Tag Archives: Butterfly gardening

Community Call for HELP with the HarborWalk Gardens and a Photography Workshop Offer You Won’t Want to Miss!!

Okay so I’m in a bit of a bind, perhaps of my own making, but a bind nevertheless. Two years ago there was a formal nationwide public call for art for the HarborWalk. My grand idea was to purchase a projector and audio equipment for outdoor screenings and show films on an inflatable screen at I4-C2, along with creating a film for our community. I was a semi-finalist. I am happy to see the benefits to the community stemming from the success of movie nights and appreciate very much the time and energy that has gone into making this vision a reality.

The dilemma is that the gardens surrounding I4-C2 are not at all looking their best and invasive weed species are beginning to take over, as they have already claimed the adjacent plots of land. I’d like the gardens to shine and to be a place of pride for the City. They could look so, so much better than they do in their current condition. The butterfly gardens are a low-maintenance garden however they do need some maintenance. Having a public native plants garden in our community is a wonderful asset and provides tremendous educational opportunities. My hope is to eventually donate programs but we have to solve the garden’s maintenance crisis first and foremost. We don’t have an outside crew to take care of the gardens this year and the DPW I have learned has far too many other more important responsibilities. The group that was planning to help water realized that they had taken on too much and will not be helping this summer.

As a result, we are having a meeting (not weeding) of “Friends of the HarborWalk”  this Sunday morning, July 27, at 9:00am, under the shade tree in front of the Gloucester House Restaurant, near the Schooner Lannon office. We are going to brainstorm about ways to fund basic needs for the gardens, for example, annually purchasing and applying compost/mulch to cut down on the weeding responsibilities. I am hoping businesses in the area that are benefiting directly or indirectly from movie night will also come and contribute their ideas, suggestions, and manpower.

And here is the deal. For the first ten people that sign up to become contributing members of the Friends of the HarborWalk, either through the comment section or by emailing me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com, I am giving a close-up photography workshop. We’ll hold the workshop in the garden and it will be identical to the one that I give at the Arnold Arboretum.

Bring your own coffee Sunday morning and we will provide the homemade doughnuts!

White milkweed asclepias incarnata Ice Ballet skippers ©Kim Smith 2014JPG

Blooming Today at the HarborWalk Butterfly Garden ~ Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet,’ or white milkweed, with skippers nectaring. There are over 140 different species of milkweed worldwide; 108 of these are found in North America.

Check Out the Native Wildflowers at the HarborWalk Tonight Before the Outdoor Screening of Wizard of Oz

Bee Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea Gloucester Harbor Walk Butterfly Gardens ©Kim Smith 2014. JPGPurple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

Yesterday afternoon and evening while weeding at the HarborWalk butterfly gardens I encountered a gorgeous male Summer Azure butterfly, lots of friendly Red Admirals, and myriad bees. If you are there at the HarborWalk tonight watching the The Wizard of Oz, stroll through the gardens and have a look at these beautiful native wildflowers in bloom today!Veronicastrum virginicum Bee Gloucester Harbor Walk Butterfly Gardens ©Kim Smith 2014

Veronicastrum virginicum

You may notice some bare spots in the garden, which will soon be filled! Hose spigots were just installed this week at the gardens and we now have an improved way to water!!!!! Up to this point, for the past several years, Lenny Linquata has graciously allowed the city to hook up hoses and fill watering cans at his restaurant spigot. Monarda didyma Bee Balm Gloucester Harbor Walk Butterfly Gardens ©Kim Smith 2014

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

See previous GMG posts for more information about Gloucester’s Summer Cinema:

Coming This Summer: Free Movie Night

Free Out Door Summer Cinema Series summer-cinema-free-movies Veronicastrum virginicum Gloucester Harbor Walk Butterfly Gardens ©Kim Smith 2014

Hellenium  Purple Prairie Clover Dalea Gloucester Harbor Walk Butterfly Gardens ©Kim Smith 2014JPGHelenium autumnale and Dalea purpurea make a cheery bee and butterfly attracting duo!

THANKS SO MUCH to Our Awesome and Super Wonderful Hard Working Friends of the HarborWalk Cleanup Volunteers

Lise Breen ©Joey Ciaramitaro 2014Lise Breen today at the HarborWalk, photo courtesy Joey Ciaramitaro

Thank you Beth Chiancola and Lise Breen for all your tremendous help today with the HarborWalk Cleanup. We are so appreciative, and so appreciative of the help given by Catherine Ryan, Susan Kelly, Jessie, George Ryan, Charles Ryan, Lise, and Beth on previous cleanup days. The gardens are finally beginning to show some life, with lots of new green growth emerging and now, with all the dried stalks removed, you can really see them springing back!

