Archive for Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Butterflies add beauty to gardens

April 18, 2001

Decorating your garden can be a daunting task, especially when you don't know where to begin, or even what look you're trying to create.

Oftentimes, the best decoration tips can be found looking back to nature. If you're looking to liven up your garden with nature's help, you may want to consider a butterfly house.

Any gardener knows that Mother Nature provides a part of our garden bounty with beautiful Monarchs and Mourning Cloaks. Such an assortment of butterflies, with their bright, colorful patterns and fluttering wings, will make your garden look as though it's constantly in motion.

All you need are the tools to attract them. The following steps will make it easy to create a butterfly garden your family can enjoy together.

Choose your space

The space you choose for your butterfly garden depends on your desired result, but be sure to locate it in an area you can easily view. There is nothing more delightful than having a butterfly grace your arm or head with its presence. You can renovate your entire backyard into a wildflower field that serves as a welcoming home for butterflies; or if you are limited in space, you can create a small area on your deck or corner of your yard.

Make the most of a small space by using hanging planters or hayrack planters, which are great alternatives to traditional window boxes. But remember to choose a sunny location that receives at least four hours of sun each day, as butterflies like to bask on rocks and evergreens.

If you have the freedom of your entire backyard, try an arbor or trellis to support those nectar-rich flowering plants that butterflies enjoy. Not only will arbors and trellises enhance the beauty of your garden, but they will support those unruly plants from sprawling with reckless abandon throughout your yard and provide shelter for your butterflies from harsh winds.

A few plants to get started

Most butterfly species will feed from many different, beautiful flowering plants such as Lantana, Zinnias, Japanese Honeysuckle and Purple Coneflower.

But a butterfly garden that includes plants for the entire life cycle will attract the greatest number and variety of native butterflies. You will need to provide both nectar producing plants and caterpillar food plants, also known as host plants.

Host plants are where butterflies lay their eggs, and eventually, where hatched caterpillars will feed. "Painted Ladies, Butterflies of North America," available at Garden Artisans (its Web site is at:, a mail order site dedicated to hand-crafted garden accessories, gives detailed information on host plants and nectar plants certain butterflies prefer.

Keep in mind that pesticides will harm these colorful creatures, so use nontoxic solutions available at your local garden center.

Provide shelter

It's important to have a shelter that will protect butterflies in bad weather.

Because butterflies naturally roost in tree crevices, under bark, or in shrubs, when choosing a butterfly house, opt for one made of natural materials. A butterfly house, mounted to a tree or on a stake about 18 inches high, nestled in the nectar plants, is ideal for your winged friends.

Garden Artisans offers a distinctive and whimsical hand-crafted butterfly house made from durable cypress that can even be stained to match your outdoor decor.

Water is a must

Mud provides the salt and nutrients butterflies need, and some butterflies, such as the Swallowtail, will even puddle in the watering hole.

The best way to provide water is to dig a shallow, muddy hole where water can gather. When in doubt, consult a professional without ever leaving your garden.

You can sign up to have free butterfly gardening tips e-mailed to you by visiting Garden Artisans' Web site at

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