Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
10:07 pm EDT
Monday, May 23, 2022

Social Club Spotlight: Flying flowers

Lamar Young leading tour

Members of The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club delight in helping butterflies thrive, and teaching others how to do the same by creating proper garden habitats.

Photos of Colleen and Lamar Young courtesy of Valerie Begley. 

Club meeting photos by Nicole Hamel.

American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne once said: “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight pon you.”

Those words were spoken long ago, but they encapsulate what members of The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club want others to experience today in their own backyards, or when walking the grounds and enjoying nature in the Fred Funk Butterfly Garden the group planted and named for its founder.

Fred Funk Garden Volunteers

“We have a really nice garden. There are nine different flower beds, and each flower bed is dedicated to a certain type of butterfly,” says Alycyn Culbertson, a member of the club since she and her husband retired and moved to The Villages.

The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club was originally founded by Fred Funk (now deceased), an avid gardener and butterfly enthusiast, circa 2014, but the garden came a little later that year.  According to co-founder Lamar Young, the idea for it was suggested during an impromptu meeting after one of the club’s regular monthly meetings.

The conversation, he says, was centered around possible things the group could do to help Monarch butterflies, a species dwindling in numbers. From that, the most feasible idea was to plant a habitat garden rich in milkweed, the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on, and nectar plants they could feed on after hatching out of their chrysalises.

The only question was where to plant it.

Lamar and Colleen Young

“I spoke up during that discussion and said, ‘What about all the churches in the area that have land? Maybe one of them would allow us to plant a garden on one of their lots,’” tells Lamar. “Frank called me up a couple of days later and said, “Lamar, what about your church?” 

“At that time, I wasn’t really thinking about my church, The Seventh Day Adventist Church of Lady Lake, but then I thought, we do have six-and-a-half acres of land, so I took Fred over there, and to make a long story short, the church agreed to let us plant the garden and collaborated with us on putting it in,” Lamar says.  

Since then, the garden has flourished, though it suffered a bit of frost damage after February’s cold spell.

In fact, Lamar says the University of Florida has used the garden to conduct research about butterflies, and as a result, deemed the garden the largest demonstration garden in the state of Florida. 

“We’re really proud of the garden. We’ve done a lot of work on it, and we’ve been able to identify over 40 species of butterflies there,” Lamar says, explaining the list includes the Little Yellow and the Brazilian Skipper. 

Overall, members of the club find joy in teaching people how to plant gardens that will in turn, attract and help butterflies thrive.

Alycyn says she and her husband, prior to moving to The Villages, once had a backyard garden, complete with about 300 different butterfly plants, certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a habitat.

Today, Alycyn, still an active gardener at her home and at the Fred Funk Garden, authored and published a children’s book called “Look What Happened While I Was Sleeping.” The story explains the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly, and according to the book’s dedication, was written “in hopes it encourages youngsters to take an interest in this delicate, fragile, and beautiful part of nature.” 

Valerie Begley

“The more people understand, the more likely they are to go put the right plants in their own gardens,” Alycyn says, adding that she gives out milkweed seeds whenever she can.  “In Florida, the rule is to have good nectar plants in your garden. That brings butterflies in, but if you want butterflies to stay in your garden, you must have their host plant too, because then they don’t have to go looking for what they need (to lay eggs on); it’s right there in front of them.” 

“A lot of people don’t realize those things, so we try to educate them,” she adds.

As for Lamar, his passion, and one he shares with Colleen Young, his wife for 65 years, is protecting nature. 

He says they enjoy being part of the Butterfly Gardens Club for that reason. 

“We’ve just always been interested in the protection of wildlife, so when we had a chance to join the Butterfly Club, we jumped on it,” he says. 

The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club meets on the third Friday of each month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Fish Hawk Village Recreation Center, located at 2318 Buttonwood Run, The Villages.

The club’s website says: “Members range from master gardeners to picture-book beginners.” Meetings consist of sharing experiences and hosting various speakers each month. 

Alycyn Culbertson

During the summer however (June, July, and August), meetings are substituted with public tours of the Fred Funk Butterfly Garden at 231 Lake Griffin Road, in Lady Lake, starting at 10 a.m.

From April-October, garden tours for schools, clubs, or neighborhood groups of 10 or more can also be arranged.

Any Villages resident interested in joining the club is invited to attend a meeting, send an email to tvbgclub@gmail.com, or visit sites.google.com/view/tvbgclub/meetings for more information. 

About the Author

Originally from Nogales, Arizona, Roxanne worked in the customer service industry while writing independently for years. After moving to Florida in 1999, Roxanne eventually switched her career path to focus more on writing and went on to become an award-winning reporter for The Daily Commercial/South Lake Press newspapers for 16 years prior to coming on board with Akers Media as a staff writer in July 2020 – her dream job come true. Today, Roxanne and her husband Keith of more than 20 years, live in Clermont. They have three grown children: Megan, Darius and Julissa and two dogs, Cinnamon and Remi Lulu. Roxanne says her favorite things about writing articles is talking with the people she'll be featuring, listening to their stories and learning about their passions, goals and heart. Overall, Roxanne is grateful for all the opportunities she's been given to personally witness and realize how much of a difference people can make and how every voice, big and small, really matters. In her spare time and besides writing, Roxanne enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music (especially on vinyl), Zumba, taking pictures, reading, watching movies, cooking with Julissa, and reality TV competition shows. As for her bucket list, Roxanne hopes to one day be a published author of children’s books and travel the world chasing sunsets.

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