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Aventura retiree raises butterflies and the plants that sustain them

Aventura retiree Michelle Tedesco started by growing tomatoes on her balcony. Now, she raises monarch butterflies at the Aventura Community Green Garden at Founders Park South.
Aventura retiree Michelle Tedesco started by growing tomatoes on her balcony. Now, she raises monarch butterflies at the Aventura Community Green Garden at Founders Park South. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Michelle Tedesco and her husband, Tony, imagined retirement as a time to finally get away and adventure, just the two of them. Their plans changed, though, and they stayed in Aventura raising butterflies.

As a child, Michelle was very familiar with monarch butterflies and the gardening needed to sustain them.

“When I lived in New Jersey, as a kid, all summer long we had lots of butterflies, a lot of monarchs, which were my favorite,” she said. “And now, I’ve been in Florida about 36 years, and only twice did I see monarchs.”

Tedesco had been growing tomatoes on her balcony, when she realized she needed a bigger and better environment to keep growing. She rented a 4- by 12-foot garden section at the Aventura Community Green Garden at Founders Park South.

“When I got this garden box, I said, ‘I really have to be crazy, but I’m going to try to raise monarch butterflies,’” Tedesco, 65, said.

And so she did.

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Aventura retiree Michelle Tedesco started by growing tomatoes on her balcony. Now, she raises monarch butterflies at the Aventura Community Green Garden at Founders Park South. MICHELLE TEDESCO Photo provided to the Miami Herald

First, Tedesco bought milkweed, a common plant that monarchs lay their eggs on. Then, she needed flowers for her butterflies to get nectar from and dry their wings on.

“I said ‘Oh no! I’m going to have butterflies, and I don’t have any flowers so they can go take the nectar out of them. That’s when I rented the second box,” Tedesco said. “I just did this on a whim. I know that monarchs travel to Mexico, but there’s a special group of monarchs that really just like to winter in Florida, and that’s what I seem to come across.”

Tedesco has enjoyed meeting new people and sharing the same hobby of gardening.

“I’m surprised by how many nice people I’ve met. When we aren’t there, we water each other’s gardens, so you can always go away on vacation, and you don’t have to worry,” Tedesco said.

The Aventura Community Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter. It costs $100 per year to rent a garden section of your own where you can grow almost anything you’d like. The rental fee is used to maintain the garden.

“It’s very convenient because it’s right at the community center in Aventura. You walk right in, sign a paper, give $100, and the rest is yours,” said Tedesco, who now has over 20 monarch butterflies in her garden. The application to rent a garden box can also be found on the city’s website, www.cityofaventura.com.

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Aventura retiree Michelle Tedesco started by growing tomatoes on her balcony. Now, she raises monarch butterflies at the Aventura Community Green Garden at Founders Park South. MICHELLE TEDESCO Photo provided to the Miami Herald

With help from the city of Aventura’s Capital Improvement fund, the garden has been open since April 2015.

“The Capital Improvement Program is a long-term plan of expenditures and serves as a planning tool to evaluate infrastructure needs of the city as well as the financial capabilities of the city,” said Kimberly Merchant, Aventura Community Services Director.

“Aventura, now a well-developed little city, is still growing. Thank goodness, so too is the magnificent Aventura Community Green Garden,” said Ruth Perchick, an Aventura resident.

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