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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Butterflies and Hummingbirds - The Backyard Jungle and the Rose Garden


What do all gardeners want? Answer - Hummingbirds and butterflies. The birds are relatively easy to coax into the yard. They love bottles filled with red sugar-water. But what if someone like me really wants both without paying dollars for pennies worth of sugar-water, cleaning out feeders, and worrying about bees and ants going for the same syrup?



The other day, during the overlapping power outage and online shut-down, I saw a Hummingbird moving from flower to flower on the white Butterfly Bush I grew for shade in the back yard. We do not like being roasted by the setting sun, viewing our neighbors' backyards, or getting the glare of the sun in the winter. So I grew two Butterfly Bushes together and let bird-planted weeds grow up. We have a splendid Pokeweed as the third giant plant.



The bushes I bought or let grow have been dubbed The Jungle by Ranger Bob, who thinks in terms of landscaping. Instead, I think of Creation-scaping. As a result, we have a bird feeding zone that shades the bedroom-office.



I tried various plants in the zone next to our neighbors on Joye, but our rain and drought cycle killed the purchased plants without abundant watering. So we have a wall of tall plants which grew from the log fence I fashioned from tree-trimming. Birds love logs as perches, so they planted their favorite foods along that log fence.

Now all the plants - plus Elderberry bushes - grow six feet tall beside the log fence. Do I water spoiled commercial plants or let Creation lay a claim on the land? When it is gardener versus Creation, always bet on Creation. The plants and animals engineered for the land and climate will win over the ones so prettily photographed in the full-color gardening catalogs.

Ranger Bob planted a tool shed right in the middle of that natural fence, so it is framed by Elderberries. The shed is newly painted, very attractive, and useful.


I went outside and saw the Hummingbird, sipping from the purple flowers of the smaller Butterfly Bush. I approached, but the bird sped away. I was satisfied and decided to spend more time pruning both Butterfly Bushes (white and purple) to encourage more blooms, and more sippling.



However, one of the big attractions is the Hosta flower, that humble but popular plant often consigned to the darkest part of the garden. Hostas can get too much sun, but they enjoy more sun than most people allow. The special Hosta colors tend to be bleached by too much sun, but I am growing them for three reasons:
  1. Hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.
  2. Hostas are divided and multiply for free.
  3. They can fill in the rose garden and help push out the grassy weeds.
So I have three dominant and domineering plants for the flying rainbows - Butterfly Bush, Hostas, Trumpet Vine. The last one has consumed more water than Patton's Army, but it is too late now for regrets. After all, I have a total of two flowers on three vines!



Butterflies Flee
Spraying for mosquitoes is a popular, though useless, endeavor, almost as effective as Church Growth, but not as toxic. The spraying is a disaster for ladybugs and butterflies. Birds do a lot of feeding from the insects - hummingbirds too - so why shut down their food supply and ask where they have gone?

Our advantage is using no toxins and having a former dairy farm almost next door with the same policy. Almost Eden is full of plants and lacking toxins. Its combination of commercial plants and wildness is perfect for a broad selection of insects and birds, including some impressive hawks.

Our Creation Garden has a developing plan to make our little plot of Eden welcoming to butterflies.

 Little Joe Pye Weed is only $7.95 as a plant - from Grower's Exchange. Big Joe is already sold out for fall. It grows to 7 feet tall.


The Ace Number One Best Butterfly Plant is - Joe Pye Weed - And It Grows Easily
Many butterflies prefer a particular plant or a plant family for feeding and breeding.

However, nothing attracts butterflies in general like Joe Pye.

Here is a lot of information about Joe Pye, a plant as easily searched as it is to grow.

Must Have Butterfly Plant - See This Link

When I was reading about the best butterfly plants, one name was always at the top - Joe Pye. I thought some examples offered by the hoity-toity gardening magazines were too expensive.

So I found two reasonably priced Joe Pye plants at Growers Exchange and planted them last year. One was weed-eaten and seemd to disappear - but came back. I was impressed. The untouched sample grew well last summer, bloomed, and provided a riot of pollinator insects and butterflies, peaking at 7 feet but bowed down by rain-soaked blossoms. So this year I planted more of them. The perennial plants from before rose up and bloomed well.

Growers Exchange is already out of the big Joe Pye plants and is now selling only the Little Joe Pye, a shorter variety. I saw this before, certain butterfly plants (like milkweed) will sell out fast in the fall and also in the spring.



The Experience of the Creation Garden
I am still dealing with rampant grassy weed growth, but I enjoy the barbs tossed my way. My short answer is, "How many roses do you have?"

I have cut back on roses in favor of ground cover by mints, daisies, hostas, and Joe Pye - so far.

After Sassy has her walk in the morning, I stand still at the biggest Joe Pye group and watch across the garden and observe the close up view.

  • I always see large butterflies going from plant to plant, one variety and then another. Joe Pye brought them, and a procession of blooms can feed them.
  • Birds eye me as they land on favorite spots for feeding. Nothing is more productive for them than a mulched garden. 
  • Bees bend the Borage, Mint, and Daisy flowers. Up close, I see the Hover Flies going crazy around Joe Pye, where Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, and Wasps climb around the blooms. Smaller butterflies flutter in the same area - a regular convention hall and an ever-changing scene.
  • If I pull weeds, sitting on the ground, bunnies walk by me as if I do not exist. I may also see Ranger Bob's cat, who comes over for Cat Mint and hunting.
  • When Robins were nesting in the Crepe Myrtle, they warned me and tried to lead me away from their family. Today I saw their abandoned nest.
 "Welcome to the Creation Garden, where I am free to live.
I eat grubs and earthworms, but I also store earthworms in a big bunch."


My rosarian eye looks for problems, blooms, and deadwood. Today I decided to water the most productive areas for roses on the altar.
Using Milky Spore, I won a round against the Japanese Beetles, whose children are more destructive underground than the love-struck adults above. Doom is upon them all.