Happy Spring!

Vine from a HarborWalk cleanup day earlier in April

The Pictures Kim Didn’t Post-

FRIENDS OF THE HARBOR WALK ~ CLEAN UP POSTPONED UNTIL SUNDAY, APRIL 6, 2014

Due to rain predicted, clean up is postponed until Sunday, April 6th at 10:00am.  Thank you everyone who was and is planning to come. You don’t need to be a gardener to lend a hand and I will have extra pruners and rakes available.

Join us Sunday, April 6th at 10:00am (weather permitting). We are going to be cleaning up the HarborWalk butterfly gardens. Sharpen your pruners and come on down and learn about some of the native beauties planted at the gardens!

GHW I4-C2 view of general store

Friends of the HarborWalk Call for Volunteers Sunday Morning March 29th Clean Up

Please join us Sunday morning at 10:00am (weather permitting). We are going to be cleaning up the HarborWalk butterfly gardens. Sharpen your pruners and come on down and learn about some of the native beauties planted at the gardens!

Gloucester Harbor Walk Gus Foote-2

Lecture: Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden

On Thursday, March 6th, at 7:30pm I will be giving a slide presentation and lecture for the Holden Garden Club. The lecture is based on my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!, which I both wrote and illustrated.

Now is the perfect time of year to read Oh Garden, as we dream of spring awakenings and all the garden’s possibilities!

See the Events page of my website for upcoming lectures and film screenings open to the public.

Addendum to the post ~

Brian M. O’Connor, “happy me” asks in the comment section, “what beach or dock is Holden near?”

My response:

Hi Brian,

How you you? How is your beautiful daughter Amelia?

I am so blessed that Oh Garden has sold all around the country, as well as in Canada and England, and continues to do so. It has legs for a reason. The information within its pages continues to have relevance and inform. My book is primarily about garden design, with a tremendous amount of information about habitat gardening; how to create a welcoming haven for people, butterflies, and songbirds; how to create a fragrant garden, and beautiful Gloucester gives it a sense of place. I wrote Oh Garden for my children, and primarily for young families just starting out with a garden, and for people who want a new look to their garden, to try something new and give them a fresh way of thinking about their existing garden.

One reason I chose my publisher, David R. Godine, is because he has a fabulous backlist catalogue; books don’t end up in the remand pile, which is the fate of most non-self published books today if they aren’t number one best sellers.

Thanks so much Brian for the question!

Best wishes to you and your family.

oh-garden-front-cover

Sign Up for My Column on Habitat Gardening

American Robin American Holly Ilex opaca © Kim Smith 2014JPGBird Food!  ~ American Robin and American Holly (Ilex opaca)

My regular readers are aware, as are my fellow GMG contributors, that I write a monthly column/newsletter on gardening, with a focus on designing welcoming habitats for birds and butterflies. My readership has grown steadily, I think largely based on the fifteen or so habitat garden design lectures that I give each year (See the Lecture Program Page on my blog) and the newsletter is now read mostly in New England, but also throughout the US, England, Canada, and Mexico.  As does my book, the columns contain a wealth of information on creating habitat gardens, how to attract birds and butterflies to our gardens, and stories about local wildflowers and wildlife. Oftentimes readers write and I find it wonderfully gratifying when they share their success stories with what they are feeding and planting to attract birds and butterflies to their gardens.

The newsletter began awhile back while I was writing a bi-monthly column for the regional newspaper the North Shore Planet. Reader’s who lived beyond the area of distribution of the newspaper became interested in the columns and it was easy to send the columns via email. The columns are in the process of being archived and they will eventually be featured on a page of their own on my blog. If in the meantime you would like to receive via email my monthly column, please email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com.

Winterberry Ilex verticillata © Kim Smith 2014Winterberry (Ilex verticilatta)

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden is available through my publisher’s website at David R. Godine, Publisher.

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden

At this time of year, with the holidays knocking at our doors and the scramble for gift ideas beginning, I try to remember to post excerpts and information about my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden (which I both wrote and illustrated), and “The Pollinator Garden” lecture that I gave last evening in Pepperel reminded me to do so again this year. My publisher, Mr. Godine, always thanks me for this endeavor!

