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One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.

~ W. E. Johns ~

From the GTG Garden and Greenhouse

Fall planting time is here. The new plants will be arriving shortly and I am looking forward to the cooler temperatures.
I am excited about the Saffron crocus bulbs. They add interest and color to fall gardens from Maine to Florida (Hardy zone 4-9). Butterflies love them too. Did you know they are easy to grow and the stigma can be harvested? Come over and take a look, we have both the domesticated and the wild varietes!

Have a wonderful Labor Day, Belle
Green Thumbs Galore LLC

Butterflies Galore

by Dava Stewart

Who doesn’t love butterflies? They are as beautiful as any tropical bloom, they flutter and shimmer, and make little children smile. Of course you want butterflies in your garden! So do I.

When I mentioned planting flowers specifically to attract butterflies my husband said, “Oh, you need a butterfly bush!” I do love the long, spectacular blooms of a buddleia, but I had a sneaking suspicion that there might be a little more to it than planting one type of bush. Butterflies have needs:

  • Host plants to lay eggs
  • Shelter from the wind
  • Sunshine
  • Plants for nectar
  • Puddles

A host plant is one where adult butterflies lay eggs. Several herbs serve as butterfly hosts, including dill, fennel, and parsley. Sunflowers, violets, and petunias are also good choices. Different varieties of butterflies thrive in different areas, so you may want to check to see if your local agricultural extension office offers any advice on what types of host plants the butterflies in your area prefer.

In addition to considering hosts, successful butterfly gardeners think about shelter. Butterflies are delicate and require protections from the wind. A row of hedge, or creative use of walls or fencing can provide a windbreak. Along with shelter, butterflies need sunshine. They are insects, and they are cold-blooded, so in order to fly and eat, they need to be at least 75 degrees. Carefully placed flat stones that warm in the sun probably feel like a luxury vacation spots to a butterfly.

I usually try to make sure there is something blooming in my garden most of the time, because flowers make me happy. They are also good for butterflies. The list of plants that attract butterflies with nectar is long; a few of my personal favorites are zinnias, coneflowers, nasturtiums, peonies, and cannas. I planted two new-to-me varieties of cannas this year, and have seen butterflies on them almost everyday! (Well, everyday that it hasn’t been raining, which means about three days this summer!)

One other consideration when planning to entice butterflies is massing groups of blooms together rather than spreading them around. Some plants mass themselves naturally--my coneflowers grow in great clumps--but if you are planting annuals, you may want to keep the idea of clustering in mind.

Setting out a shallow bowl of water or very wet sand in the garden will encourage puddling--when groups of male butterflies flock around wet puddle. There are butterfly feeders on the market that can bring butterflies closer to sitting areas and porches for easy observation--and a fun experience for kids of all ages.

The Penn State Extension office suggests “sugaring” the garden: mash overripe fruit and mix it with stale beer and either soak a sponge in it or paint the mixture onto tree limbs to entice less bold and brave butterflies. Or set a rock in your birdbath and top it off with a few slices of banana. One thing to NOT do is use pesticides. Butterflies don’t just have delicate wings, they are sensitive to most chemicals.

When I first started thinking about butterflies, and reading articles, it felt a bit overwhelming, or at least like I was in junior high science class again. But, after further consideration, I feel fairly confident that I can avoid pesticides, plant some herbs, more flowering plants, and put out a bowl of wet sand. Maybe I will even add a butterfly feeder. My garden may not have been a sanctuary for fluttering insects this season, but next year...

As fall is rapidly approaching, it’s time to mention the Green Thumbs Galore semi-annual driveway sale! The Fall Sale will be October 5-6, the first weekend of October, and if you are near or planning a trip to Chattanooga, we would love to meet you! It’s always fun to meet other gardeners in person, and hear about your gardens and learn what you love. So, if you get the chance, come on by and visit with us. We will remind you on our Facebook page, and in the next newsletter, but it’s time to start planning.


September in the Garden:

Wild Saffron Crocus

Domesticated Saffron Crocus