The butterfly project

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it might have been 2005 or 2007, but it was surely no later than 2008. That was when I decided to plant a butterfly garden around the edges of my house.

By 2009 I was in full-on research mode. What resilient, drought-resistant plants could I plant in full sun? They had to thrive on the neglect that was my greatest talent as a gardener. That first year, I chose Coneflowers (Echinacae), Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), and Coreopsis. (These are big favorites of both bees and butetrflies.) I put the first along the side, next to my porch, and the latter two in front, where the morning sun hits them uninterrupted for four or five hours. They are all going strong after ten years. That's what an eastern exposure will do for you.

The bees come every year. Big bees, little bees, you name it. Butterflies do come to visit. Flies and dragonflies, too. Ants and aphids, unfortunately. Even hornets.

After about five years of this, I began planting more shade-tolerant species along the side behind the porch, where dappled shade was what they would get. A large oak has branches about 15 feet overhead. The shadow of my porch moves around as the sun progresses. By about 3:30 p.m., most of the yard is dark. Then, around 4:30, sunlight starts coming from the west, and dappled sunlight falls from then until sunset.

Here I planted shade-tolerant plants that bees and butterflies would like: Columbine, wild geraniums, tall purple asters, pale-leaf sunflowers, even a few more Black-eyed Susans along the edge. This year I installed a Virginia Rose. We'll see how aggressively it tries to take over.

There's an oil tank near the back of my yard. I wanted to hide it if possible. It gets morning sun, so I planted Sweet Black-Eyed Susans. They did well last year, so this year I've added some deep scarlet lilies and some more wild geraniums. In back of the oil tank I fenced off an area for Anemones, which are full of white blossoms now. Further back, I fenced off another area, where I've put a blueberry plant, an azalea, and a hapless Juneberry bush that the local rabbits always defoliate every Spring. :-(

My neighbor has hostas all along the edge of his house. When my beans and zucchinis are in full bloom, those hostas are also blooming. I can watch the bumblebees going from one side to the otheri n search of nectar all day long.

have I gotten many butterflies? A few, but not as many as I would have liked.

So this year I went a step further: I began planting milkweed: Common Milkweed, Swamp MIlkweed (under the eaves where rainwater will keep them moist), and whorled Milkweed. These will take a couple years to get big enough for blossoms and pods. Some butterflies eat milkwee and nothing else. I will keep an eye out for further developments. \\Stay tunes

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