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Club plants garden with eye to future

Sadie Krueger, Eleeana Francia, Delaney Foss, Lorraine Affigne, Olivia Lucal and Nell Stevens discuss plant placement.

Millbrook High School’s Environmental Club wants to beautify the landscape, create a place for native plants and attract butterflies, hummingbirds and more to the campus.

After more than a year of planning, approvals and fundraising, the club planted the first plants in its butterfly garden last month.

“We learned a lot more about our native ecosystem and how our local ecosystem is being overrun by invasive plants,” Olivia Lucal, a junior said.

Club President Delaney Foss, a senior, said she enjoys learning about environmental and sustainability issues and “how it benefits our local ecosystem.”

Foss said when the project began more than a year ago, there were different officers in the club who have all since graduated.

On a sunny, mid-October morning, Foss, Lucal and members Lorraine Affigne, Eleeana Francia and Nell Stevens marched through the cafeteria with adviser Colete Alonge-Watz carrying a shovel. They headed outside, behind the cafeteria to a plot of land. There, John Mullins and his maintenance team had built a 6-by-12  garden bed, lined with mesh and covered with dirt and soil. It took about a day, he said.

Cone flowers (Echinacea) and Joe Pye Weed plants sat beside the bed, awaiting planting.

“We’ll plant a couple of plants today and then next spring will add to it and expand so that we have more room,” Lucal said.

Alonge-Watz teaches chemistry and forensics, but has a passion for the environment. “This allows the students to get active in things. Every year they choose one project and they have seen this project through to fruition,” she said as the girls dug the first hole.

While Alonge-Watz helps guide the students, they learn from each other as well.

Foss and Francia dig a hole while Stevens massages a plant’s roots before planting with Lucal and Affigne watching.

As Foss finished digging, Stevens cut the mesh and began preparing one of the plants, lifting it from the container it came in and breaking up the bottom.

“You have to loosen the roots so they can get into the soil,” she said.

Within an hour, all four plants were in their new homes.

“You can see it through the cafeteria windows and so can cars that drive by. It makes the school look less like a prison,” Foss said.

The 20 club members sold mums this year and raised about $300, but the total cost will likely be double that by the time the project is finished, Alonge-Watz said. Anyone who wishes to donate to the butterfly garden can write a check to Millbrook Central School District and put ‘Butterfly Garden’ in the memo line.