My Butterfly Garden - An Experience and Love for Butterflies
My Butterfly Garden in the Midwest USA
About 9 years ago, my family and I moved to the Midwest USA. We now had a whole new area to explore and grow into, etc. One of the first things my younger son and I did at the time, was to go to a Butterfly House, which is a butterfly conservatory. It sounded nice, and I took my camera. I had no idea HOW much I would come to love this place. I bought a membership there, and when I saw my digital pictures, I was floored all over again at how beautiful the butterflies were from around the world.
One time, on our way out, we noticed an outdoor display garden that included local flowers and host plants for butterflies at all stages of their development. This was just the beginning of my learning experience with butterflies. The ideas began to flow about starting my own butterfly garden.
As beautiful as butterflies are, I learned a lot more about them, like the fact they make great pollinators. To me, butterflies are like flying flowers :) They bring a peacefulness and joy and I have to refrain from getting out my camera all the time!
I picked up some literature from the book store and pamphlets they had there for my beginning ideas. I went also to the local conservationist habitat and got more information and was so happy they had some there as well. I began a journey on finding out what a butterfly garden would look like in my area, and started dreaming and researching online. One of my favorite resources was our local botanical garden. I loved to see what they had planted there, and it takes out a lot of the guesswork. In general, keeping an eye out for what plants and flowers butterflies are spending time with in nature, is the best way to know what butterflies like. :)
The next step, was for me to dig up big chunks of grass in the backyard. It was hard work but I was excited. I never realized how much money one could spend on garden supplies, soil, plants, and tools. WOW, were my eyes opened, and I started slow. Butterflies like warmth, and need the air to be a certain degree of warmth before their bodies can even fly at all. They don't like too much wind either. Anything that is sunny, yet blocked from big gusts is best. Now, my garden provides this much needed barrier, as some of the bigger plants have matured.
Some of my very first flowers to plant were, purple cone flowers also known as echinacea, Black eyed susans, zinnias, cosmos, and one host plant in particular, swamp milkweed, which produces pretty pink flower clusters. Another flower they love, is lantana, but you have to plant that yearly in your time zone. One way to cut costs, if need be is too use seeds, and get an early start indoors. I also put some big stones into the garden. They double as stepping stones and are beautiful smooth rocks. When these get wet, the butterflies love to land on them and warm themselves and/or get moisture from them.
As they say, if you plant it, they will come. The butterflies did come to the garden. Butterflies came that first year, and you can imagine my excitement as they did. Hard work paying off feels great. I took many pictures which I hope to post soon. We have had many bumble bees and honey bees visiting as well, which makes me happy they found a source for what their needs are. I will also update my changes over the last couple years to the garden and talk about my maintenance of it. It is always a work in progress.
One of my top memories, is seeing Monarchs come through for both the flowers, But also for a place to lay their butterfly eggs on a host plant. They do this, so that when they fly away and the babies are born, the larvae immediately have food to eat. Butterflies have tiny sensors on their bodies to detect if a plant will be a suitable host plant and can tell from stopping on a plant for just a second or two. I thought this was amazing. They lay the eggs in many different areas, not in one big clump. This helps their survival rate. Depending on the predators in a given spot, they have more chance. The small caterpillars, focus solely on chomping down their favorite leaves until they can't eat anymore, and I have seen them in action! When they are full, they get busy and I see them disappear, and later, they turn into butterflies when they are done transforming in their cocoons. It is such a miraculous process and a true beauty and joy of nature to behold. It makes my heart so happy to observe it.
Some pictures from my butterfly garden :)
Where I have my current butterfly garden
© 2009 Paula