It was a swell treat to listen to Karen Durance, affectionately known as Sarnia Lambton’s Butterfly Lady, at the monthly Green Drinks event a week ago. To her spellbound audience of about 40, Karen spoke quietly as if her knowledge and experience of butterflies was second nature. Those in attendance now have a new appreciation for all things butterfly.
August is prime time to enjoy butterflies. After hearing the Durance’s presentation, I took time to wander through our backyard perennial gardens and discovered that it is only for rare moments that I can sit in the backyard and not see butterflies.
Butterflies are most active in our backyard when it is hot and sunny with little or no wind. They constantly dart from one flower to the next, making it nearly impossible to snap their photo.
I have also discovered that where there is one butterfly, there is always another nearby. When busy looking for food they seem to keep an eye on their partner without getting in each other’s way.
Our backyard perennial garden is perfect for attracting butterflies because it is bustling with summer colour. A nearby water garden is a good source of water and there are plenty rocks where the butterflies can bask in summer sun.
When creating a butterfly garden, I recommend selecting a variety of summer flowering plants, in a variety of colours. The following is my list of plants that get the most visitors to our backyard.
Lantana: although not a perennial, our Lantana plants are powerful performers. Easy to grow and easy to care for, Lantana is a draught resistant sun loving annual growing to a small bush about the size of an annual geranium. If it is not butterflies that are attracted to our Lantanas, it will be hummingbirds.
Butterfly Bush is more of a shrub rather than a perennial and has bottle brush type blooms that sway in the slightest breeze. Purple, pink and white are the favorite colours. Butterfly bush is not the hardiest plant in my rural garden, but I can usually expect to enjoy each plant for 5 or 6 years. Plant in a sunny spot and prune as recommended.
Summer Phlox are an old fashioned perennial with long lasting fragrant flowers on tall stems. Phlox are a reliable source of nectar in summer and fall.
Gaillardia, commonly known as Blanket Flower is an informal colourful plant with daisy like flowers. It is easy to grow, producing an abundance of flowers in summer, flowed by trickles of flower into late fall.
Echinacea or Coneflower is a faithful bloomer giving long lasting flower all summer. The most popular colour is purple followed by white. The new dwarf varieties take up little space in the garden.
Rudbeckia, often called Black-Eyed Susan is a show stopper with prolific bright yellow blooms. Several years ago I planted a mass of Rudbeckia ‘goldsturm’ and now that the plants are established, they put on an impressive display with no effort on my part.
Other plants in our perennial garden that attract butterflies are Liatrus for mid-summer bloom and Daylilies for early summer flower. Soon I will add a few Asters for late summer and fall colour.
Although we don’t have Milkweed in our backyard garden, we have plenty growing at the south edge of the nearby bush. Milkweed plants may not be the showiest of flowers, but they are vital for Monarchs. Adults lay eggs on the leaves and caterpillars depend on Milkweed for food.