It’s National Pollinator Week. An inspiring time of year to honor all of our little pollinating friends. Several years ago I started a bee and butterfly garden on the southeast side of my property. It’s grown from a 10′ x 4′ kidney bean into a border that runs the length and width of my backyard.
I add bee and butterfly attracting plants every year. This year’s additions include Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ (Joe-pye weed), Rudbeckia laciniata (Black-eyed Susan), Sedum ‘Carl’, Monarda ‘Coral Reef’ (Bee balm). Liatris ligulistylis, Echineacea purpurea ‘Pica Bella’ (Coneflowers), Vernonia fasiculata (Common Ironweed) and Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ (Goldenrod). My soil is hard–packed clay, so even with tilling and amendments, it takes the plants a bit to get settled. But, the tiny plants are doing their jobs as I’ve already seen Red Admirals, fritillaries, and a stream of yet-to-be identified bees, caterpillars, butterflies and moths.
While I was making all these grand efforts at attracting a wide species of pollinators, I was also growing herbs and annuals in containers. Guess what? I found out that the butterflies and other pollinators also LOVE many of my herbs, too. Soooooo, if you’ve dreamed of a butterfly garden, but don’t have a large space in your yard, be encouraged. You can “go herbal” and easily attract butterflies to your deck or porch by planting a few well-chosen herbs and annuals in a container.
Which butterflies would you like to attract? I recommend Eastern Black Swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes). These delightful butterflies can be found east of the Rockies as far north as Canada and south down to Mexico. Bold and beautiful, the Eastern Black Swallowtail colors are easily spotted from a distance, and easily identified from other butterflies by the curved tips dangling from their hind wings. These tips often look like an insect head to other predators. However, when snapped at by a hungry bird, the clever Swallowtail is able to fly away leaving only a portion of its wings with the confused predator. Ingenious. (And fun to watch….as long as the Swallowtail is quicker than the predator!)
Eastern Black Swallowtails are attracted to any plants of the carrot family as well as….you guessed it, herbs. I put together a simple Swallowtail-attracting-garden by planting parsley and dill (host plants for Swallowtail caterpillars), along with oregano and orange zinnias (nectar plants). It’s a great looking container and one the these butterflies will love. My container sits in full sun (it can handle some shade), out of the wind. I make sure to sure to keep it watered, but not saturated.
Get on board with the festivities of National Pollinator Week, go herbal and plant a Swallowtail garden! Be sure to check back later this week (Thursday). I”ll be posting on identifying Swallowtail eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis. After all, when you’re special guests come to your garden, you’ll want to know who they are!
- Gift #29: Swallowtail caterpillar (anordinarymiracleday.wordpress.com)
- Black Swallowtail Caterpillar: Persnickity Portrait Subject (reinventingclaire.com)