January 6, 2009

A Look Back at the Butterfly Garden

The butterfly garden is a mix of host and nectar plants that are attractive to butterflies. The garden was started in the fall of 2006 and expanded in the spring of 2007 and 2008.

Our garden is certified as a Monarch Waystation. In 2007, the Monarchs were plentiful, but very few showed up in 2008. According to the Monarch Watch, there were fewer Monarchs reported throughout the habitat areas in the US.

A host plant is used by female butterflies to lay eggs. The eggs hatch into caterpillars that consume the foliage of the host plant for food.

I have planted a variety of asclepias (tuberosa and incarnata) to serve as host plants for the Monarchs. The caterpillars munch the leaves of the milkweed, so I plant these in the middle of the butterfly garden among other perennials. Good nectar companion plants include verbena, vitex, hypericum, crocosmia, salvia, achillea, nepeta, agastache and monarda.

For Black Swallowtail butterflies, I have planted bronze fennel at the back of the butterfly garden. Again, since this is a host plant for caterpillars, the foliage will be eaten.

Tulip poplars (growing in the wild in our woods) are host plants for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Since there are many nectar plants from which to choose for a butterfly garden, the most difficult decision is deciding upon a color scheme.

I use my butterfly garden as an opportunity to plant swaths of bold color such as orange, gold, red and purple. I use a vitex (chaste tree), clumping bamboo and miscanthus to provide a break between some of the hot and cool colors.

It is only the color scheme that really separates my butterfly garden from my other gardens. I have nectar plants and even milkweed, throughout all of my gardens.

During the summer and fall, I look forward to each day in the garden, not only to enjoy the flowers, but in search of butterflies to identify and caterpillars to count.

For more information, please visit :

Butterflies and Moths of North America
Monarch Watch

Photos and story by Freda Cameron
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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