Dec. 5, 2015 - As a cancer survivor, Lauren Simpson is reminded of how amazing life is every time she looks out at her pollinator-friendly garden, a certified wildlife and butterfly habitat.
“I am grateful to be alive; when I am out in the garden it reminds me how lucky I am,” said Simpson.
The University of Houston Law Center assistant clinical professor developed an interest in gardening after her recovery and when a severe dry spell wiped out much of the landscaping around her Oak Forest home.
“As plants died, we replaced them with drought-resistant varieties, with heavy emphasis on native plants and also plants that serve either as host plants or as nectar sources for pollinators,” said Simpson. “But it wasn’t until this spring that I discovered my passion for pollinator-friendly gardening and threw myself into it head first.”
Simpson’s garden has earned its certification as both a Certified Wildlife Habitat and a Monarch Waystation. For the latter certification, she adopted the name St. Julian’s Crossing (“SJC”) for her gardens. The natural resting spot is named after St. Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of travelers and innkeepers, because Monarch butterflies travel through it on their annual migration. Before starting SJC, Simpson got involved with the Oak Forest Community Garden and learned from the people she met, such as her mentor who has been working with butterfly gardens for about 20 years.
“My mentor, along with others in our gardening group, taught me how to structure the garden, what plants to grow, and everything I needed to know,” said Simpson.
Her passion for nature, life, and educating others has led her to start an outreach program using SJC as a springboard in order to inspire others to take up gardening for pollinators at their own home and to reconnect with the outdoors.
Simpson, who has taught Lawyering Skills and Strategies to first-year, part-time students for about five years at the Law Center, said she never thought she would find a passion other than writing and teaching before she started gardening.
She is combining both her passions in order to make a difference and share her joy with others, even the kids in her community, who enjoy visiting her garden.
“I like teaching because it makes me happy and makes me feel like I am doing something useful,” she said. “Gardening makes me feel like I am doing something meaningful because it is something that matters in that it makes life better.”
Simpson said she still has much to learn about making her garden inviting to native plants, insects, and animals. She reaches out to different organizations, such as her Oak Forest Community Garden Group, Butterfly Enthusiasts of South East Texas, National Wildlife Federation, and the Native Plant Society of Texas, among others.
If you are interested in starting your own pollinator-friendly garden, visit Simpson’s “St. Julian’s Crossing - wildlife habitat” Facebook page, where you can obtain educational information and news and view pictures of Simpson’s garden. (Please note that you must be logged into Facebook to view the page.)