Urban Gardens Shared by Butterflies and People

September 2022

A night of rain has brought exuberance to the garden. Having landed on the array of multi-coloured flowers, some raindrops are devoting their final hours to the beauty of the petals. Among all the colours emerges a tiny butterfly fluttering about, looking for its first kiss of the day. Some faint music can be heard nearby and you might see, through all the lush greenery, several people dancing and stretching as their daily routine begins. This is a typical scene in the urban butterfly garden, a space shared by people and butterflies.

Although Hong Kong is dense with people and skyscrapers, it might come as a surprise that it is also home to more than 200 species of butterfly. To conserve these beautiful insects and enhance biodiversity, the Environmental Association has, under the sponsorship of Link Together Initiatives, organised the Nature LINK programme this summer. It has set up butterfly gardens in the outdoor area of three Link malls including Kai Tin Shopping Centre in Lam Tin, Choi Ming Shopping Centre in Tseung Kwan O and Chung On Shopping Centre in Ma On Shan. In addition to providing a suitable habitat for the butterflies, the programme also encouraged participation from the neighbourhood through designing and decorating the gardens in their own communities.

This year, Link has set up butterfly gardens in the outdoor area of Kai Tin Shopping Centre (top left), Choi Ming Shopping Centre (bottom left) and Chung On Shopping Centre (right). Together with the two previous projects in Sau Pau Ping Shopping Centre and Tsz Wan Shan Shopping Centre, there are a total of five butterfly gardens.

From pupa to butterfly: building our own butterfly gardens

At the beginning of this year, the Environmental Association held the “My Garden Competition” to invite design proposals for the butterfly gardens. This summer, local artists had successfully transformed the winning ideas into reality. One of the latest butterfly gardens at Chung On Shopping Centre is themed “A Hymn of Life” and displays the four stages of a butterfly’s life through art installations; you can also find handprints in the shape of butterflies, symobolising that everyone can give a hand in constructing a butterfly-friendly ecosystem. As ideas from the winning proposals, these two artistic elements add much flourish to the multi-functional garden.

As the leading local artist responsible for this garden, Rainy Chau has led residents, students and teachers in the neighbourhood to decorate the area. “It was never easy to paint under the blazing sun but the community coming together outweighs any hardship of the work.” Rainy is also a resident in this neighbourhood and according to her, she felt her sense of belonging stronger than ever and was glad to have contributed to this place she calls home.

This colourful “egg” is made of 32 mosaic pieces which are created individually by people in the community.
Rainy upcycled some second-handed plastic edge guard into this variegated butterfly.

Making place and linking community through art

The butterfly gardens of Kai Tin Shopping Centre and Choi Ming Shopping Centre are of another style: English artist Sharon While has made use of a stark colour contrast to inject vibrance into what was a tranquil and inconspicuous park. There is also a caterpillar-shaped hopscotch on the ground of the Choi Ming Butterfly Garden which was proposed by a child: “This idea comes from one of the winning proposals by a seven-year-old girl living in the community. When we were discussing the design of the butterfly garden, it had occurred to me that children were also users of the garden so we decided to add some playful elements for a more entertaining style.”

Moreover, Sharon has invited nearby residents to paint the butterfly garden in their minds. The clash of different ages and drawing styles have produced a spectacular scenery. As Sharon put it: “Art interests people and when they feel something in it, their behaviour will change accordingly.” It is Sharon’s hope that creating a communal space with the residents can foster a connection with the ecosystem and build collective memory. Most importantly, it is to spread love for the community and for the nature.

Sharon hoped that art from recycled materials could encourage people to think twice before they throw away stuff.
Choi Ming Butterfly Garden is surrounded by residences, so Sharon decided to paint a large butterfly on the ground for residents nearby to spot the garden from their homes.

From trash to treasure

Having toured three butterfly gardens, it was difficult not to be amazed by the artists’ ability to turn waste into art: Sharon used recycled tiles as her canvas and transformed coffee capsules into hanging flowers; Rainy made artwork installations from recycled mosaic pieces, wood, plastic bottles and plastic edge guards. Both designers agreed that the things we called garbage were actually resources if put into better use.

When asked about her vision for the butterfly garden programme, Rainy said: “I want to see butterfly gardens all over the city.” Just as dots are connected into lines and lines into planes, the programme aims to link “Ecological Hotspots” with “Ecological Stepping Stones” and weave them into a mall-based ecological web, eventually offering a vibrant habitat for the butterflies in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.

Artists collected wood from a yard waste recycling centre, Y‧PARK, and turned them into art installation.
Sharon believes that big change begins with a small step, even a coffee capsule can be made into a realistic flower.

This year, Link will continue to support the Environmental Association and build three more butterfly gardens at our shopping centres, contributing our share in enhancing the biodiversity of Hong Kong. A new placemaking workshop will be added this year to boost participation and strengthen community bonding.

During a guided tour in the butterfly garden at Kai Tin Shopping Centre, the local residents are listening attentively to the eco-ambassador.

From the initial sponsorship in 2021, the Nature LINK programme has achieved encouraging results:

  • 5 butterfly gardens built
  • 30 species of butterfly recorded, including the very rare Tiny Grass Blue and rare Asian swallowtail
  • 240 people in the community participated in design and construction
  • 1,400 plants grown


All artwork installations are made from recycled materials, including:

  • 40 pieces of tile
  • 100 plastic bottles
  • 100kg of wood

Do you know how challenging a butterfly’s life is?

From being a tiny egg, a butterfly is already threated by parasitic insects like parasitoid wasps, whose larvae will feed on the butterfly and finally kill the host. Butterflies also have a wide range of natural predators, including birds, lizards and even ants! Never forget that humans are also on this list.

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