The Perfect Garden Isn’t Perfect

| By JeanAnn Taylor |

Few things in life are as enjoyable as watching butterflies flit from flower to flower. No matter your age, from toddlers to seniors, these enchanting sprites bring joy and life to our backyards. For this reason, it has become popular to add ‘butterfly gardens’ into our landscape plans.

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The butterfly begins as a caterpillar, eating its own eggshell as soon as it emerges. As it grows, it eats the leaves from its host plant. It will molt and crawl out of its skin several times before turning into a chrysalis. This metamorphosis is complete when the butterfly finally emerges. From this moment on, it will search for flowers that offer sweet nectar, safety from the harsh elements of nature, and a place where the next generation of butterflies can sustain life. To attract these delightful insects to your garden, you must not only create a beautiful space for your eyes, you must give them what they need to survive.

Large swaths of red, pink, yellow and orange flowers will attract butterflies – the brighter the better. Tube-shaped flowers are conducive as butterflies uncurl their ‘tongues’ to suck nectar. While butterflies search for food in the same beautiful flowers we desire in our summer gardens – asters, petunias, bee balm, daisies, lilacs, lavender and day lilies – they also require plants we often consider to be weeds. Milkweed, thistles, and nettles provide essential elements that butterflies need to lay their eggs and provide food for the chrysalis. Without these plants, butterflies cannot survive and will leave your garden in search of a more butterfly-friendly area.

Butterflies also need shelter. A pile of logs and loose bark on a tree will provide the protection they need from wind and cold. They also need shallow areas of mud. Butterflies ‘puddle’ to drink water and extract necessary minerals from the soil. Butterflies can only feed when they are warm, so gardens in full sun are the most successful. A few flat stones placed in your garden will provide butterflies with a warm and restful spot.

A variety of flowers that bloom from early spring to late fall will keep them from leaving in search of nectar in other gardens. The same fragrant flowers that attract butterflies will also attract bees and hummingbirds. Never use insecticides as they kill all insects, including the ones you want to attract.

You may consider creating a ‘butterfly corner’ in your backyard. Leave this area untouched. Let the weeds grow and the bark fall off the trees. The only seeds to plant here are milkweed and nettles. Create a sandy area where mud can collect. When a limb falls off of a tree, just let it be. You can also throw out strawberries, bananas, and cantaloupe rinds. Butterflies will flock to rotting fruit. You may think this looks unsightly, but to a butterfly, it’s home sweet home. Remember, the perfect butterfly garden isn’t perfect.

Thanks to JeanAnn Taylor for these informative and fun “Snippets” each month! She is a style expert, home organizer and Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. She can be reached at

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker