Butterfly garden keeps body and mind healthy

A retired professor has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic with ease, thanks to a butterfly garden in her yard that has filled her world with the colorful wonders of nature.

Romana de los Reyes, 74, who was director of the Institute of Philippine Culture, a social science research institute of the Ateneo de Manila University,  lives in her retirement home in Barangay Balingasag, Bago City.  

“My garden began in 1997 when I decided to retire at 50,” she said.

Among the flowers blooming in her garden are the kuisia with yellow flowers which local vendors call Ms. Philippines, the not-so-common gumamela de araña or fringed hibiscus, the lavender duranta repens which is one of the favorite nectaring plants of butterflies, and the stachytarpheta jamaicensis which is regarded as a weed in sugarcane fields.

Scattered all over her garden is the plumbago auriculata, originally from South Africa. This has delicate flowers but it can hold even large butterflies.

De los Reyes also has three kinds of melendres – the white, pink, and purple. Other favorite nectaring plants of the butterflies in her garden are the lantana camara (baho-baho in Ilonggo) and the ixora chinensis or santan.             

Among the resident butterflies at the garden are the Golden Birdwing, Pink Rose, Common Mormon, Autumn Leaf, Great Eggfly, Grey Glassy Tiger, Tailed Jay, Great Jay, Striped Albatross, and many small butterflies belonging to the Lycaenidae family, de los Reyes said.

She said 84 butterfly species have been spotted in her garden since 2014.

De los Reyes also  has butterfly  Christmas trees in her home with live Golden Birdwings perched on their branches.

“I bring in the larvae or caterpillars, and rear them in containers inside the house and feed them every day with fresh leaves of their host plant until they become pupae/cocoons. I have learned to estimate when they will become pupae so by then I provide sticks inside the container so the larvae will go up the sticks,” she said.

When the adult butterflies come out of the pupa inside the containers she then arranges them on a bonsai tree, before releasing them to the garden where they are free to fly around, de los Reyes said.

“Having an open butterfly garden is a lot of physical work – making sure there are host plants for the butterflies and nectaring plants for their food but looking at the various flowers and butterflies is also relaxing and calming. Studies show that this helps keep the body and mind healthy and stress-free,” she said.
De los Reyes said the garden has also helped her during the COVID-19 pandemic because at  74 she is immune-compromised and must stay home.

“The garden allows me to deal with the lockdown with ease. I am preoccupied with gardening so there’s no anxiety that I cannot go out,” she said.

Her  garden has also helped her financially during the  pandemic.

For lack of additional income in addition to her pension, de los Reyes has a boarding house for Bago City  College students but it has been closed since March.

“I have been selling and “bartering” plants, which is a big help for this financially challenging times,” she said.

Since she does not allow people into her yard  as a  precaution against COVID-19, de los Reyes has been posting pictures of her plants  on “Barter Me, Bago City” and “Bago City Buy and Sell” on Facebook.

The garden for Delos Reyes has indeed made life stress free in a troubled world.*

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