We sold a good stack of books last night and I was so appreciative for the opportunity to present my program to an interested audience engaged in learning more about the connection between what we plant and the pollinators we invite to our gardens. Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! speaks to both the greater and smaller concepts in garden-making and is a how-to design tutorial that covers the gamut from creating the framework to what to plant to attract the tiniest of butterflies. The design concepts are universal, and although set in Gloucester, Oh Garden makes for a thoughtful gift for anyone on your holiday gift-giving list!

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! sells for only $14.00 on Amazon, which is a $21.00 value off the publisher’s list price of $35.00.

Click here to purchase a copy of Oh Garden.

Front Door Cosmos Kitty ©Kim Smith 2009

From my book’s introduction ~

We all carry within us the image of a home to create and a garden to tend. Perhaps you dream, as I do, of a welcoming haven to foster family bonds and friendships and to rejoice in life’s journey. The garden and the home to which it belongs becomes a memory catcher to weave a life’s tapestry.

To imagine a garden paradise, one must live in one’s home and listen to its own particular music. Gradually, by degrees, the idea of the garden will grow. A home and a garden should look as though they had grown up together and will, when one takes the time and necessary thought. A garden cannot be hurriedly created. Delicious, blissful pleasure is derived from the garden’s use as a continuation of the home.

Our gardens provide a safe harbor from hectic lives, a place to celebrate life and an opportunity to express our creativity. The garden is an inviting sanctuary to guide one through the rhythms and harmonies of the natural world. Planted to nurture the imagination and hearten the soul, a “new” cottage garden is a whimsical, exuberant intermingling of scented flowers and foliage, fresh fruit, and savory herbs.

As a designer, I believe I am here to channel ideas for the benefit of many. This book is my communication of a profound desire to share with readers the immeasurable joy gleaned from creating a personal paradise of one’s own making.

The illustrations are of flowers, songbirds, and butterflies I love to draw and to paint, and selected because they only become more beautiful when intimately observed.

A poetic world lies waiting to be discovered. Let us open the garden gate and take a step within.

Lecture Wednesday Night at the Pepperell Garden Club: The Pollinator Garden

7- HW Summer ©Kim Smith 2012Gloucester HarborWalk

On Wednesday evening, November 13th, at 7 pm, I will be giving my program, “The Pollinator Garden,” for the Pepperell Garden Club. Following the rhythm of the seasons, I present a slide show and lecture demonstrating how to create a welcoming haven for bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Native plants and examples of organic and architectural features will be discussed based on their value to particular vertebrates and invertebrates. I hope you will come join me!

6- HW Great Spangled Fritillary ©Kim Smith 2012 copyGreat Spangled Fritillary at the Gloucester HarborWalk

Getting Ready for the Gloucester Garden Tour

Jay Ramsey Farm Creek © Kim Smith 2013

Jay Ramsey (right) and crew Mauricio (left) and Mike (center)

On Tuesday, Jay Ramsey and his hard-working and dedicated crew from Farm Creek Landscaping, Mike and Mauricio, spent the morning whipping the HarborWalk Gardens into shape for Saturday’s Gloucester Garden Tour. I will be giving guided tours of the butterfly gardens at the HarborWalk on Saturday at 1:00 and at 2:00. The tours will begin under the Tulip Trees in St. Peter’s Square.

Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea © Kim Smith 2013 copy

Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

One of  the more fanciful North American wildflowers that you’ll see on the tour is the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), which is just beginning its florescence; typically July through August. With elegant, thread-like ferny foliage and charming one-inch flowerheads, this member of the Legume Family (Fabaceae) also adds nitrogen to the soil. The seeds of Dalea purpurea are enjoyed by many songbirds and the nectar-rich rose-purple and gold flowers are attractive to myriad species of butterflies and bees. Purple Prairie Clover grows well in average garden loom, as well as sandy soil, and it is often used for erosion control. Dalea purpurea grows a deep taproot and, once established, it is nearly impervious to drought.

Visit the Gloucester Garden Tour website for information on ticket sales.

Coneflower and Bee -2 © Kim Smith 2013Echinacea and Bee at the HarborWalk

New Butterfly Garden for the Children’s Campus at Philips Andover

SHED Children's Campus chicks © Kim Smith 2013Native Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) for the Hummingbirds

This week I, along with a wonderful group of volunteers, am installing the new butterfly and hummingbird garden that I designed for the Children’s Campus at Philips Academy Andover. We also got lots of help with planting from children and chickens. Chickens in the garden are lots of fun for the kids and I especially love them for the always excellent chicken poop fertilizer provided. The chicks were running freely around the new garden however, we were all watching out for them because the hungry mama hawk hovering in a neighboring tree was also very interested in the chickens.

