Garden for Happiness During Coronavirus

Posted on | Education/Informing, Opinion, Property Management Blog, Uncategorized

As the Coronavirus bears down on America, we’ve hunkered down at home and tried to find new ways to fill the hours. For some, it’s been a hardship in many ways. Fortunately with an “essential” job in property management and my husband in the Navy, we’ve been secure so far.

Common Buckeye on Purple Echinacea
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

There are challenges working from home, but with this health crisis coming at springtime, for me has been a dream come true at times. This avid gardener who normally only partakes on the weekend, can enjoy the magic of my garden all week long.

COVID-19 has allowed this “Mary” to literally watch her garden grow.  I would never have had this opportunity before and I may never have it again either.

As an adult, I’ve always loved gardening.  I learned how to garden and plant from my dad when I was a kid – not willingly mind you, but I did learn from him.  

My mom taught me to fish, but my dad was the one who lit my interest in gardening and so much has ignited from that tiny spark.

Bee on Coneflower – Echinacea – Virginia Beach 2019

Echinacea is popular with humans & bees comes back year-after-year! A lovely staple for any garden!

My dad has been a gardener since… forever. He’s read hundreds of books on how to compost, and garden organically and also (it seemed) how to get your kids to do a lot of the work for free. #genius  Meanwhile, I mostly learn from trial and error or Googling.

I look at gardening just like real estate. What is meant to be, will be. If something falls through, it wasn’t for you. Just keep at it and you will get there.

When I was young, gardening was a chore for the most part, but it could also be a punishment at times for some trouble my brother and I caused. Usually him if I’m being honest about it.

Butterfly Bush – Photo 2018 Virginia Beach

My dad spent weeks (after reading up on composting regular household waste into the best dirt imaginable) building a huge intricate compost system. IT WAS HUGE.

It had to be turned manually and regularly, so that we could add uneaten food and various decaying matter to make our garden and vegetables even better. That childhood home is no longer standing, but I bet that concrete composter contraption is still there. I think we were supposed to become super-humans from the food, but we are just regular people.


These days, you can just get a drum-sized pre-fab composter at the local hardware store that’s easy-to-use and turns with a nifty handle and I’ve even got a countertop composter for the winter months! I bet even dad has a regular old pre-fab composter now. I’ll have to ask him.

Bee staying dry under a Daylilly

It’s never been easier to garden successfully and now many people have the TIME! While I wasn’t a fan of gardening initially, the memories looking back are priceless.  

Maybe that’s why I love it so. It sends me back to a simpler time in life.  It literally makes me feel closer to humans and even God.  I see God in nature more than anywhere else, even church.

One thing my dad always taught me, was that when you plant something, you have to really take your hands and press the dirt down around the plant.  He’d say “you have to make the plant feel secure Mary, now you do it”.  

As I press into the dirt, I think of how secure my plant must feel getting tucked into the rich soil.  Now to watch the magic of what happens next!


PLUS SIDE – You get vitamin D from the sun which is vital to your mental health. Don’t forget this valuable necessity when things get back to “normal”.

I think about my plants as friends or extensions of me.  Maybe that’s why I’m not so lonely right now when others are. When I see my plants, I can be reminded of how I was feeling the day I put it into the earth or just focus on the joy of seeing it grow daily.  It’s therapeutic.

Black Eyed Susan 2019

I’ve managed to parlay my love of gardening and planting over the years to include my own unique style.

While dad mostly planted for vegetables, I plant for the pollinators, herbs and also to add color and ambiance to my universe. It’s all mixed together with very little rhyme or reason. It makes me so happy.

I plant to feed the offspring of the butterflies but also to feed the bees and butterflies too – it’s not always the same thing.  They are all so important to our ecosystem.  We must care for them so they will care for us in-turn.

PLUS SIDE – On work breaks now, instead of staring at my office walls, I can go see what has happened outside since last I checked.  Any blooms?  Bees or butterflies?  My 1/2 hour (both ways) commute is just 1 hour more to spend in paradise.

Bee in Virginia Beach – Flower Sunny Border Blue Speedwell

Sunny Border Blue Speedwell for bees & butterflies too!

My passion helps the environment.  What a world it would be if all of us by working at our passions, also protected and nurtured the earth.  They can!  

More people than ever RIGHT NOW are discovering the joys are growing things around them, just because they are stuck at home.  This could be part of the beauty of the situation in which we find ourselves.  An awakening of sorts to the simple things we took for granted, or never bothered with at all.

Black Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush

YOU could teach YOUR child how to make plants feel secure. Teach an important lesson about the food chain, helping family, watching the circle of life and supporting it with our deeds.  


PLUS SIDE – Gardening burns calories too!  I once had a doctor refer to it in my medical record as a sport!  I do a sport!

