Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

A Butterfly Garden of Growth


Hello Fellow Readers, Admiration fills my heart for the children’s courage and young adults who attended last weekend’s Comfort Zone Camp. It was in partnership with A Little Hope Foundation to support those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In the center of the camp is a butterfly garden of growth.

Mary-E-Stone-Comfort-Zone-CampMy role was camp photographer, recording special moments on the challenge course where campers worked together to solve problems that helped build confidence. I took photos during icebreakers, crafts, and participants’ free time having fun and making connections – learning they are not alone.

Johnsonburg-Camp-Retreat Center-butterfly- garden-gate

Wooden posts tied to strings allow visitors to jockey a few aside to slip into the sanctuary.

Amongst the beauty of the Johnsonburg (NJ) Camp & Retreat Center is a butterfly garden – an eight-foot fenced alcove adorned with clematis and a dramatic flame-orange honeysuckle vine reaching for the sky. Two large gates with narrow wooden posts tied to strings allow visitors to jockey a few aside to slip into the sanctuary. To sit for a bit and marvel at the magical dance of butterflies in the comfort of Adirondack chairs atop a rustic stone patio.


Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpura)

Plants that attract Butterflies 

Unlike hummingbirds that can hover, butterflies need to cling to blossoms to feed. They prefer daisy-type flowers, clusters, or spikes of small flowers. There’s Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), a favored medicinal plant with large purple flowers with drooping petals. Plus, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), a glorious golden North American native. Both blooms from mid-to-late summer to frost. Plus, Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum maximum), the classic white petaled beauty with yellow centers butterflies love. Many know about Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) – a fast-growing deciduous shrub that reaches six to eight feet in height with arching purple, pink or white flowers. Some classify the prolific self-seeder as invasive, though butterflies and bees adore them.

Johnsonburg-Camp-Retreat Center-butterfly- gardenMonarch butterflies love our native Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosare). As the common name brags, native Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) attracts bees. Its tufts of red, pink, or purple flowers atop tall stems are also butterfly magnets.

Annuals to add for an all-season feast of flowers include Ageratum, Marigold, Verbena, and Zinnia, to name a few.

Host Plants for Butterflies

When planting a butterfly garden, it’s kind to provide host plants with egg-laying stations and food for the larva we commonly call caterpillars. Plants in the carrot family such as parsley, fennel, dill, and carrots themselves, are excellent choices. Plus, their feathery foliage looks lovely mixed with perennials and annuals.

Posted on the Johnsonburg Camp’s butterfly garden is a sign – “Planting in Progress. Walk Gently.” In other words, Recovery & Growth in Progress. Be kind. Garden Dilemmas?

You’ll enjoy Lessons from Frosty featuring Comfort Zone Camp.


Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus)

Speaking of native, a client who has become a friend, Nancy of Fredon NJ, sent a photo of a mystery plant.  The foliage looks like goldenrod (solidago), I wrote back. Goldenrod is one of my favs to add to the garden for the late summer to fall show that butterflies love. Despite the rumors, it does not cause allergies – (link to the previous column Goldenrod’s Bad Reputation).

“I don’t remember planting that,” Nancy writes. A few days later, she found a link to what could be her mystery “weed.” Hummingbirds and butterflies love our native Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemon hirsutus). Nancy wondered how three landed in her garden perfectly spaced.

“That’s the beauty of native plants,” I wrote back, “they magically plant themselves.”

Helpful Links:

Comfort Zone Camp

A Little Hope Foundation

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness



Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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