SHED Children's Campus chickens and kids ©Kim Smith 2013

Linda Shottes-Bouchard, the director of the children’s program, and I met this past spring at one of the lectures I gave in Andover. Linda is a true dynamo and wonderfully hands-on director–she practically hired me on the spot, and then organized the planting to coincide with this particular week, when 100 volunteers from Liberty Mutual are arriving throughout the week to lend a hand with campus improvements. More from the new gardens, including a Fairy Garden, coming soon!

SHED Children's Campus kids & chickens ©Kim Smith 2013

Many Thanks to the Positively Most Awesome Community Ever!

The Cape Ann Monarch Milkweed Project was positively a resounding success. Thank you to everyone who ordered and picked up your milkweed plants. Thank you to Joey who turned my small seed of an idea into a fabulous community-wide project and who also very kindly offered Captain Joe and Sons for mug up and pick up. Thank you to Felicia for taking valuable time from writing the world’s-greatest-cookbook-ever and spending the entire morning making and serving coffee and Sicilian gigilani cookies (I know that is totally misspelled) and for helping with the plants and for just being a great friend. Thank you to all my GMG fellow contributors and all the FOBs for coming, and for everyone’s enthusiasm in the project.

And, most importantly, the Monarchs thank you!!!

We have exactly fourteen plants remaining and all fourteen are spoken for. After all the plants are picked up and the money totaled, we will have enough to make a donation to the Rocky Neck Cultural Center. So thank you again. I am very inspired by the success of the program and plan to later in the summer have a Cape Ann Monarch Aster and Goldenrod Program.

Monarch Butterfles Eastern Point Gloucester MA © Kim Smith 2012

Monarch Butterflies at Eastern Point

How to Plant and Care for Your Milkweed Plants

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) has a taproot. Plants with taproots do not like to be disturbed once established so it is best to plant your Common Milkweed seedlings as soon as possible. Common Milkweed is not too fussy about soil and is the milkweed we see growing in fields, roadsides, dunes, and meadows. It can reach up to six-feet in height, but more commonly grows two- to four-feet. Common Milkweed spreads by underground shoots and by seed dispersal.

The Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are well-rooted year-old plants and can be planted in the garden now, or within the next month or so. Marsh Milkweed grows best in good garden soil and/or moist areas. Marsh Milkweed is clump forming and does not spread by underground shoots.

Both milkweed species prefer full sun, but will take some slight shade. Plant with the soil line equal to the soil line in the pot. Place a stake nearby so that you do not step on your little milkweed seedling. Water gently. Check frequently on your milkweed plant until it is fully established. Water when dry, but do not over water. Monitor for milkweed aphids. Milkweed aphids are tiny soft-bodied orange insects. If you do see any aphids, gently wash them away with water; no soap or strong pesticides needed!

Milkweed seed pod bl-wh ©Kim Dmith 2012

GMG Monarch-Milkweed Mug Up This Saturday!

Update: Milkweed Plants Arrived Thursday and are  ready to go! See you Saturday morning!!!

Hooray–our milkweed plants shipped from Missouri Monday and should arrive to Gloucester by Thursday!!!

Plants will be available for pick up at Captain Joe and Sons, 95 East Main Street, Saturday morning at 9:00am and we will be there all morning until noon. Felicia is helping and we will have coffee for everyone. Written instructions will be provided on how to take care of your plants.  Looking forward to seeing you all at the first ever Monarch~Milkweed Mug Up!

I did not collect the funds ahead of time. Please everybody,  if you ordered plants, be sure to pick-up Saturday morning. I am counting on you!! If the project is successful, we will do this again later in the season, with Seaside Goldenrod and New England Asters, but we can only have another plant sale if everyone honors their commitment. Thank you!! 

For more detailed information, see previous posts:

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

Cape Ann Milkweed Project ~ Last day to order plants

WOW and WONDEFUL—150 milkweed plants ordered!!! (Actually, 190 plants were ordered!!)

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Monarch Butterfly Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed

WOW and WONDEFUL—150 milkweed plants ordered!!!

Thank you to everyone participating in our Cape Ann Milkweed Project!

