Monday, September 17, 2012

Butterfly Garden

The story of our butterfly garden:
When my husband and I lived in Jacksonville, I worked at a zoo and botanical garden. It was the most inspiring place I have ever worked and sometimes I miss it very much. Working at a zoo and garden I learned and experienced many new things but one of my favorite was how to create a butterfly garden. We had this amazing garden tended by volunteers in front of our Education Building and it was always bustling with activity. Regular visitors were butterflies (of course), birds, rabbits, hummingbirds, bees and snakes. The bright colors were dazzling and uplifting.

I learned that a successful butterfly garden must have a couple things- first it must have a variety of brightly colored flowers. Different species of butterfly are drawn to different colors and shapes of flowers. The other thing a garden must have is a host plant for the larva (caterpillars) to eat. So the way it works is the bright flowers lure in the butterflies and then when they see the host plant they lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves of the host. Popular hosts in Florida include parsley, dill, milkweed, and citrus. Each butterfly prefers a different host and usually they strip that plant of all its leaves.

When we moved to our house, we wanted to create a butterfly garden of our own. We live on an acre of land, so it was just a matter of finding the right spot. We found a sunny location and started planting. Some plants made it and others didn't and each year since we have had to replace some of the things that didn't survive- due to either the winter or our hot summers. Sadly, most of my host plants bit the dust (or were eaten to death) and because I was so pregnant this summer, we didn't plant any new ones. That will be on the agenda for the next spring/summer.

We have some beautiful plants and a ton of daily visitors. I snapped these pictures a couple of days ago, and since then, we have had a new friend move in. Much to our surprise, a gopher tortoise has decided to call our garden his own. I am delighted, although he has dug two pretty large holes (I guess he didn't like the first). Luckily he has not unearthed any plants.

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