The butterfly house opens this weekend and there should plenty of fun for anyone interested in spotting these flying masterpieces. This year the house is filled with a larger variety of butterflies, all native to this region. There are large ones like the swallowtails. Six different swallowtails will make an appearance this year – the eastern tiger, black, spicebush, pipevine, giant and zebra swallowtails. There are small ones like the painted and American ladies, red admirals and variegated fritillaries. Colorful ones will certainly stand out. Look for monarchs, gulf fritillaries and red-spotted purples. And some of my favorites are the hyperactive little flitty ones – the sulphurs. Of course these are bright yellow, one of the better colors for a butterfly.
The butterfly house is not the only place these beauties are found. They like to fly freely around the butterfly garden as well and are joined by some other fantastic varieties like the skippers. Yep, this is a great month for the butterfly garden.
With all their beauty, bright colors and charming movements, the butterflies rightly get a lot of attention. But without their supporting cast of plants, they would be nowhere. For anyone who really enjoys butterflies, a visit to the butterfly garden (and even inside the butterfly house) is required. It will show you what type of plants you need to have in your own garden to attract butterflies. And, at this time of year, the butterfly garden is also a great example of what endures the blazing summers here. Some of our spring gardens seem to wilt just a little as the heat gets going, but that’s not the case here.
One of the first things you notice is the riot of color to be found here. The gardeners have a done a great job of creating some plant combinations that are not only tasty for the butterflies, but attractive to human visitors. Just inside the garden are flower beds filled with sweeps of bright yellow rudbeckias and sennas punctuated with purple malvas and white speedwells. A pink crape myrtle against a vivid blue sky adds to the rainbow effect.
Other vignettes are nicely planned. Near the back is nice combination of white spider flower, purple coneflower and yellow melampodium set up as a tasty butterfly buffet. Other nectar plants such as the fragrant summersweet and the colorful blazing star dot the landscape. Of course lantana and butterfly bush, real workhorses of nectar plants, are found all around.
But our gardeners didn’t forget that a good butterfly garden needs plants to feed the caterpillars as well. A glorious bed of fennel stands proudly all by itself, but other host plants are sprinkled amongst the plantings and have become an integral part of each display. The feathery texture of parsley and the cut leaves of rue add a designerly dimension to any flower bed. Of course some plants like the brightly colored butterfly weed do triple duty – a host plant for monarch caterpillars, a nectar plant for adult butterflies and a beautiful addition to any floral display.
So come out and enjoy the beautiful butterflies but take some time to give the plants a round of applause was well. Their quiet support makes it all possible.