Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Monarchs and Viceroys and Ladies, Oh My!

High summer, and the nursery is awash in colour, both from flora and fauna. The rock wall display gardens are still ablaze with colour from coneflowers, rudbeckia, bee balm, sea holly, and more. 
 We found this monarch butterfly chrysalis a few days ago in the nursery. Normally, these are attached to the underside of leaves of various types of plants, but something must have dislodged it. The butterfly inside was still a ways from metamorphosing, as the chrysalis will turn clear before the butterfly bursts out of it.
 Butterfly bush is a great plant for gardeners who want to attract more types of pollinators to their gardens. Here's 'Black Knight' with the unusual and beautiful hummingbird moth sipping nectar from its flowers.
 This is Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium), which grows natively around here but which is also an excellent plant in the garden. It's a tall plant, and likes moisture, so you will want to situate it in a damp to wet area, and give it space to spread.

There's a butterfly in the top of the flowers that looks like a Monarch, but which isn't. Can you spot the differences?
 Here's a monarch butterfly on buddleia. Monarchs need milkweeds on which to lay their eggs, and the caterpillars eat only milkweeds, but the adults will sip nectar from any number of plants.
This is a newly-hatched monarch adult emerged from its chrysalis, and still inflating its wings. 
 And this is the Viceroy, which is a bit smaller than the Monarch, and which has a solid black bar running across its lower wings, which the monarch doesn't have. Viceroys practice biomimicry: they have evolved to look like the toxic Monarch, which birds know to avoid, even though the Viceroy is not toxic. Monarchs ingest toxins from milkweeds, and birds tend to leave them alone in the caterpillar and the adult stage.
 This is quite the year for butterflies. The hot, dry, sunny weather is ideal for them to be actively sipping nectar, laying eggs, hatching out caterpillars, and continuing the circle of life. These are painted ladies enjoying the purple coneflowers planted along the rock wall.
 The best way to attract lots of butterflies to your gardens? Plant flowering perennials, shrubs and trees that they like, and plant them in drifts (lots of one colour at a time) rather than in jumbles of multicolours. You may not want quite this many rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', but these are our containerized rudbeckias, and we group them both for ease of organizing, and to entice the pollinators to visit the 'snack bar' of the flowers.

Other great butterfly plants, aside from those shown in these photos, include Summersweet shrub (Clethra Ruby Spice), Sea holly, Helenium, outhouse flower (Rudbeckia 'Hortensia'), and some of the hydrangeas.

We're closed on Mondays at this time of year, but open the rest of the week 9-5, so do stop by and let us help you design your butterfly garden.