As I’ve aged and my kids have moved on to other things, I’ve gotten back to my roots so to speak, by getting my hands filthy as often as the weather allows.  

I check the weather in advance to see when I can dig in again.  I shun the use of gloves or shoes even, so I can really feel the soil, all the way to my soul.  I eagerly count down the days to the ones that I can spend enjoying the warm earth again.  

I got into butterflying the hard way, well for the butterflies…  

Monarch Overhead in Virginia Beach – Princess Anne Crossing

Last year I really focused on planting milkweed and attracting Monarchs.  I learned about Monarchs and Milkweed by a fluke of nature really.

I had enjoyed a rather brave and photogenic Monarch fluttering all over a new flowering plant that I lovingly planted at the entrance to our pool. Turns out, it was Milkweed.

One morning I went outside only to discover my plant nearly gone. I proceeded to squish every fat caterpillar (about 10) that had dared to chomp on my new $12 perinnial which had been attracting beautiful Monarchs.

It was then and ONLY then that I remembered the The Very Hungry Little Caterpillar.

YIKES!  I quickly Googled and found that I had just killed all my butterfly friend’s offspring.  I felt awful.  I didn’t know the lovely flowers that I planted the week before were the favorite and ONLY food that the Monarch caterpillars will eat and the only plant that they lay eggs on.

I went NUTS after that, planting all of the Milkweed that I could find around town to attract more Monarchs and gain their forgiveness for my mortal sin.

I learned of a whole new species of human located all over the country and dedicated to producing more and more Milkweed to help other butterfly enthusiasts attract and feed even more butterflies!

They are literally everywhere! A more diverse group of earthy hippies you will never meet. They have forgotten more about Milkweed than you will ever know.

Last year alone, I believe I released over 500 Monarch butterflies from the security of small enclosures where they safely METAMORPHOSIZED from caterpillar to stunning butterfly.  

This wonderful new hobby has opened up yet another new new hobby, photographing butterflies and other nature in my garden.

Helping the pollinators has become my passion in life.  

Bee on Zinnia 2019

This quarantine has allowed me and apparently many others to get more into gardening than ever before.  That’s wonderful news!

In case you haven’t heard, the bees are struggling and the more we do for them, the better their chances of success will be.

We rely on them, they should be able to count on us too. While your new friends stop to enjoy your food gift, you can snap the most amazing photos.  Some are quite tolerant of photography, some – not so much. You will figure it out quick.

Even if you don’t have a yard, you can still plant their favorite foods in containers to attract beautiful bees, butterflies and other cool wildlife.  

Monarch – Less than 24 hours old – ready to fly 2019 Virginia Beach
Purple Eccinacce
Echinacea & bee – Virginia Beach 2019 Iphone XS Camera

Teach your kids about the circle of life for real! I keep most of my Milkweed in containers and it returns yearly.  I’ve also stepped up planting Parsley which is the favorite food of the Black Swallowtail butterfly which are also very beautiful to photograph. 

Plant Parsley to attract Black Swallowtails

You must plan ahead for real estate success.

A home with a beautiful garden is easier to market for rent or sale. In challenging markets with unusual circumstances like these, it’s an edge on your competition.

Plan ahead and photograph your yard and garden at its most vibrant and green and store those photos for future real estate listings!

Houses that sell the highest are the ones with awesome curb appeal.  Imagine if your new passion was also a financial boon to your home or its success on the market over homes without beautifully nurtured gardens.  Well it is! All of the photos in this blog were taken in my backyard garden.

Who wouldn’t want a home with these photography opportunities?

Butterfly Bush – Iphone XS 2019 Virginia Beach – Near Pungo

Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush in Virginia Beach 2019 Princess Anne Crossing
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Photographed on Apple iPhone XS 2019

Zebra Swallowtail Virginia Beach 2019
Zebra Swallowtail Virginia Beach 2019

The Zebra Swallowtails will only lay their eggs on Pawpaw tree leaves.

Monarch in Virginia Beach 2019

Plant Milkweed to attract Monarchs to lay their eggs.

There are loads of gardening, Milkweed, butterflying and photography sites on Facebook where you can learn and ask questions about everything you ever wanted to know about them for FREE from the safety and security of your very own home.  You may even see me on there.

Oh and Dad, if you read this, I still remember to pack down the earth to make my plants feel secure.

Stay safe everyone and garden for peace, health, curb appeal, beauty and prosperity!  

Always, if you have questions, we’ve got answers! Mary K. @ Stephanie Clark Property Management

Black Swallowtail & Bee in Virginia Beach Princess Anne Crossing
Bee on Purple Coneflower – iPhone XS
Photographer Mary Kenworthy
Swallowtail Showdown VA Bch

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