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Saturation Point

Gardening 101
By Karey Burek
Sep 25, 2008 - 9:59:16 AM

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Passion Flower

I must have inherited some sort of green thumb from my parents because I have decided to turn a barren part of the yard into a butterfly garden.  I am up for the challenge and look forward to the rewards that hopefully will come with my hard work.  My mom always has been particular with her plantings and seems to turn even the saddest looking plant into a beautiful and robust species.  My dad introduced me to the deliciousness of a veggie garden when I was not much older than five.  I used to pick sweet peas from the vine and munch on them while he and my mom picked weeds and harvested our variety of tasty foods.  My grandmother was an African violet wizard and used to keep numerous potted violets on her windowsill in various colors.  With all of this amazing horticultural education while growing up, I felt it was time to put my knowledge to use and create a work of art in the yard.

I happen to be wandering through Brooker Creek Preserve on a day that there was a free workshop on butterfly gardening being offered.  It piqued my interest and figured it would give me some good ideas as to what plants I would need to purchase in order to make my patch a colorful home for critters.  I found out that creating a butterfly garden isn’t really too difficult, but I did learn that I need to be aware of the butterfly in its various life stages.  If I were to only plant pretty flowers for the adult butterflies to feast on the nectar I may come to find it decimated by the caterpillars.  The reason is that butterflies lay their eggs on “host” plants and when the egg becomes a caterpillar, the caterpillar eats the host plant and then turns into a chrysalis.  Once the beautiful butterfly emerges, it leaves the munched up plant and flies to more colorful and nectar filled pastures.  However, if I don’t pay attention and plant some host plants, my colorful flowers will sadly become the host and get eaten.  To counter this I need to plant some host plants close to the butterfly garden with the pretty flowers so that when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis it can find its way to my flowers.  This is one of the things I found most helpful because I never knew I had to consider the entire life cycle of the butterfly and therefore would have surely failed at my attempt for a beautiful garden.

According to the University of Florida extension, you should plant a variety of colors but stay away from white, it is considered unattractive to butterfly species.   A large group of different flowers is more interesting to butterflies than just a few, giving them more nectar options.  And of course, the more scented the flower the more nectar it will have and therefore, the more butterflies you will get.  Some nectar favorites are marigolds, daisies, coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, thistles and asters.  It is also suggested to plant flowers that bloom during different times of the year so that you always have attractive blooms for your winged guests.  The best advice about planting a butterfly garden is to make sure that you are getting native species of flowers.  It is more environmentally friendly and it also will help in attracting butterflies that are native to your area.  

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