The Bustling Butterfly Garden
Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine. ~Jeffrey Glassberg
I believe we all love butterflies. The story of their life cycle has been a metaphor for many of us in various stages of our own lives. We can’t help but smile and feel encouraged when we watch a butterfly with its incredible beauty take flight, knowing that it began life as a caterpillar eating everything in sight. The transformation is truly magical and inspiring. I remember going to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens and actually crying when I first walked inside. I was overwhelmed with pure delight being surrounded by over 1000 butterflies in this glass enclosed tropical paradise. The best gift was when a butterfly landed on me and rested a moment. I felt like I was seven years old again in that moment, a memory I will always cherish. I look forward to every summer when the butterflies return. They are a reminder to me that change can be beautiful.
Creating a Butterfly Garden
There are many ways to attract butterflies to your garden. Butterfly gardens can be as simple as a container filled with pentas, lantana, or marigolds. They can be entire environments in which butterflies are encouraged to visit, eat, move in and multiply. Let’s see what butterflies want in order to bring them into your garden.
First, let’s review the life cycle and metamorphosis of the butterfly. Butterflies lay their eggs on a host plant. The eggs hatch into caterpillars. The caterpillars eat the host plant and continue growing until the pupa stage in which they turn into a chrysalis. The last stage is when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. Butterflies have different needs during the various stages of their life cycle.
The Site: Butterflies will enjoy a site with plenty of sunshine. They prefer some shelter from the wind with places to rest. Butterflies get their water from puddles which can be created by using shallow containers filled with sand and then keeping them moist.
There are two types of plants to become familiar with when wanting butterflies in your garden. These are nectar plants and host plants. Nectar plants are plants in which the adult butterfly feed on. These are the fun, flowering guys that the butterflies come to visit and pictures are taken. Some of my favorites that I have used with great success are pentas, butterfly weed, (Ascelpias), coneflowers, zinnias, butterfly bush, (Buddleia), tithonia and marigolds.
Then there are the host plants that the butterflies lay their eggs on thus beginning their life cycle. The tricky thing here is that during the caterpillar stage they will devour your plants until the pupa stage.
Many native trees and shrubs are great butterfly attractors. Willows, sycamores, cherry trees, sassafras, spice bush and cassia not only provide a place for the butterflies to lay their eggs they also provide their shelter. Other great host plants include: Milkweed, hollyhock and sunflowers.
Many herbs and vegetables make wonderful host and nectar plants. Parsley, dill, oregano, fennel and garlic chives are just a few. Cabbages, broccoli, peas, carrots and Citrus also are attractors. Even native weeds such as clover, thistles and Queen Anne’s lace can bring butterflies into your garden.
The more variety of plant material you incorporate, the more different species of butterflies you will attract. Each butterfly has a favorite nectar plant and host plant.
If you are really excited about attracting numerous species of butterflies in your garden then I recommend researching the various species of butterflies that are in our area. I have listed some websites that have great information. This way you can match the nectar plant and host plant with the particular butterfly you are trying to attract. I personally love the Swallowtails and they love my parsley and tithonia. I can always be assured of their return with this combination.
Kids also love butterflies. Both of my kids did butterfly projects in their school. The milkweed plant was used as a host with painted lady butterfly eggs on the leaves. The kids then observed each day the subtle changes from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis. A camping tent was then brought into the classroom where the chrysalis were moved awaiting their final metamorphosis. Soon the tent was alive with butterflies. The excitement in these children was priceless. They will always remember this and have a love for this beauty in nature.
Successful butterfly gardening needs to be free of pesticides as these are harmful to them. Organic gardening practices are really best.
May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
Websites for Butterfly information:
Places to visit:
www.thebutterflysite.com Callaway Gardens
www.butterflywebsite.com Honey Horn