Eye candy and brain food alike, the 4,000-square foot Sun City Community Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden is an earthly delight.
The dual garden -- the butterfly portion is on the right, while the hummingbird section sits to the left -- is a sumptuous palette of purple, red, yellow, orange and pink flowers, as both are drawn to vibrant colors.
Splashes of these bright colors come from such plants as vitex, lobelia, pineapple sage, honeysuckle, cosmos, zinnia, lantana, penta, buddleia (also known as the butterfly bush) and milkweed, and herbs such as dill, fennel and parsley. They attract black swallowtail, gulf fritillary, monarch and queen butterflies, among others.
Hummingbirds especially look for red, purple and blue-colored plants, and they are attracted to honeysuckle and salvia.
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Designed by Sun City Hilton Head resident Bill Leonard in a figure eight form, the garden's trails are easy to traverse but interesting in their gentle twists and turns. Artfully placed benches, under vine-adorned arbors, enable visitors to sit and enjoy the sights. Pets are welcome, too, but must be kept on the path. Leonard was on the garden's planning committee and serves on its current steering committee.
The garden's creators had the inspiration of building it at one of the best prospects in the community -- overlooking Lake Somerset. The garden is a joint project of the Sun City Avant-Gardener and bird clubs.
Avant-Gardener members Marilyn Shaw and Sue Roderus are among the Sun City residents who helped plan and implement the garden, in 2009, and they are on its steering committee. Both are past presidents of the garden club.
John Edman, president of the Sun City Bird Club in 2008, suggested the joint project to Shaw; he also is on the garden's steering committee.
"To start, the (Sun City) community grounds staff came in, tilled, put in electricity and water, and then we did most of the infrastructure,'' Shaw said. "The WoodWorkers (and Modelmakers) Guild made arbors for us.''
Planting began in the fall of 2009, and continued into the spring of 2010, when the community garden officially opened. Residents and their guests are welcome to visit the garden on any day.
"Butterflies like small, tubular flowers, like zinnias and coneflowers. Mass plantings are best because they have blurry sight, so the more they see, the better,'' Roderus said.
Bluffton designer Murray Sease designed the garden's three educational boards, "Common Butterflies of the Lowcountry,'' "The Life of a Butterfly'' and ''Ruby Throated Hummingbird.'' They are mounted on posts near the walkways.
Two garden club members head four teams of ground support volunteers who deadhead wilted flowers, and generally keep the garden looking pretty. Roderus has done the plant labeling so visitors may know just what they are admiring.
Aside from the largess of retailers and friends of the garden, the two clubs pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the garden.
"We get a lot of donations and we have fundraisers,'' Roderus said.
More information about the Community Hummingbird & Butterfly Garden is available through the Avant-Gardeners Club, whose president is Irene Randall, and through the Bird Club, whose president is Mary Helen Rosenstein.