When older people move to a senior retirement community, they miss their homes. Many also miss their gardens. 

That was the case for Margaret Vail Roussel.

Seventeen years ago, Roussel established a butterfly garden at St. James Place.

Roussel, who was then Margaret Vail, had created her first butterfly garden in the backyard of her New Orleans home. In 2001, she moved to Baton Rouge, where once again she grew a garden that would attract the graceful flyers.

So, it seemed only natural that when she moved to St. James a year later, where she met and married her second husband, Will Roussel, that gardening would be on her agenda.

The butterfly garden created by Margaret Vail Roussel, a resident of St James Place, on the campus of the St James Place retirement facility located at 333 Lee Drive. The Garden Committee has recently undertaken the task of revitalizing the butterfly garden and hosted a dedication to Mrs. Roussel Wednesday Oct. 20, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

"All of the plants came from Naylor's Hardware," Roussel recalled of creating the facility's butterfly garden. "Mr. (John) Naylor was a resident here. He gave us a good discount and continued supporting us." 

Another resident, Susan Dawson, provided two arbors and a sprinkler system.

The Rev. Mark Holland, rector of St. James Episcopal Church at the time, dedicated the butterfly garden in 2004.

"Just as he was doing the dedication, a butterfly landed on a sunflower in front of where he was standing," Roussel said.

But that was then.

As the years passed, the garden, once maintained by residents, became overgrown and lost its identity as a butterfly garden.

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In June, the retirement community's Garden Committee stepped up to make things right.

Fortunately, Roussel, 89, is still living at St. James and had a scrapbook filled with photos that chronicled from the day the soil was first turned to garden's dedication in 2004.

Led by committee Chairman John Bateman and member June Tuma, who oversees the garden, out came the weeds and in went new plants. Residents wielding clippers cut back the out-of-control trees and bushes. Flowers beds were trimmed and tidied. 

"During the hot summer, we started our work days earlier and earlier to beat the heat," said Bateman, who announces work days and committee members and volunteers show up to help. "When it got really hot, we worked at night."

On Oct. 2, the restored garden was dedicated to Roussel, who attended the ceremony with family members including her great-granddaughter, Emma Arbour, 4.

The garden includes yellow shrimp plants, lantana, plumbago and king's mantle, which all attract butterflies as well as hummingbirds. Shade is provided by two large vitex trees, and a citrus tree is loaded with satsumas almost ready to be picked. 

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But the work continues with plans to establish a larger stand of milkweed, the flower Roussel used the most in the original plan. It attracts monarch butterflies. 

The committee also wants to reduce the number of sweet olive trees to create more open space.

"We don't want to fall in the trap that happened before with too many annuals," Bateman said. 

The maintenance staff at St. James Place hauls in soil to fortify areas with too much clay and gives a hand with some strenuous tasks.

And, while the Garden Committee continues to work on the butterfly garden, members have other big projects in mind, including planting containers for four balconies at the Health and Wellness Center and the restoration of a pond at the back of the property. 

"We can't get away from gardening," Tuma said. "We have to do what we have to do."