Monarch Butterfly milkweed Good harbor Beach ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Butterfly Nectaring at Common Milkweed ~ Good Harbor Beach

Milkweed may not be for everyone’s garden; even if you did not order plants, you are welcome to come on down to the dock Saturday morning, the 18th of May, and learn more about the Monarch-milkweed connection. The plants are being shipped on Monday the 13th and I will keep you updated on their progress.

Cape Ann Milkweed Project ~ Last day to order plants

Monarch Butterfly Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed

Order Your Milkweed Plants Today!

In case you missed the details see Sunday’s Post: Cape Ann Milkweed Project

Tonight I am placing the order for the milkweed plants. Please get your orders in.

Thank you to Everyone participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!!!

Monarch Butterfly Twins ©Kim smith 2011

Newly Emerged Monarch Butterflies.  I called these two butterflies the” Twins,”  because they completed every stage of their life cycle within moments of each other, including pupating and emerging from their chrysalides.

Cape Ann Milkweed Project ~ Place your orders today

Order Your Milkweed Plants Today!

Monarch Chrysalis on milkweed rib ©Kim Smith 2011Monarch Chrysalis on Rib of Common Milkweed Leaf

Everyone who wrote in yesterday and placed an order has been recorded. Anyone interested in ordering either Common or Marsh Milkweed today, please place your order in the comment section of this post or yesterday’s post, which explains the project, and includes all details. Don’t forget to specify whether you are interested in Common or Marsh Milkweed and how many plants you would like.

Thank  you so much to everyone who is participating. Keep the orders coming!

Monarch Caaterpillars Feeding on Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Caterpillars Feeding on Milkweed in the Summer…

Monarch Willow tree ©Kim Smith 2012 copy

Equals Millions of Monarchs in the Fall!!!

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

Monarch Butterfly Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chryslais ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chrysalis

Order Your Milkweed Plants Today!

In March I shared an article about bringing back the Monarch Butterflies. Great interest in planting milkweed was expressed by many. The way to bring as many Monarchs as possible to our region is to help recreate the butterfly’s habitat in our own gardens. The number one way to do this is by planting native wildflowers, milkweed for the summer caterpillars, and asters and goldenrod for the fall migrants. Number two is to make a commitment not to use pesticides, which will indiscriminately kill all the creatures that your milkweed plants invite to your garden.

Monarch Butterfly Eggs Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith

Monarch Eggs on Common Milkweed ~ see the tiny yellow pinhead-sized dots on the top of the upper leaves of the milkweed plants (click to view larger)

Milkweed is the only food plant of the Monarch caterpillar and the flower is a fantastic source of nectar for myriad species of bees and butterflies.

So many GMG readers wrote in requesting milkweed plants that Joey has very generously offered his place of business—Captain Joe and Sons—as our go-to-place for picking up plants!! It’s going to be a super fun morning–stop by with your coffee, visit, learn about milkweed and Monarchs, and pick up your order.

Please place your order today or tomorrow. I am not pre-collecting the money and am fronting the funds to purchase plants. I don’t want to have dozens of homeless plants, so I am asking everyone to please be on the honor system.

We are ordering two types of milkweed. The cost is 7.00 per plant, which will come in a 3.5 inch square pot. The plants are on the smallish side however, that is the ideal size for shipping and transplanting milkweed. I am writing instructions for planting and they will be provided at the time of purchase.

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011

Monarch Caterpillars J-Shape on Common Milkweed Getting Ready to Turn into a Chrysalis

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the milkweed we see most typically growing in our dunes, meadows, roadsides, and fields. It grows quickly and spreads vigorously by underground runners. This is a great plant if you have an area of your garden that you want to devote entirely to milkweed. It prefers full sun, will tolerate some shade, and will grow in nearly any type of soil. The flowers are dusty mauve pink and have a wonderful honey-hay sweet scent.

Marsh Milkweed (Aclepias incarnata) is more commonly found in marshy areas, but it grows beautifully in gardens. It does not care for dry conditions. These plants are very well-behaved and are more clump forming, rather than spreading by underground roots. The flowers are typically a brighter pink than Common Milkweed.

Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chryslais ©Kim Smith 2011.JPG

Monarchs deposit their eggs readily on both types of milkweed and in my garden I grow Common Milweed and Marsh Milkweed side-by-side.

