Hello Fellow Readers, Admiration fills my heart for the courage of the children and young adults who attended last weekend’s Comfort Zone Camp. It was in partnership with A Little Hope Foundation in support of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. In the center of the camp is a butterfly garden of growth.
My 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 free time of participants having fun and making connections – learning they are not alone.
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 the magical dance of butterflies in the comfort of Adirondack chairs atop a rustic stone patio.
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.
Monarch 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 to provide egg-laying stations and food for the larva we commonly call caterpillars. Plants in the carrot family such as parsley, fennel, dill, as well as 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? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
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. And, 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.”