Flutter by Butterfly
Butterflies in your own garden...
An article by our feature writer Christine Walkden
Did you know that there are over 50 varieties of butterflies in Britain, but I bet you have never seen that many in your own garden? I certainly haven’t
So what can we do to encourage more butterflies and moths to visit our gardens and bring the delight of watching them on our plants?
Butterflies and moths are relatively delicate insects and will benefit from being sheltered. This shelter may be created by using trees and shrubs or by erecting an artificial windbreak, which should reduce the wind speed but not stop it totally.
They also benefit from warmth, so put those plants which will attract them in the sunniest position in your garden. Ideally the sunniest spot should have the sun on it for between 5-6 hours per day.
Butterflies also need water just like we do so maintain a muddy puddle in the sunny part of your garden or alternatively fill a bucket with sand and enough water to make the sand damp. You will then see the butterflies landing on the bucket. If it’s a nicely painted or ornamental bucket it will add interest to your border.
Butterflies need two types of plants to develop fully. Some plants to provide nectar for the adults to eat, while other plants will provide food for their offspring. Thus it’s important to provide a wide range of plants in the garden to attract as wide a range of butterflies and moths as possible.
Probably the commonest plant known to gardeners for its ability to attract insects is the Butterfly bush – so called because in the summer it can have hundreds of visitors all enjoying the flowers as much as you do. The shrub produces cone shaped flowers in profusion.
Buddleja ‘Royal Red’ produces deep purple-red flowers up to 50cms in length, while ‘White Profusion’ has yellow-eyed white flowers. This variety is considered by many to be the best white flowering Buddleja available. Both plants grow reasonably large 3x3m after about 5 years and may be maintained in a compact habit by pruning. Both varieties are fragrant and their sweet scent in the garden is a delight to enjoy on a warm summers day.
Another great plant for fragrance and for attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects is the honeysuckle. The plant may grow up to 3.5 m tall but may be trained up trellis or along wires against a wall, or may be grown as a free-standing shrub, adding colour and fragrance to the shrub border.
In the herbaceous border why not try the Agastaches. Many varieties are available in a range of colour so select the ones that will contrast well with your other plants. Butterflies, moths and bees love these plants.
Remember those plants with fragrance will tend to attract all those beautifully coloured and patterned butterflies so plant sweet rocket, a deliciously scented plant producing white, violet or purple flowers from May through to August. Lavender is available in white, pink, and blue or purple depending on the variety. They all produce aromatic flowers during the summer.
Golden Rod with its clump-forming habit produced feathery, golden flowers in late summer and autumn while an evergreen climbing ivy will provide winter nectar for the few remaining butterflies in your garden.
During the summer fill your containers with marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, coneflowers, miniature sunflowers, asters, small scabious, red valerian, and verbena. You don’t even need a garden to attract lovely butterflies and moths, well-grown plants in containers, raised beds and hanging baskets will supply just what most insects require. All you need do is sit back and enjoy the flying displays during the summer.