Entries in butterflies (3)


The Good and Bad about Butterfly Bushes

I have always liked Buddleia, commonly called butterfly bush and summer lilac. Buddleia 'Lochinch'These fast growing deciduous shrubs produce fragrant panicles of flowers in shades of purple, pink, white and even yellow from summer into fall. They attract pollinators and look great in flower arrangements. What's not to like?

First, in some parts of the country the commonly grown butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, is invasive; in some areas it is banned from sale entirely. Fortunately, some smaller cultivars, such as the Lo and Behold series that includes the Blue Chip butterfly bush, are sterile. These compact butterfly bushes grow to about 3 feet and are a good solution for smaller spaces. If one is looking for a larger butterfly bush, there are some low-fertility species available, including Buddleia weyeriana, Buddleia nivea and Buddleia fallowiana. In areas where invasiveness is a concern, it is always best to remove flowers before they go to seed.

One also needs to know that while these non-natives may provide nectar for adult butterflies, they are not a source of food for butterfly larvae; so if one wants to create a sanctuary for butterflies, there must be additional plants to host caterpillars.

I am currently growing Flutterby Petite Tutti Fruiti.

This is another sterile cultivar that will reach to about three feet. It has delightful pink blooms that come in flushes from early summer till frost. I have planted Rue (Ruta graveolens) nearby to serve as a caterpillar host plant for the Swallowtail butterflies that are common in my area. Some other host plants in my garden include Aster, Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Coneflower (Echinacea), Violet (Viola), False Indigo (Baptisia), Dogwood (Cornus), and Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia Virginiana). I must also mention that, despite Buddleia's reputation as a butterfly magnet, in my garden butterflies prefer flowers such as coneflowers, garlic chives and cosmos. If you want butterflies in your garden, it is always best to provide multiple sources of attraction.

Despite some drawbacks, in many areas the first plant people think about when they want a butterfly garden is a butterfly bush. These shrubs also appeal to bees and other pollinators, as well as hummingbirds.Buddleia davidii produces long, arching branches to 8 feet or more. Butterfly bushes in the northern range of their hardiness are likely to die to the ground during the winter but will quickly regrow come spring. Even if there is no winter die-back, one may control the size by cutting the shrub back to about to 12 inches in late winter or early spring. This will also encourage more prolific flowering since most Buddleias bloom on the current season's growth. Severe pruning is not absolutely necessary, and the larger types can be trained into tree form.

Buddleia will grow in hardiness zones 5-10, depending on the cultivar, and does best in full sun, in moist, well-draining soil. When planting, add compost or other organic matter to promote good drainage. Buddleias are fairly drought tolerant once established, but to encourage blooming they should be watered in the summer months if there is less than about 1 inch of water per week.

In addition to the smaller ones mentioned above, some good cultivars include:

Nanho Blue. This one grows to about five feet. It has silvery foliage and an extremely long bloom time.

Lochinch.  I grew this one for years. It reaches to about 8 feet and has lavender-blue flowers that are wonderfully fragrant.

White Profusion, a very large shrub that can grow up to 15 feet. The lightly scented, pure white flower clusters measure from one to two feet. This one can be trained into a tree form. 

Butterfly bushes are fairly low maintenance and suffer from few diseases, though die-back or fungal leaf spot may sometimes appear. 




Planting a Wildlife Habitat

After wandering around my garden, a visitor once turned to me and exclaimed, "The birds are so happy!"

That made me very happy, too. I get great joy watching the many birds, squirrels, rabbits, and even occasional foxes who visit my garden. I love lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs, and bees. I feel good that so many creatures choose to live in my garden. A healthy garden is one that is full of life.A few of the creatures that call my garden home, clockwise from top left: A green Anole lizard; Bumblebee, Chipmunk (Ground squirrel); Barred owl.

If we create an environment that is good for wildlife, often that garden will be a place that is pleasing to us as well. There are a number of things a gardener can do to make a habitat that is friendly to wildlife. 

If you are serious about attracting wildlife to your garden, be sure to use only organic products, rather than artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides that can harm wildlife. I cringe at those products that have a nuke-em approach, promising to get rid of every bug. Many insects are good guys who eat other bugs that damage our gardens, and insects are an important food source for many birds and other forms of wildlife.This Eastern Bluebird is enjoying a tasty meal.

Also, plant a variety of both evergreen and deciduous plants in your garden. This is the best way to insure that your garden will become a wildlife habitat.A diversity of plantings will provide shelter throughout the year, as well as places for birds to nest and raise their young. Cardinals have nested in this forsythia bush every year since we moved here in 1985.Trees and shrubs that produce berries - for example: hollies, dogwood, viburnum, hawthorn, and serviceberries - as well as flowering plants that are allowed to go to seed, will provide sustenance.A robin eats dogwood berries in winter.Clockwise from top left are some of the berry-producing plants in my own garden: Burford holly; Mapleleaf viburnum; Weeping yaupon holly; Serviceberry treeRose hips and Coneflower seeds are only a couple of the many types of seed heads that birds and other wildlife consume through the winter.

Many of us enjoy watching the aerial acrobatics of hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds do perch!If you want to attract these amazing creatures, plant brightly colored, nectar-rich flowers that have funnel-shaped blooms as well as those that have distinct “landing zones”. Trumpet creeper, Campsis radicans; Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens; Bee Balm, Monarda didyma; Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica; and Red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, are some of our native plants that attract hummingbirds. Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus; Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans; Shrub verbena, Lantana camera; Giant blue sage, Salvia guaranitca; and Butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii are a few of the non-natives that attract hummingbirds. Spearleaf swampmallow, Pavonia hastata, which is in the hibiscus family, is a favorite in my own garden. Often hummingbirds will ignore the nearby hummingbird feeder and fight over this!In my own garden, hummingbirds prefer Trumpet honeysuckle and Pavonia hastata.

Butterflies are also welcome inhabitants of our gardens. They are attracted to colorful perennials and annuals such as Zinnia: Pentas:Cosmos:Below, clockwise from top left, are more butterfly magnets: Coneflower, Echinacea; Blue mist shrub, Caryopteris; Butterfly weed, Asclepsias; and of course, Butterfly bush, Buddleja.

Butterflies are also drawn to asters, salvia, and to many flowering shrubs, such as azaleas.

Remember that a water source is important to wildlife, even through the winter. I dream of a pond or a stream, but for now I maintain a couple of birdbaths.I managed to get a rear view of this mockingbird enjoying a birdbath.Many natural wildlife habitats are perishing as modern society expands. We gardeners should do more than just make our yards pretty for ourselves. We can help preserve the local ecology by providing safe and healthy environments for garden creatures. Ultimately, we are benefitting our own lives, as well.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care." Matthew 10:29