A group of brown and orange butterflies on a dense patch of orange flowers in front of the white exterior wall of a building.

Stories in Oklahoma

Building Neighborhoods for Nature and Pollinators

Q&A with Trish Morris of Ideal Homes

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Portrait of a woman wearing a hat standing in front of a river.
Trish Morris Trish is the Community Development Project Manager with Ideal Homes, a housing development company based in Oklahoma. © Courtesy Trish Morris

Monarch butterflies and several other pollinator species have been declining at an alarming rate for the past decade. When Trish Morris learned of this during her year in the Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy (OCLA), she knew what she could do to help.

Trish is the Community Development Project Manager with Ideal Homes, a housing development company based in Oklahoma. In her role, she saw an opportunity not only to enhance the neighborhoods they build but to help protect monarchs and pollinators too.

We sat down with her to learn more about her inspiration and how the project is coming along.

What inspired you to implement pollinator gardens into Ideal Homes new home developments?

We were already doing a butterfly garden, but I never saw much going on. Being around people at The Nature Conservancy, the OKC Zoo and Okies for Monarchs inspired me. I knew we could do it better and definitely make a difference.

Join the Webinar!

Join us and Trish on Wednesday, September 23rd at 12pm CST to hear more about Ideal Homes pollinator projects. Bring your buzzing bee and butterflies questions. 

Register Your Digital Seat

Is this the first project of its kind for Ideal Homes?

We have some other butterfly gardens, but they were lacking the correct plants. Since taking this on, I am working to add milkweed to the other existing gardens and start tweaking those as much as we can.

Many people think because I work for a homebuilder and developer that loving nature and my job cannot coexist. But over the years, Ideal Homes has given me the freedom to search out new ways to bring nature into our neighborhoods and really get serious about getting our butterfly gardens beyond just something pretty to look at. 

Many people think because I work for a homebuilder and developer that loving nature and my job cannot coexist.

Community Development Project Manager, Ideal Homes

What were some of the challenges in making this project happen?

Our biggest challenge was timing and getting a good plant selection. I am super fortunate that the landscaper I worked with was on board with this project. He even helped us track down some plants and then send them back if it wasn’t what we were looking for.

How will residents in this housing addition learn from and interact with the pollinator garden?

We are currently working on some educational signage to put along the existing trail and to use in the future gardens. Just about all of our gardens are located in common areas with walking trails or benches. None of them are fenced off, so residents can walk right up to the plants and see what’s going on in there. My hope is that we will start seeing monarch caterpillars and people start asking about it more.

How will the pollinator gardens benefit the neighborhood?

They are relaxing! The goal of our communities is for our homeowners to come in and lower their blood pressure. I know for me from spending time out on our trails, we see so much nature that you can sometimes forget you are in a neighborhood.

Monarch and pollinator habitat being planted in a neighborhood development next to a sidewalk.
Designing For Habitat Artfully placing native plants that pollinators and residents can enjoy. © Courtesy of Ideal Homes
View of monarch and pollinator habitat in a neighborhood development next to a sidewalk.
Ready for Butterflies After planting native milkweed and nectar sources for monarchs and pollinators. © Courtesy of Ideal Homes
Designing For Habitat Artfully placing native plants that pollinators and residents can enjoy. © Courtesy of Ideal Homes
Ready for Butterflies After planting native milkweed and nectar sources for monarchs and pollinators. © Courtesy of Ideal Homes

Are there any benefits to Ideal Homes from implementing pollinator habitat into the development design?

Knowing that we are doing something more than just building homes is a huge benefit. Giving people a place to relax and learn definitely helps us sell homes. People want to be close to nature but also close to home and this pollinator project does just that.

I hope that the gardens we have now in Norman are just the tip of the iceberg. I have lofty dreams of getting registered monarch waystations in every new development we build going forward to show other developers and people in the community that you can in fact love nature and develop land.

Setting out native milkweed and other plants to be used in a Oklahoma housing development.
Setting Out Supplies Organizing the variety of native plants to be used in this neighborhood. © Courtesy of Ideal Homes

What is OCLA?

OCLA is a program consisting of field trips and educational opportunities to learn about science-based conservation efforts in the state. Individuals are selected from an application process and challenged to steward a conservation project within their own community, home, or workplace.

Discover more about OCLA!

How did your experience with Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy (OCLA) influence this project?

Making the several trips I have with OCLA (and on my own) to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, I gained some great ideas on helping pollinators. We were already trying to do somethings, but it needed tweaking. I also learned more about why pollinators are so important. Seeing that other organizations and companies were doing pollinator gardens correctly made me want to try harder and get it right. That way we could better design our communities to teach others about the need to help pollinators and specifically the monarch butterfly.

What was your interest for participating in OCLA?

The first year I was excited to learn about nature in Oklahoma. I grew up kind of spoiled with the mountains and ocean right in reach, so Oklahoma never seemed like it had all that much. I was excited to go to the preserves and learn more. Each year I felt like we had bigger and better topics at lunch-and-learn sessions. I looked forward to hearing others’ ideas on how they were making changes.

Would you encourage others to participate in OCLA?

OCLA is a great network for ideas for anyone looking to learn. Participating in this group can help make a difference or even just looking to learn more about the Oklahoma landscape and how amazing it is once you peel back the layers. They need to do it!

What is your biggest takeaway from your OCLA experience?

Oklahoma has some of the most amazing landscapes! I would have never learned this had I not participated in OCLA. And, I have gained a newfound love of bison and butterflies.

Boy with blooming butterfly milkweed and a monarch caterpillar.
Hayden Morris Trish's son, excited to see milkweed bloom in the front yard attract a monarch caterpillar. Hint: Look close! © Trish Morris
Close up of a monarch caterpillar eating milkweed.
Monarch butterfly caterpillar on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Helzer yard. Aurora, Nebraska.

Any tips, tricks or words of encouragement for developers who might be interested in replicating this type of pollinator project?

There are so many resources out there to get it right, and just a small garden can make an impact. Of course, they are welcome to search me out. I would be happy to walk them through our garden! I have also been super fortunate to spend the time I have with the team at TNC. Their knowledge and passion rub off on you so quick, and they are always willing to help out and offer their know-how to make an idea into a great project.

Speciality monarch-themed license plate.
Monarch License Plate Support monarch and pollinator habitat conservation in style with tis colorful license plate. © TNC

You Can Help!

Save monarch butterflies and other pollinators by sporting this colorful license plate on your car. From each plate sold, $20 goes to The Nature Conservancy to support conservation efforts for monarch and pollinator habitat in Oklahoma. 

Order Yours Today