A Garden That Provides Habitat and Solace

New York City is often described as the city that never sleeps, but amidst its hustle and bustle lies an oasis just a short ride up the Hudson. A sanctuary full of wild cherry trees and lush gardens that smell of lilies and roses throughout, with birds wandering the landscape enjoying the native plants and monarchs filling the air discovering milkweed to lay their eggs on.

This is not a state park or wildlife preserve, but J.N. “Ding” Darling Circle Member Lois Kroll’s home — one cultivated with wildlife in mind — a created escape for wildlife and Kroll to enjoy.

“What really connects me with the National Wildlife Federation is their Garden for Wildlife program,” Lois says. “One of a kind — it allows communities and neighborhoods to build something together and stay connected.” The program, created in 1973, helps families and communities create sustainable gardens and habitat for local wildlife. Since then, over 215,000 Certified Wildlife Habitat gardens have been recognized through the program nationwide. Lois certified her own habitat in 1999, planting milkweed and native plants for local wildlife to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Lois Kroll

Lois’s habitat gained new meaning a few years later in 2002 when her son, Douglas, passed away from acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Often grief from such a tragic loss might make it hard to see the beauty in the world, but for Lois beauty is what gave her a fresh perspective — particularly the arrival of monarch butterflies to her garden. She recalls one particular early summer morning shortly after losing her son where one of those monarchs lightly fluttered onto her shoulder. Those personal visits with wildlife became a regular occurrence that reminded her of the beauty of life. “If only people knew how therapeutic nature can be. People can often feel isolated in this rapidly changing world. If they have a plant on a patio or a simple garden that attracts monarchs, their perspective of the world could be much brighter” she says.

Monarch on Goldenrod. Photo Credit: National Wildlife photo contest entrant Nicole Hamilton.

Lois had already created a small paradise for her migrating friends, but the plight of monarch butterflies and the restoration efforts inspired her to do more for her community. In addition to her work with the Federation, Lois also engaged her community through a local nursery, Rosedale Nursey. The nursery became a home away from home for her, where she spent days learning and educating the community about the local wildlife and native plants. She shares, “By creating and building, you put yourself out there to attract not only wildlife but a like-minded community.” She’s since spent years eagerly discussing opportunities with her local community to restore natural landscapes, host beautiful gardens, and create an open environment for wildlife and humans alike — taking particular care to ensure the habitats were rich with milkweed for monarchs.

At the heart of Lois’ community efforts is a genuine passion for philanthropy. “My philanthropic spirit has always been with me and even influenced me with my own career path as a social worker. Those less fortunate than us need the support of their community and I know firsthand the impact one person can have on a life, wildlife and humans alike.”

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