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Thursday, June 21, 2012

My New Butterfly Garden

Finally, the huge mound of topsoil in the backyard has been converted into something more attractive, Butterfly Garden Number 2! BG #1 is along the east wall of the house and gets morning sun. So now I should have about 10 full hours of butterfly action as the sun moves across the yard.

After pulling out weeds in the topsoil mound and the spot where I planted, I mixed in sphagnum peat moss and compost to the topsoil. To make the raised bed walls, I stacked two tiers of pavers. I didn't use mortar to bind them together because a) I might change my mind and want to move the walls a little and b) I heard somewhere that the loose bricks are good for drainage. I used this method for BG #1 last summer and it's working out really well.

On top, I put down a very light layer off organic mulch. I also added a little all-purpose fertilizer right after planting.

As for the flowers, I chose a variety of butterfly-attracting perennials in white, pink, purple and yellow. I really wanted all my garden flowers to be cool colors, but it's hard to have a decent butterfly garden without yellow. So, I decided not to be a control freak and added some yellow. I did it for Mother Nature, man.

Things should be blooming summer through fall. Which has me thinking that I should squeeze in some spring bulbs in there, too. Does the plant shopping ever end?

I arranged the plants according to height with three "Petite Snow" butterfly bush in the very back. They should get to be about 5' tall. I chose white butterfly bush because they can tolerate partial sun (according to the tag descriptions), while the darker varieties require full sun. Most of my garden gets full sun, except for one corner in the back which doesn't lighten up until later in the day. That's where I also planted Rudbeckia hirta, "Cherokee Sunset" which will do well in part shade. I also like the way the pink bee balm looks in front of the white butterfly bush.

Later, I may add some herbs and annuals like zinnia, dusty miller, cosmos and parsley in the front of the bed.
There's still a little work to do on those pavers, which are slightly crooked. But since I'm not going to bind them with mortar, I can fix that anytime.

Here's what the bed looked like as I was mapping out where to plant everything. I've since evened out and filled in the pavers so they don't look so crooked.

I'm already noticing a lot of insect action over there in the corner of my backyard and the plants have only been in the ground for about two hours. OK, so what I noticed were some flies on my butterfly bush, but I know the butterflies will show up for this party. They're just fashionably late this afternoon.

Here are some pictures of that corner of the yard when we moved in last summer. It's hard to appreciate just how tall those scary weeds were in this picture. I spent hours last summer and this spring pulling them up. 

The new butterfly garden is in the back left corner of the garden (shot above), behind that fallen arborvitae. Next spring, I'd like to plant some hydrangeas along that garage wall on the right, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Yuck. That was ugly. Let's look again at the after. By next summer, these plants should grow to fill in all the empty space. Won't that look great! And the tight spacing should help keep out weeds.
Here's what my Butterfly Garden #2 plan looked like:
And here's a breakdown of exactly what I planted. I took my list to the garden center and came home with almost everything. I'm just one goldenrod short of my complete plan. Oh yes, and the annuals and herbs in the front will have to wait until next month... or maybe next year. I'm perfectly happy with the way things are looking now. 

3 "Petite Snow" butterfly bush  (white)
1 Monarda, bee balm (pink)
2 Echinacea, Coneflower Magnus (purple)
2 Rudbeckia hirta, "Cherokee Sunset" (yellow/orange)
2 Liatris spicata "Kobold", Gayfeather (purple)
2 Yarrow, Saucy Seduction (pink)
3 Sedum Hybrid, "Autumn Joy" (pink to red)
1 Asclepias Tuberosa, "Hellow Sunshine" Butterfly Weed (yellow)
2 Solidago, Goldenrod (yellow)

There's also a swamp milkweed stuck in the back, but I'm not expecting too much from it. It looks more like a really tall skinny random weed with no signs of flowering anytime soon. Since I bought that one last month, my new rule is: I will only buy plants that are in bloom. 

It feels great to finally get rid of that ugly mound of soil and make something purty out of it. I'm also hoping this project, my biggest gardening one yet, will keep me out of the gardening centers for a the rest of the season, although that's not likely to happen.

 
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