What better way to celebrate the start of spring than with a garden built to beckon in amazing insects and beautiful butterflies.
Wildlife is truly one of the most valuable parts of gardening, so here’s how you can build a bustling butterfly garden.
A flying start
Butterflies are one of the most marvellous insects that visit our gardens. I certainly remember as a child having a big Buddleia (butterfly bush) in my front garden, where we’d go to spot all the different types of butterfly.
The pretty peacock butterfly, with its brownish-red wings featuring what look like eye-disks and are used to scare predators. And the spectacular swallowtail, with its golden wings and a swallow-like tail that resembles antennae.
The large white butterfly, also known as the cabbage white, was a regular guest to our garden. hey get their name due to being found around cabbage and lettuce.
Another common butterfly is the small tortoiseshell, who were a frequent garden visitor. But one of my favourites was the red admiral, with its striking black and red colouring.
Another colourful variety is the common blue butterfly. The blue colour seems so unnatural, but it’s wonderful seeing these bright wings flying around.
They’re fascinating little creatures, born through a process of metamorphosis. From little eggs into caterpillars, into chrysalis, and then finally emerging into these beautiful butterflies.
They actually have four wings rather than two. Two are forewings and the other two are hindwings. The pattern on the surface is called cryptic colouration, which enables them to blend in with their surroundings.
For them to fly around, they need to keep up a high body temperature so can’t actually fly when they’re cold. What they do is rest and open their wings up to bask in the sun. And then, when they’re warm enough, they are able to move forward.
Interestingly, butterflies taste using receptors on their feet. As they walk over the plant, the receptors tell them if it’s the right one. This is really important because they don’t have mouths! Instead, they have a long protruding tube which is a proboscis, which goes in the plant to drink the nectar.
Not only do you get the beauty of these creatures, but you get what they bring to your patch of paradise. Just like bees, butterflies are pollinators. When they visit a flower, they collect pollen on their bodies and carry it to other plants. This helps fruits, vegetables and flowers to reproduce.
Creating a butterfly garden or introducing plants in the garden with the purpose of attracting butterflies is a fantastic thing to do.
There are 56 species of butterfly in the UK. So choosing a selection of certain plants is sure to attract them, as an essential cog in our living garden.
As well as Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush), which is a sure-fire win. Hebes are another firm favourite and there are so many varieties.
The magnificent ‘Midsummer Beauty’ is a lovely medium-sized shrub. Whilst smaller varieties such as Hebe rakaiensis and ‘Pagei’ form really nice shrubs, lovely flowers and are perfect for pollinators.
Another great option are Sedums, like ‘Autumn Joy’. By choosing varieties for earlier and later in the year you’ll ensure that there’s a continuous supply of plants suitable for butterflies all year round.
With purple flowers from summer to autumn, Verbena bonariensis are a great addition to the garden. As are cornflowers, Achillea and Echinacea too—with their long-lasting blooms.
Planting these types of plants into the garden will create a stunning summer array of flowers that enable you to really enjoy butterflies.
Space to grow
Dot these plants in and around your borders, or even as specimens within the lawn. You can grow just about anywhere, so don’t let a compact plot hold you back.
Lavender is a particularly good choice for a window box or container. Or, try one of my favourites, Lantanas—which are a very popular choice in butterfly farms and houses. I love this plant and so do the butterflies, if you touch the leaves you get an incredibly zesty, Mediterranean fragrance from it.
Not only is their fragrance divine, but the flowers are delightful, in reds, oranges and yellows. You can grow this in a container, but it does need a bit of a sheltered position to get it through the winter.
The added benefit is that it’s not just butterflies that enjoy these plants. Pollinating bees benefit from the same plants and the more insects that come to visit, the more birds you see and get to enjoy. Plus, all this wildlife adds to how fruitful your garden plants will be.
Save your yoghurt pots and
fruit containers to use as pots and seed trays
when growing plants.
Attracting butterflies into your garden is a major thing as it brings your garden to life, whilst you can watch the animation and movement through these beautiful insects.
Happy gardening everyone!
I’m fed up weeding around by shrubs but will weed fabric prevent me fertilising them?
Weeds fabric does make it harder to fertilise plants and shrubs and will have a long-term impact on the quality of the soil, too. How about using bark chippings instead? A decent later of chips (10cm or so) will help stop weeds just as effectively and, as it breaks down, will improve and fertilise the soil without any negative effects.
How do I keep my lawn healthy and in good shape without it thinning and weeds invading?
Be sure to regularly use Evergreen lawn care granular feed, which keeps it lush and green, as well as fighting off moss and weeds. Move furniture or garden toys around so that you don’t wear out one particular patch, and cut at least once every week to thicken it up.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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