The cost of the plants includes shipping from Missouri. Hopefully everyone will be good and if they place an order, will honor their commitment. If there is any money beyond what was spent on plants and shipping we will donate it to the ongoing fundraising drive for the Rocky Neck Cultural Center purchase of the beautiful center on Wonson Street.

Plant pick-up is at Captain Joe and Sons, 95 East Main Street, Gloucester, on Saturday, May 18th from 9:00am to 12noon. If you cannot pick up your plants at that time, please ask a friend.

My order to the nursery is being placed on Tuesday night, so please get your orders in asap. Place Your Milkweed Order in the comment section of this post. Be sure to indicate which type of milkweed, Common or Marsh, and number of plants.

Our deepest thanks to everyone who is participating. 

Monarch Butterfiles Female left Male right Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012

Female and Male Monarch Butterfly on Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Rain date pick up: Sunday, May 19th from 9am to 12noon.

Happy Earth Day and Habitat Gardening 101

To celebrate Earth Day (Earth Week-Earth Month-Everyday is Earth Day!), I am beginning a new series on GMG titled Habitat Gardening 101. The series is based on the lectures that I give to area conservation groups, garden clubs, libraries, and schools and is designed to provide information on the relationships between our native flora and fauna, and how to translate that information to your own garden. You will find in this series information on how to support and encourage to your garden a wide variety of wildlife, including songbirds, butterflies, bees, moths, skippers, hummingbirds, and small mammals, and the trees, wildflowers, shrubs, vines, and groundcovers that sustain these beautiful creatures.

This series could just as well be titled Beauty in Our Midst because there are so many gems to be found along our shoreline, meadows, fields, wetlands, dunes, woodlands, and roadsides. Although the series will cover a wide array of flora and wildlife, the first posts will be about several butterfly attracting trees and shrubs because they are currently in bloom. Coming Wednesday, the North American native Pussy Willow will be featured. For today, the following is one of my Top Ten Tips for Attracting Lepidoptera to Your Garden.

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Habitat Gardening 101 Tip #1: Plant Caterpillar Food Plants

So you want to attract tons of butterflies to your garden and you plant lots of gorgeous, colorful nectar-rich plants—and that is wonderful. To your garden will come many beautiful, albeit transient, butterflies, along with an array of many different species of beneficial pollinators. However, if you want butterflies to colonize your garden, in other words, to experience the grand beauty of the creature through all its stages of life, from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult, you must also plant caterpillar food plants.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar egg fennel ©Kim Smith 2013

Black Swallowtail Butterfly Egg on Fennel (the pinhead-sized golden yellow dot)

Each species of butterfly caterpillar will only eat from a family of plants it has coevolved a relationship with over millennia. We call this a caterpillar food plant, host plant, or larval food plant.

Perhaps you may recall that the Monarch Butterfly only deposits her eggs on milkweed plants. The Black Swallowtail Butterfly deposits her eggs on, and the caterpillars feast on, members of Umbelliferae (Apiaceae), or carrot family of plants, including carrots, parsley, fennel, dill, and Queen Anne’s Lace. Some caterpillars, like the stunning Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feed from several plant families, like those of Magnoliaceae and Rosaceae, which species include the Wild Black Cherry, the Tulip Tree, and the Sweet Bay Magnolia.

  Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Eating Parsley

If you see a green, black and yellow striped and spotted caterpillar munching on your parsley plant, it is not a Monarch caterpillar; it is a Black Swallowtail caterpillar (I am often asked this question). Monarch caterpillars are striped yellow, black, and white, always. You will never find a Black Swallowtail caterpillar munching on milkweed; likewise you will never find a Monarch caterpillar eating your parsley and fennel.

Another question frequently asked is, if I invite caterpillars to my garden, will they devour all the foliage. The answer is, for the most part, no. The damage done is relatively minimal, the plant generally recovers quickly, and bear in mind too, that plants have evolved with many mechanisms to discourage their complete destruction. Remember, the plant was responsible for inviting the butterfly to its flower in the first place!

 Black Swallowtail Caterpillar fennel ©Kim Smith 2013

Note too, that if you invite butterflies to your garden to deposit their eggs, please don’t turn around and spray pesticides, which will kill all, indiscriminately. A habitat garden, by its very definition, is an organic garden, which means no herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.

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Feel free to send any and all questions, suggestions for a topic, or curiosity, to the comment section under each post.

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Cape Ann Milkweed Project Update: Because of the chilly spring weather, milkweed shoots are slow to emerge.

Link to a list of lectures and workshops at Kim Smith Designs

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