A Garden For Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Posted by Mom on August 11, 2016

We can’t seem to get enough of gardening at our country home. Our latest addition is a garden of native flowering plants chosen specifically for winged pollinators.

The previous owner of our property was a prolific gardener. The abundance of gardens and variety of plants were a major factor in the aesthetic appeal of the property. She even went so far as to label each of her varieties of hostas, daylilies, peonies and non-native trees and shrubs. We never actually counted how many varieties of each there were and now our opportunity is lost, thanks to the toll children, chickens, rakes, and lawnmowers play on these labels. We try to preserve the labels that remain, but should probably just face reality and forgo the labels.

These perennial gardens are not the same as when we first arrived in 2011; trees and shrubs have since grown and the gardens are now better suited to shade tolerant species. We find it harder to find space for the species requiring full to partial sun. Each spring/summer mom goes on a thinning and pruning spree. Dad has spotted her and warned the children “uh-oh, there goes mommy with the clippers again.” When she really has the pruning bug, she will request that dad pull out the chainsaw for some serious modifications.

Despite the amount of work required to maintain a (pretty lax) feeling of order in the gardens, winter is a time when we tend to make plans to expand our gardens. Our latest endeavour is a garden along the side of our drive shed. The deck, which is a wonderful example of dad’s craftsmanship and pragmatism, does not have a picturesque view. In fact, it probably has the worst view possible; it faces an expanse of green corrugated steel that is broken up by a double-wide window. Where the drive shed is not obstructing the view, we gaze upon our gravel driveway and barn.

After some discussion and planning, dad built four beautiful cedar trellises and we dug a foot wide garden to run along the side of the drive shed. The bed’s exposure is full sun and southern (a rare aspect around here) and is nicely protected from prevailing winds by the cedar hedge that straddles the border between our house and the field.

We wanted to fill this garden with native plants that would attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. We find a visit from such a creature to be an exciting occurrence. A bit of researching led us to compose a list of sun-loving, native plants. In turn, dad began to hunt down our wish-list plants at Sheridan Nurseries: Goldflame Honeysuckle (Loincera x heckrotti ‘Goldflame’), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias Incarnata) and a new variety of aster (Aster Kickin Lavender). We also added some non-native but bee, hummingbird and butterfly attracting plants: Purrsian Blue Catmint (Nepeta faassenii), Deep Rose Improved Saliva (Salvia nemorosa), Grape Gumball Beebalm (Monarda ‘Grape Gumball’ PPAF).

To improve the attraction to hummingbirds, we hung a nectar feeder (with a 1 part sugar to 4 part water mixture). We also set up a water feature for butterflies based upon one was saw at a butterfly conservatory – a small birdbath filled with pebbles and shallow water which permit the butterflies to safely land and drink without falling into the water. Our Rhode Island Red hens also like to hop up and drink from this feature!

We’re glad to report that our efforts are being rewarded. A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird patrols the feeder and flowers and Monarch, Red-spotted Purple, Giant Swallowtail and Red Admirals are among the butterflies that feed from the flowers. We even witnessed a Monarch laying eggs on the Swamp Milkweed. We enjoy watching the fruit of our labours while eating our dinner al fresco.