AT HOME MAGAZINE

Old Town and Swallowtail Flats, an ecological dreamland

This male Ruby-throated hummingbird was seen feeding on Rockin Deep Purple at Old Town in Columbus, Ga. (Norman Winter/TNS)
This male Ruby-throated hummingbird was seen feeding on Rockin Deep Purple at Old Town in Columbus, Ga. (Norman Winter/TNS)
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If you live in an upscale apartment called Coreopsis, Milkweed or Lantana then there is a good chance you live in Swallowtail Flats. In all likelihood, you are seeing more butterflies, obviously swallowtails, but others, as well, and of course hummingbirds, too.

Such is the case for residents of Old Town, a Southern Living Community in North Columbus, Ga. While Swallowtail Flats, the apartment community in Old Town, has daily reminders of this pollinator success story, the residents living in the historical looking homes reminiscent of yesteryear are just as passionate with their landscapes adding to the overall feeling of living in an ecological dreamland.

Swallowtail Flats is the epicenter of butterfly and pollinator activity as the developers hoped it would be. If you would visit today, you would quickly notice that the Miss Huff lantanas are like the pollinator superhighway. This lantana, discovered by Miss Huff in Georgia, is vigorous beyond your dreams. Even in zone 7, this is the one that returns faithfully year after year.

Miss Huff has all of your favorite hues, pink, yellow, and orange and is a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors. Warning, it is not for the faint of heart; it will grow large to a point you feel comfortable using hedge trimmers. But now, in a hot July, a cluster of these will keep the amateur or professional lepidopterist in a state of ecstatic bliss for hours. Shoot, you may just want to get a fold-up chair and some binoculars to see what comes in next.

On a recent visit, I found it hard to count how many swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, skippers, common buckeyes, and, of course, bees there were, all in a feasting frenzy. The butterfly garden features, buddleia or butterfly bush, layered out to hydrangeas, and vitex. There are butterfly topiaries and ornate butterfly benches. But, as you drive the complex, you will see a variety of species of zinnias, salvias, gomphrenas, and agastache, or hummingbird mint, all flittering with pollinators.

The stop signs are likewise decorated with butterflies, and, of course, the beds in which they are placed are floriferous. The issue here is that geeks, like The Garden Guy, tend to linger a few extra minutes at the stop sign gawking at a swallowtail, or a hummingbird, and on more than one occasion, shooting a photo through the car window.

The plantings of Swallowtail Flats encourage pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbird, but also, they brought in the most colorful of songbirds, the American Gold Finch. I wrote about this a few weeks ago; the American Gold Finches are still there feeding on zinnia and gomphrena seeds.

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Once you start planting for butterflies, the way Old Town and Swallowtail Flats has, the entire ecosystem is enhanced for pollinators, birds, lizards, tree frogs and so much more. Could it be that, if you plant beautiful flowers for butterflies and pollinators, it makes people want to live there and thus the joy of life skyrocket? This is a lesson for all cities, communities, and neighborhoods.

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