Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thinking About A Butterfly Garden

This year, we lost several large rhododendrons that lined one side of our driveway.  They were quite old, and had caught some sort of nasty ick that had weakened several of them and killed one outright.

Every spring, their blooms were such a wonderful way to greet the return of warmth and green.  But dying, crunchy, drooping shrubbery is not the most attractive landscaping option, and so they had to go.

But what to plant in the open spot?

It gets some good sunshine, and is a nice patch of potential.  We'd like to add in something that comes up every year -- small shrubs and/or perennials that come back on their own would certainly make for less work.  But it needs to be something that won't get immediately overgrown and stick out into the driveway, and preferably something relatively low maintenance, too.

I have learned the hard way the past few years that high maintenance flowers and plants do not play well with health issues that do not allow for a lot of physical activity.

So, The Peanut and I have been tossing around the idea of a butterfly and hummingbird garden.  The trick is going to be figuring out what plants would make a good base, and how to best configure them without having the whole thing take over a big chunk of driveway. 

There are a lot of options for some beautiful flowering plants.  The fun part will be figuring out which ones will work best for us.

We have a large butterfly bush that fills out and blooms each year by our sunroom.  It is often covered in blooms -- and butterflies -- for the bulk of the summer, but it takes up a lot of space.  I know there are smaller options that provide some of the same blooming attraction with less of a footprint, but I want to take the time to find just the right plants that will work well in our wonky hot and humid summers.

But there is also a need to provide plants that not only give nectar, but also nurture the caterpillars that will turn into next season's beauties.  I know that milkweeds, parsley and fennel provide some good feeding possibilities, but there have to be others as well.  There is a lot of research to be done on that score.

To maximize our little space, I also want to be certain that some of the plants do double duty:  attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds. 

Sometimes I think the best part of having a garden is the planning phase:  so many gorgeous pictures to look at and think about and work around in my mind.  If folks have suggestions on good ideas for plants, as well as any books that might be excellent resources, please share in the comments. 

If nothing else, it will be a pleasant diversion for me next week as I go through round 2 of chemo.

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith.)

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