Respite Garden

So a few years ago I was at my local feed shop and noticed their marigold seed packets were on super sale for like, a nickel each. I bought probably 20  packets? Needless to say, there were a lot of marigolds in my front yard that year.

Dozens of marigold plants

While the days started getting a bit colder and the normal season for flowers was starting to wind down, my happy little marigolds cheerfully waved gently in the breeze of my unkempt front bed.

One day I rounded the corner of my yard and was shocked: no fewer than a dozen butterflies were lighting and feeding on my marigolds. As I looked up and down the street I didn’t see any other flowers, my marigolds were the only source of rest and food these little guys had on their way to wherever they were trying to go.

Some stayed as long as an hour, fluttering from flower to flower trying to get as much to eat as they could before they took off into the air and past my front door.

Monarch butterfly sitting on a marigold

Several butterflies sitting on marigolds

This got me thinking; if every person set a corner of their yard (or more importantly in cities, a chunk of their patio) aside for some flowers, these guys wouldn’t have such a herculean task of finding enough to get by on their migrations. So I looked around and found a few helpful ideas if you want to plant a small respite garden:

According to The Honeybee Conservancy:

“Select single flower tops such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.”  Butterflies feed on nectar, so you want nectar rich flowers that make a good meal.

And also “Plant native flowers. Native flowers help feed your bees and are uniquely adapted to your region. Try to use native flowers to which local bees are especially adapted. You can also visit the websites of regional botanic gardens and plant nurseries for more info on native bee-friendly plants.  Read more here by The Gardener’s Eden.

You also want a variety of flowers that bloom in different seasons. Make sure you have some that bloom from spring all the way through late fall.

LoveToKnow has an excellent article about fall gardens for butterflies with a list of possible fall flowers for your respite garden.

Better Homes and Gardens also has a handy little slideshow of things you can plant!

They also have a fantastic little slideshow about planting a butterfly garden in containers for my lovely apartment dwellers!

Hopefully y’all will each throw a few flowers into your yards and decks this Summer, the butterflies would thank you (you know, if they had vocal cords).


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