Time to Plant Your Butterfly Garden!

Butterflies add beauty, interest and movement to the garden.

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

Just prior to the recent Wild Ones West Cook's Living Landscape Conference, I had a chance to "net" a few minutes with local butterfly expert, Stepahnie Walquist.

She is a V.P. of that local Chapter of Wild Ones, and an educator who has helped many of us bring butterflies into our landscapes, including me.

That day she said..."Butterflies add beauty, interest and movement to the garden, and they are part of the wider food web, as well.  Once you draw these creatures in to your garden, there will be much more activity and things going on, and it will help to better connect you with nature."

Hey, I have already seen some early Question Mark Butterflies in my backyard, thanks to what I have learned from her.

She also told me, of course, that "more people should be doing this because the Monarch population is in decline, and it is an indicator species that lets us know how the environment is doing.  So, if the Monarch is in trouble, then it is a pretty good bet that the populations of other butterflies are going down, too.  Our yards can become a network of native plant gardens that support butterfly populations and other pollinators," says Stephanie, echoing her group's aim of engaging homeowners and businesses to increase biodiversity in the Oak Park/River Forest area by helping to create a Wildlife Corridor of native gardens between Columbus Park and Thatcher Woods.

Here's the skinny:  For beginners, she emphasizes that all butterfly gardens need plantings of Milkweed, as it is a host plant for Monarchs, and "the only thing they will eat,"  she says.

Beyond that, other good starter butterfly garden host plants are Pussytoes or Prairie Sage (American Lady butterflies), Golden Alexander, dill, parsley, or fennel (Swallowtails) and violets, to host Fritillary butterflies.

I use a few online sources as a leg up on IDing these beautiful creatures. 

BTW, Stephanie also pointed out that "We also get a lot of elm saplings around here, which host the Question Mark and Comma butterflies."

Allow some Pennsylvania Pellitory, and Red Admirals will come to your yard, too.

And, get these go-to nectar plants, and OMG do the butterflies float in:  Could be Purple Coneflower, Milkweeds, Goldenrods (a fall nectar plant), and native Asters -- and  create cover from predators -- for the caterpillars, ya know, by  densely planting "native grasses and sedges, which will attract a variety of butterflies, including Skippers and woodland butterflies -- the ones often seen in nearby natural areas, but given a reason, could make their way to our backyards," she says.

Blue Indigo (check!), will attract the Silver Spotted Skippers, and that they are really cool little butterflies.

AGAIN...Monarchs prefer Milkweed, so for heaven's sake get some, and Pearl Crescent Butterflies come to native Asters.

Sorry about the early summer rerun video, but if you want to learn how to raise butterflies in your backyard, this one with Stephanie is too good to miss.

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