Now is the time to lay the groundwork that will attract birds and butterflies and give your outdoor oasis an appealing dose of the flutters.
Fortunately, the folks at the
During this springtime spectacle, staff will release about 12,000 butterflies of varying hues and sizes in the conservatory, allowing visitors to walk amid them as they feed and flutter about the garden's lush foliage and tropical flowers.
Besides learning oodles about 2014's featured butterflies of
A sunny site
Huddleston says sun and protection from the wind are key to picking the right zone in your back yard for a butterfly garden.
"Because butterflies are cold-blooded, their wings act as heat collectors to warm their bodies," Huddleston says. "A sunny site will provide plenty of warmth to keep the butterflies active."
He lists several easy garden-planning tips to help novice butterfly gardeners set up shop. Key ingredients include:
--Locating the butterfly garden in a sunny area.
--Placing some light-colored, smooth, flat rocks in the zone. These collect heat and offer the butterflies a place to bask in the sun.
--Offering protection from prevailing winds.
--Situating the butterfly garden next to a building or in a fenced-in area where winds are calmer and where the butterflies can more easily linger.
--Including a source of water in your design. A spot with moist sand offers the butterflies a place to lap up water and absorb nutrients from the sand.
--Filling a shallow dish or saucer with water and putting a few rocks in the center where the butterflies can perch above the water line.
--Avoiding birdbaths. They invite birds to dine on the butterflies.
Before you can enjoy the fanciful beauty of butterflies, you have to endure the "pesty" leaf-chewing activities of caterpillars -- the larval form of butterflies, and hungry little critters.
The plants they feed on are called host plants because these plants "host" the caterpillars during their feeding frenzy. Explaining that it's important to put in enough host plants to support the caterpillar population without sacrificing other plants in your garden, Huddleston adds that host plants are not necessarily attractive garden plants and, thus, should be planted toward the back of the border or on the edge of your yard.
His list of top host plants includes: Mexican milkweed, fennel, parsley, passion flower, pipe vine, dill and rue. These plants attract such butterflies as the black swallowtail, the gulf fritillary, the pipevine swallowtail, monarchs and queens.
Huddleston, who is also co-author of
Besides planting some natural nectar sources, Huddleston suggests putting out dishes of overripe bananas, melons or peaches as a sugary supplement to natural nectar.
Here's Huddleston's list of top butterfly garden plants:
-- salvia (any species)
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