- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Who knew a work center for heavy maintenance on aircraft could go gaga for a flower garden highlighted by a lot of weeds.

Just call it an industrial butterfly flower garden.

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/2rSq9mi ) reports that American Airlines has joined several local business, clubs and other organizations that have created these kinds of gardens.

The maintenance facility garden is a little more than 20 feet wide and over 80 feet long, turning 2,000 square feet of previously brush-hogged grassy area into a MonarchWatch-certified Monarch Waystation.

It’s destined to be a bright spot on the 3.3 million-square-foot facility that is home to 22 buildings dedicated to all things involving large aircraft parts and maintenance.

Employees of the Fort Worth, Texas,-based airline were invited to the site to get their hands a little dirty with the final plantings Friday morning.

“I expect a lot of our employees are going to really enjoy the garden,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Linda Brock. “It has paver stones in the middle so people can walk through and look at it.”

The environmental engineering team at American worked with Sustainable Tulsa and Grogg’s Green Barn to complete the project, she said.

“It really makes sense for that area, and it’s a perfect location with the path the monarchs take on their annual migration,” Brock said.

“One of the key things about it is all the plants are native to Tulsa, and we wanted to make sure it’s all sustainable,” she said. There’s been a lot of thought put into what we’re creating and how to keep it going.”

Sustainable Tulsa, through the Monarch Initiative of Tulsa and other programs, has worked with companies and provided information for individuals to aid monarchs through backyard efforts, said Executive Director Corey Wren Williams.

“Businesses, especially those that have a little extra green space, can create these outdoor areas that employees enjoy, that are beautiful and also productive for the butterflies and other pollinators that need them,” she said.

A chaste tree, a purple flowering tree that may grow 15 feet high and around, is the centerpiece of the American Airlines garden, which features a variety of milkweeds, purple coneflower, yellow black-eyed Susan, red-and-yellow blanket flower, purple prairie verbena, 2-foot-tall pink spikes of blazing star and the stone walkway, which forms a blue and red AA.

Carla Grogg said the native-plant themed garden is ideal for the more remote location and one of several her greenhouse has helped with during the past year or two, including at Bama Co., ONE Gas, and the Bixby Parks and Recreation Department.

A Monarch Waystation is an officially recognized plot that is planted under guidelines issued by MonarchWatch, a nonprofit conservation organization that works to research and aid monarch populations that have severely declined in recent years.

In general terms, a way station provides flowers for nectar throughout the migration season and milkweed, which is an exclusive food source for monarch caterpillars, to aid the reproduction process.

The word apparently is getting out on the need for milkweed, Grogg said.

“We’ve sold over 1,100 plants this spring,” she said. “A few years ago, who knew this weed would become a No. 1-selling plant.”

In terms of typical flower-garden philosophy, it is an unusual switch. Seldom do people plant things in their gardens with the hope that caterpillars will come along to denude them.

“People look at the monarch as an amazing insect because of its migration from Mexico up to Canada every year,” Grogg said. “They look at them and think if they’re in trouble then a lot of other things also might be in trouble, so people respond well to doing the MonarchWatch way stations.”

June is a little bit late in the flower-planting season, but Grogg said the hardy native perennials should be OK with the airline’s plans for extra watering.

“The native plants here are drought tolerant. As soon as they get their root structure established they should be OK,” she said. “The perennials will be a lot more showy as the years go by.”


Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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