I’ve wanted a butterfly garden for a while so last fall I finally decided to make it happen. My husband had been trying to convince me to scrap my one large overgrown flowerbed but instead of getting rid of it I decided to turn it into my butterfly garden. The bed was tiny when we first dug it but it grew to the size it is today when I turned it into a lasagna bed. A lasagna bed is one where you layer items that compost easily. As the layers decompose they add nutrients to your soil. I laid paper, coffee grounds, manure, and leaves over the entire bed. Eventually I couldn’t keep up with the layering process so I scrapped that idea.
Be careful with invasive plants!
On my next try I ended up planting things without having any real rhyme or reason. One of my biggest regrets was planting trumpet vine (campsis radicans) . The vine can be very invasive! I had shoots coming up all over the garden. I planted the trumpet vine a couple of years ago and am still pulling out new sprouts to this day. If you are going to plant it – because it is beautiful with its bright red trumpet like flowers and because it attracts hummingbirds – try to contain it! I can’t stress that enough. Although if you don’t need a permanent vine and are willing to try an annual instead I’d recommend Hyacinth Bean Vine (lablab purpureus). I’ve had more success attracting hummers to my Hyacinth Bean Vines than I ever did with the Trumpet Vine. Lesson learned!
In spite of the unruly plantings, the bed did have one thing going for it, a brick sidewalk I laid in it. We also added a bluebird box on a post for our feathered friends. So there I was with a messy overgrown weed patch that my hubby wanted to annihilate. There was no way I was going to let him get rid of it so I set out to redo the entire thing.
The first thing I did was remove almost all the plants. I replanted some in other beds and others I transferred to my plant dump. (A bed where all overflow plants go, kinda like plant storage.) I spread two loads of mushroom soil over the ground and added peat moss and sand. My soil is clay soil and this flowerbed sits in the lower section of my yard so it tends to get a bit soggy if we get a lot of rain. My goal is to improve drainage but I may end up trying to divert the water away from this bed altogether. That’s another project for another time!
Take advantage of end of season sales on plants.
One of the benefits of starting this redo last fall was that my local plant nursery was having a clearance event on perennials. Jackpot! Don’t be afraid to take advantage of clearance plants. A lot of times nurseries want to get rid of varieties that are done blooming for the season. They’d rather sell them at a reduced price than have to overwinter them so as long as they look healthy grab them! I scored a couple of clearance shrubs at Lowe’s, too. I knew I wanted nectar rich plants but I wanted to try to incorporate host plants, too. While researching which plants would be good choices for the bed I decided to include plants and shrubs that could benefit birds also. My butterfly garden has now officially grown into a butterfly – bee – bird garden.
Favorites plants for pollinators
These are some of the plants I chose for my pollinator’s bed. Learn more about them here:
- Purple Coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
- Aster – Aster
- Shasta Daisy – Leucanthemum × superbum
- Black-Eyed Susans – Rudbeckia hirta
- Bee Balm – Monarda
- Sedum or Stonecrop – Crassulaceae
- Gayfeather – Liatris
- Catmint – Nepeta
- Sage – Salvia
- Red Hot Poker – Kniphofia
- Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa
- Queen of the Prairie – Filipendula rubra
- Lungwort – Pulmonaria officinalis
- Beardtongue – Penstemon
- Arrowwood Viburnum – Viburnum dentatum
- Hibiscus – Hibiscus
- Stoke’s Aster – Stokesia laevis
- Rose – Rosa
- Chokeberry – Aronia
- Lily – Lilium
- Spirea – Spiraea
- Yucca – Yucca
- Daylily – Hemerocallis
- Hyacinth Bean Vine – Lablab purpureus
Try to stagger bloom times to ensure constant food supply
My pollinator’s garden has gone through a huge transformation. It doesn’t look like too much right now because some of the plantings have been stunted by all the rain we’ve received. I’m confident that once things dry out and the plants become more established this garden will come to life.
To make this bed irresistible to pollinators I’ve selected plants that bloom from Spring all the way through Fall and included shrubs that will offer berries and shelter for birds over Winter. I don’t plan on adding anymore plants but I’d like to add a water source for my winged friends and I’ll be setting out large rocks to give the butterflies a spot to sun themselves. I can’t wait to share more pictures over the next few months.