Chelsea Gardens to offer butterfly pavilion June 2-5

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Witer
Norwich - posted Tue., May. 24, 2011
The fourth annual Chelsea gardens butterfly pavilion will feature a bevy of native butterflies from June 2-5 at 309 Otrabando Ave. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

The ambitious Chelsea Botanical Gardens botanical center proposed for Mohegan Park is still very much alive, despite the recent economic downturn. The 80-acre proposed horticultural showplace and gardening education center has been slightly downsized to cut costs and is working on gaining the necessary local permits and obtaining funds.

To that end, the Chelsea Gardens Foundation will sponsor its fourth annual butterfly pavilion June 2-5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 309 Otrabando Ave. in Norwich, site of the former River Run Nursery. The greenhouse will be filled with native butterflies and their favorite flowers, giving visitors a chance to see these fascinating insects at close range. After the pavilion closes its run, the butterflies will be released into the wild.

It's meant to give local visitors a sneak preview of the long-range Chelsea Garden plan, which would include a permanent butterfly pavilion featuring exotic tropical butterflies.

“It's a pretty exciting project,” said Chelsea Gardens president Hugh Schnip. The initial phase of the garden, which would occupy 80 of Mohegan Park's 400 acres, would include an arched gateway, a café, and a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse, as well as the permanent butterfly pavilion.

Subsequent phases of the project would call for construction of numerous themed garden areas, including a gingko and dawn redwood grove, a vernal pool with a handicapped-accessible walkway, a water play area for kids, a tower providing panoramic views of Norwich, and even a gardening school.

Schnip said that the local foundation has received a commitment from a London-based English Gardening School to lease classroom space and offer courses in English gardening for beginning and advanced gardeners. “People would come from all over the country and spend two weeks” on the course, he said.

The garden and its structures, with their Victorian architectural theme, would provide a showplace that could become a popular photography site, he said. Facilities for events such as weddings or banquets are also part of the long-range plan.

The foundation is awaiting word from the Sachem Fund as to its application for $97,000 to finance the permitting process and the requisite studies, said Schnip. Phase I of the project is expected to cost $20 million, half of that for each of the sub-phases.

Monies for the project are expected to come from private capital donations and gifts, corporate partnership, naming opportunities and other sources, he said. The project is intended to be self-sustaining.

The gardens' revised Phase 1-a is going before the city's Inland Wetlands Commission in June with its newly-modified site plans. The revisions scale back the structures on the site but not the display gardens, said Schnip.

Butterfly pavilion tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children under 12; ticket sales end at 4:30 p.m. Besides the butterflies, the garden foundation will offer for sale a flower post painted by students from Norwich Free Academy's art classes; a handmade butterfly quilt auction; and other butterfly-related items. For more information call 860-889-6642 or e-mail


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