Friday, June 24, 2011

Designing a Butterfly Garden: Part I

When I began this blog, I promised some articles on gardening. I realize they have been few and far between, so I thought I would share my experience starting a butterfly garden. This is the first installment.

When I began planning my butterfly refuge last winter, Paul and I attended a plant sale and expo at the Edison and Ford Estates in Fort Myers. We found a fascinating selection of plants there, ranging from bromeliads and roses to orchids and herbs. I came close to losing my focus, as I am prone to when I get around plants, but I got back on track and headed for a booth dedicated to butterfly enthusiasts.

When the afternoon ended, we walked away with two very different specimens that we were told were guaranteed to attract butterflies. One bush bears purple, yellow and white flowers that happen to be shaped very much like little butterflies.  The other has delicate sprays of tiny yellow flowerlets on the tips of abundant leafy branches. Unfortunately, I neglected to find out their specific names as I normally would, being satisfied with the seller's label of "butterfly bushes." One of these days, I intend to break off a bit of each to take to a nursery for identification. Although both bushes seemed to stagnate during Florida's winter, since March they have taken off nicely.

Fortunately, some of the plants desirable for butterflies were already growing in our garden, such as Hibiscus, Ixora, Plumbago, and Bougainvillea. These, along with the two "butterfly bushes" we added, provide the nectar on which adult butterflies feed. In fact, we have seen an increase in the number of butterflies visiting our garden. However, in order to encourage the butterflies to propagate there, we need to add the particular types of host plants on which they prefer to lay their eggs. That will be the topic of my next post on designing a butterfly garden.

                                                                                    ~ Laura Allen Nonemaker

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