterfly caterpillars. As the successive generations of monarch butterflies make their annual northern migration they rely on finding stands of milkweed to rear the next round of caterpillars. In addition to milkweeds, the adult monarch butterflies need a seasonal supply of floral nectar and pollen to fuel their long journeys.
Our garden has a wide variety of drought-tolerant California native plants that bloom throughout the season. The garden also provides habitat and forage for native bee species and other beneficial insects. Many species of these insects are, in turn, foraged by birds such as swallows, chickadees, and bluebirds who rear their young in the dozens of vineyard nesting boxes. A few years ago, Nathaniel Frey began building and hanging birdhouses in the vineyards and hundreds of birds have successfully fledged in them. Both of these projects exemplify the Frey family’s commitment to fostering biodiversity in their vineyards. Farming in ways that support biodiversity is a foundational premise of both Biodynamic and organic farming. Biodiversity creates a complex web of microorganisms, insects, and animals which contribute to a fertile and resilient farm ecosystem. Biodiverse farms are better able to withstand environmental stressors, pests, and diseases than conventionally farmed mono-cropped systems. Also, they are so much more fun to visit and work in!
In 2015 the National Wildlife Federation launched The Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, a national campaign asking mayors and heads of local governments to commit their cities to specific actions that support habitat for monarch butterflies and other wildlife. At the program’s inception, Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said, “If we all work together — individuals, communities, farmers, land managers, mayors and local, state, and federal agencies — we can reverse the monarch decline and ensure every American child has a chance to experience amazing monarchs in their communities.” Ukiah’s former mayor, Juan Orozco, signed the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in 2021. Frey Vineyards has donated many of our plants to several local monarch garden projects. When you come out to our new winery, plan on taking some time to walk through and enjoy our butterfly and pollinator garden. You may even get some ideas for creating your own monarch sanctuary at home.
Mayors and other heads of local and tribal government are taking action to help save the monarch butterfly, an iconic species whose eastern populations have declined by 90% and western populations by 99% in recent years. Through the National Wildlife Federation's Mayors' Monarch Pledge, U.S. cities, municipalities, and other communities are committing to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and pollinators, and to educate residents about how they can make a difference at home and in their community.
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