Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Planting a Butterfly Garden by Stan Ames

A Vanessa atalanta a.k.a. “Red Admiral”on a Purple Coneflower
Planning a butterfly garden this season?  These techniques will help you plant a successful garden.

Before you invest you time and money in constructing a butterfly garden it is important to know what butterflies are common to your area. Identification of your guest is very important, as each butterfly has preferences for their “Caterpillar Host Plants” and their favorite flowers for a nectar source.

Attracting butterflies then becomes relatively easy. In addition to a place for their eggs and a good source of nectar, butterflies like flowers for some of the same reasons that we do, bright colors with sweet fragrance.

The websites, below have useful photographs to help you identify your visitors and charts that will show you which plants are “irresistible” to which butterfly.
http://coloradofrontrangebutterflies.com/frontrange-checklist - has listings of over 100 varieties with links to photographs and details about most.
http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/gallery - pictures for identification.
http://butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm - chart of plants that attract, by specific butterfly.

In addition to the right choice of flowers you should incorporate a small source of water (a decorative dish) and perhaps a stepping stone or two for warmth.

Your site does not have to be very large, maybe only six to eight feet in diameter but it needs to be protected from wind and receive between four to six hours of sunlight a day.

Could that be a Monarch calling?
Too many look-a-likes to be sure.

In my garden, I used : Blanket flower), Butterfly bush) Tickseed (Coreopsis) – “Early Sunrise”, Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Sedum spectabile, Zinnias (Zinnia laageana), Petunias and Snowdrift alyssum (Lobularia maritima, but also have Honeysuckle close by. This year I may add Cosmos and Joe Pye Weed.

 Finding a “Butterfly House” ready for use is a challenge, but they are relatively easy to construct.
Use a good quality 3/8” plywood and protect the house with paint or varnish.

Construction is simple and the dimensions are not critical beyond having the height about four times the width. Just use a good quality 3/8” plywood and protect the house with paint or varnish. There is no need to teach your visitors they need to fold up their wings to get in the house. They will know it is just for decoration.

The size and shape of the garden does not need to be large, mine is only five by six feet with a butterfly house in the middle to add a little decoration. The flowers in my garden are indicated below and work relatively well, just keep the flowers bright and base the selection on the specific butterflies you have identified in your area. Again, make sure the garden is protected from the wind!