Fellows Focus: Page Lee Hufty

Page Lee Hufty has always found solace outdoors. Confronted with the changes presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, she says it has been her garden that has grounded her throughout this time. It's no surprise she's championing the importance of gardens as much now as ever.

Page Lee is the great niece of the 1920s transformational biological explorers Anne and Richard Archbold, who left an enormous impression on her. Page Lee has dedicated her life to preserving the environment and to environmental education. She was one of the early pioneers of free market environmentalism and a founder of Earth Day in 1971. Now gardening in southeast Florida, Page Lee designs butterfly gardens and has a demonstration garden at her Palm Beach home. She designed a butterfly garden for the South Florida Science Center, and converted two golf courses into Audubon Sanctuary Golf Courses, which are enthusiastically enjoyed by members and employees. 

We asked Page Lee how her Palm Beach garden has offered her respite as she’s sheltered in place over the past few months. Below is a diary entry from a day in her garden:

"It is another perfect day in Paradise. So why I am not feeling at peace? All is beautiful and tranquil. It strikes me why. I am looking out at the glorious, sweetly scented rose garden and resenting how preening, finicky, and essentially ill-suited it is to Florida as it fluoresced beneath the rustling palms. Yes, I know rustling palms is a cliché, but that is what they do... perhaps I atoned for that transgression by the use of fluoresced. But I digress. 

Like a flash, I realized the rose garden was ill suited, finicky, and oh so smug, not belonging to real Florida. Just show and flash and demanding of attention. 

Out the roses have to go – 124 of them – rip, slash, and haul. Oh dear, huge space right outside my bedroom door, my first tranquil walk of every morning, my floral wander on the path out to find the newspaper.

So what kind of garden would be "me"? Oh, the wild world of the brain speaks
you are a native Floridian, go native! A butterfly garden! They are colorful, thrive, and give life and living to the butterflies and bees. YES!
Off to Smarty Plants, to assemble a glorious assortment of colors and plants, some with caterpillars already happily munching away. There I am surrounded by living color. I need a plan. What handles colors with ease and beauty? 
 An artist’s palette. So I lay it out in the form of an artist’s palette with the same curves and paths through the color. The kaleidoscope has barely been installed before the butterflies are everywhere. Such is the nature of nature. It needs only a little love, food, and habitat. It give back its life and its beauty. All it asks in return is for us to slow down enough to notice its miracles, great and small.  

Nature, with its endless riddles and beauty, can give us solace and inspiration all our lives."

Plants in her garden include basil, parsley, mint, dill, firecracker plant (
Russellia equisetiformis), plumbago, Passiflora incarnataDuranta erecta, blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus), pentas, confederate jasmine, and Bahamian caper. The gates were "shamelessly copied" from Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, Canada, reports Page Lee.