The Pollinator Garden

Brooke here. Let’s talk about the butterfly garden.

Once upon a time, I kept marine reef aquariums. I loved them. I sunk a ton of resources into them, and enjoyed every minute of the labor. They were a garden in my living room; fresh, growing, a million colors.

They died. Tank crash. Everything was perfect, and then it wasn’t, and a whole lot of fish and coral and other critters died on my watch.

These days, I don’t keep aquariums. I keep large dogs and plants, which may not be easier to keep alive exactly, but the dogs are hard to ignore and the plants typically bounce back when you water them. I miss the fish, the coral, the little scampery cleaner shrimp…

So I put in a pollinator garden.

This has been one of my solo projects. Brown has helped with the larger digouts, but establishment and maintenance have been my chores.

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Garden, front view, August 2016

This is my first large landscaping project. There are parts that I’d have done differently, I suppose, but there aren’t too many glaring errors.

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Garden, rear view, August 2016

With some exceptions, all of the plants are perennials that are attractive to pollinators, and are low to medium height (no more than 24″). This is to allow space between them for cleaning and replanting and shouting at those darned squirrels which dig up everything in reach. There are some dwarf butterfly bushes and taller coreopsis for height, and along the fenceline are evergreen camellia Japonica.

The garden is still a baby. It’ll take several years for the plants to fill the open spaces. Some of them, like the dwarf bee balm, are already fighting for dominance. I’ll be yanking this stuff out by the armfulls next season.

beebalm
Bee balm, second year.

My buddy Ursula keeps detailed records of the wildlife that passes through her garden. I’m not as diligent about the various affairs of bugs and birds and whatnots. I’ll usually pause and take a photograph if an especially charismatic critter pops in. These are the ones I’ve caught and IDed for Summer 2016.

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Red-spotted purple admiral
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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
swallowblack
Either a black swallowtail or a dark variation on the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
zebra
Zebra swallowtail! Probably my favorite rare find of the year.
gold
Great Spotted Fritillary
spots
Some variant of pearly-eyed or satyr

These make me happy; I needed to be happy today. Maybe they’ll make you happy, too.

I’ll write up the post on the butterfly weed and the monarchs next.

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