THE WILDLIFE HERB GARDEN PLANTS FOR BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES

 

DWARF BLUE BUTTERFLY BUSH, BRONZE FENNEL, RED HOT POKER, GRAPPENHALL LAVENDER,  HOT LIPS SALVIA and YARROW 

Gardens brimming with birds, butterflies and other wildlife provide a healthy environment for plants and people. Diversity is the watchword for wildlife gardening.  Plants of different heights, colors, and different bloom times provide habitats needed for resting, reproduction, hibernating and feeding, which will attract the maximum number of different kinds of visitors.

While the plants are an important aspect of a wildlife garden, there are other ways to make these beautiful creatures part of our garden. For instance,  butterflies tend to like it warm and planting a diverse habitat will help to give them places to, not only, spend the night and find moisture, but also to bask. In Rick Mikula's excellent book Garden Butterflies of North America, he writes of the need Butterflies have for basking in the sun. Since their internal muscles must warm to 80 degrees for flight, providing light colored basking areas lets them rev up their engines faster. He suggests a butterfly waterless pond. He makes his in the shape of a butterfly, but any shape will do. You make an indentation in the soil, line it with plastic, add a few similar in size light colored stones or sand and stand back. He adds that if morning dew collects the butterflies will find this moisture when they come to bask.  Of course, the sidewalk will work too, but it is not as much fun.

Please don’t spray the garden with chemical pesticides or systemics.  Even natural controls can harm birds and butterflies. The goal is to create a balance where nature takes control. Oh, and, watch the Bug Zappers. They kill night flying moths, but don't do any damage to daytime flies and mosquitoes.

The following six plants are a start for making your garden, not only a successful wildlife habitat, but also a successful garden. These six plant are rated zone 5 through 11.

 

DWARF BLUE BUTTERFLY BUSH (Buddleia davidii)

 

These bushes, sometimes called summer lilacs, are really butterfly airports. Their sweet, honey fragrance attracts butterflies of all kinds. Dwarf Blue is one of the tidier butterfly bushes. However, the title dwarf is misleading because it is the leaves and the flowers that are small and not the overall size of the bush.

Because the leaves are smaller the bush tends to grow a little slower and this slow growth creates a better formed shrub. While the other davidii's need yearly or bi-yearly pruning, this bush only needs occasional pruning of dead branches or for a little shape. If you garden in zones 5 or 6 they will probably die back in the winter and you will prune them off to the ground like other butterfly bushes. Dwarf Blue Butterfly Bush is hardy to zone 5, tolerant of blazing hot sun, and able to grow in heavy soil with adequate drainage. Dwarf Blue Butterfly Bush is not really blue either. But, it must have a touch of blue in it because it goes well with pinks. Planted with Magic Carrousel Miniature Pink Roses, it makes a great haven for all of us. A great way to involve kids in the garden is to introduce them to butterfly gardening. Like all endeavors, the more you or your kids know about the different kinds of butterflies and their habits, the more interesting their world will become. 

Butterfly bushes are also a favorite of hummingbirds, which contrary to popular belief, actually do visit flowers that are not red. Other birds are also attracted to the protective branches for nesting and for perching on while surveying for insects.

 

BRONZE FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare)

 

Mature Bronze Fennel