Well, folks I saw a Monarch yesterday in my yard, but was not fleet of foot enough to get out there with the camera. Dang it. I am resourceful and not easily defeated, so…..
I decided to cheat a bit and go where I know they hang out, if not in my yard this very strange year, then to the farm of my friend, the nurseryman and landscaper.
A windy day, not the best for butterfly hunting, but I know they will be at this particular farm. He grows plenty of the Pee Gee Hydrangea, which I was told by another fabulous gardener who I will be highlighting in the coming week, is a plant that the butterflies seem to enjoy.
In fact, I have a lot to show you these next few days on the farm. A lovely koi pond, a few deer and elk, beautiful country gardens, fields of nursery trees, and Marty the Zebra.
But, Today, Let’s Talk Butterflies
Build It and They Will Come
This is where I found about 40 or so butterflies. I big rock pile that is hard to navigate for bipeds. I am determined to see them up close. So I climbed the rocks like a wounded mountain goat, hoping no snakes were sunning themselves. I KNOW they hang out here. This spot is scary for me a bit.
For instance, they would prefer a garden with logs, urine, decaying animals, fruit and manure. They would ask for a muddy, stagnate puddle of water. They want flat rocks on which to sun bathe. This is why I knew this spot was a ringer.
Give them an old log and they are happy as can be. I have a hibernating box for them and all that it collected was wasps. I let the wasps live in peace in my slightly expensive butterfly home, but that is not the tenant for which I was hoping.
Let your yard overrun with native weeds and become an untidy mess, and butterflies will come en mass. Get the picture from the photos above?
One of the joys to having a garden is having the butterflies and birds visit your property. As you know, if you have been following the blog, I have had only two Monarch butterflies visit my yard all year. That includes the one yesterday and the one that I saw fluttering over the phlox.
So I have decided to lay out the welcome mat in a bigger, more tasty way. No, not have my city yard look like above, but add the additional plants that will entice the little beauties. You know the real-estate mantra, location, location, location. So what can I do?
Well, we are a bit more civilized here in Niagara Falls and I prefer a garden a bit more elegant. So what is a designer to do? Let’s take a look at what I have already.
For starters, I can provide a rich source of nectar. Check. Got the sweet, delectable plants. I can hope the weather cooperates with temperatures north of 80 degrees so that they may warm their delicate wings. Check and check. I can provide flat stone which will retain and radiate heat. Check. Got an abundance of stone and gravel. My lot is fully fenced and the front yard shaped as a bowl which helps mitigate wind. Check. Hedges surround and provide shelter. Check. Puddles. Check.
So where the heck are they? What I have been deducting while analyzing the problem, and after my experience with the wren, there are just too many birds in my yard. Birds bathing, birds feeding, birds reproducing, yes I have a robin’s nest and witnessed the dirty deed, and birds singing in a choir. Birds eating the viburnum berries, birds pecking at the grit in the pavers. A real bird paradise, with birds keeping the slug population manageable, and birds plucking off aphids. Plenty of bees of all size too here at 664, humming around the caryopteris, phlox and veronica. But there is another reason, probably more to the point.
More yards were being sprayed. That has to be it. With more people participating in the Garden Walk, more homeowners sprayed herbicides and pesticides. I had my yard sprayed for the first time ever this year by the applicator that did my neighbor’s yard. I only had it sprayed once with a with a broadleaf herbicide, but my neighbors had such an incidence of Japanese Beetles that pesticides were sprayed to combat them and other chewing critters. The bees were in my yard, but no butterflies or ladybugs. This is the only logical conclusion of which I can make. I am surrounded by pesticides.
Butterflies, like these Viceroy shown, like flowers rich in nectar, but they also like plants that provide a nursery for the caterpillars. Butterflies seem so peaceful and tranquil, but did you know that they are territorial and will try to ward off intruders, even humans? You almost have to have a chuckle over that one.
We as a higher species, seem to decide what bugs are allowed. Good bugs or bad bugs. We might look at bad bugs as aphids, slugs, Japanese beetles and caterpillars. Little chewing machines intent on eating everything in sight. Bees are held in high regard and rightly so for too many reasons to list. Butterflies are always considered a good bug, even if they are borne of evil happenstance with gardeners reaching for the Malathion in their other phase of growth.
I still have other creatures, but I get a little worried when some of the stalwarts turn up missing.
I do have a variety of wildlife in the teeny tiny backyard. I count countless squirrels, a chipmunk, a garter snake family, a possum, now RABBITS (although I have not seen one, but neighbors have and my Japanese maple got chewed by an animal with big teeth), red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejay, hummingbirds, doves and various other feathered friends.
And why, I don’t know, but three ornery turtles plodding across the backyard to date have made an appearance. Yes, I have wildlife. No deer have managed to get in, but I had a wayward raccoon once that I had to call the wildlife rescue. My abundance of critters is probable due to feeding , but they seem to come back regardless if I am feeding stray cats or hungry cardinals. Get why I feed both? The cats were coming for the birds. Bummer for the birds. In fact, the hawks were coming for the little birds as well.
But I will not be defeated in my desire for butterflies. I will move the butterflies out front and leave the birds and other creatures out back. I sound like this will work, don’t I? They go where they want, but I can design for the highest probability. My office is in the front, so I will not miss them when they decide to feed. Move the coreopsis, caryopsis, beebalm, Eupatorium, Chysanthemum, and maybe throw in a butterfly bush. I already have Russian sage, coneflower, rudbeckia, asters and yarrow en mass. Throw in the verbena, lantana and impatiens with added marigold and I might get a few different species besides the Monarchs and Viceroys.
But as you have guessed, I will settle for them alone. Wish me luck.