April 2018

Planting a Butterfly Garden

On Apr 4, 2018, at 9:08 PM, Susan Alverson wrote:
Your Name Susan Alverson

Subject Follow Up

Message I emailed a few days ago (see copy below) but have not had a response and wanted to follow up:

Hi. I came across your site after a search for information about planting a butterfly garden. I live nearby in Liberty Township. We had to do some grading to our yard, which left me with a small, bare earth space that I’m claiming for my garden, so I’m starting from scratch.

The space is about 14’ by 8’ and is pretty much full sun all day, with a little bit of shade from a maple tree. I want to plant a cut-flower garden, with a focus on native flowers that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. I do not want anything invasive, since I have just a small area to work in.

I know I need milkweed. Would you recommend anything else specifically for a plot that size?

I see that you’re open by appointment. Can you tell me more about that? What is a good time of year to begin buying seeds and/or plants—when do you start selling, in other words?

Thanks for your help!


Here is my answer

hello Susan,

This is the first message I have received. I am happy to advise you on your new native flower garden. Thanks for sending me some information on your bed. It will be difficult to plant under a maple tree since it generates many roots near the surface. Beyond the edge of its canopy will be fine. GoNativesNow has many plants that would be appropriate for your space. Have you filled out or looked over the questionnaire on the website? It will help you with conditions.

Prairie plants will provide you with lots of flowers for the critters to enjoy and you to make bouquets. I am open any time by appointment. Right now I have spring blooming wildflowers for sale. These grow under trees and bloom before the trees get their leaves. I have many plants in pots that I planted last season. Since it’s been cold, they are not growing yet for the most part. I am in the process of planting my first year natives now. They will be up soon, but very small their first year. (First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap!)

If you start with mature plants, your natives garden will be able to flower sooner. Generally, it takes most natives (perennials) three years to flower. There are exceptions, like coneflower (echinacea purpurea). I also have some annuals to enjoy the first couple years. I recommend that you plant in drifts, the more plants in the group the better, at least three plants, 12-15 is better. Then, make sure you plant ground cover plants (like sedges, sedum, violets) around the bigger/taller plants.

Keep in mind most prairie plants are taller plants. Many flower at eye height (yay, no leaning over to see these flowers!). Many of our native prairie plants are yellow - there are many to choose from and they are lovely. Picture yellows with bursts of purple, pink, and red. Also, I hope you consider some grasses. I have big and small to offer.

I can help you draw out your garden. Get some graph paper. Make a shape that is 14’x8’. I recommend a rounded-oval-beanlike shape. Make sure you make curving paths through it so you can tend it and walk through to enjoy it. Nature abhors straight lines (so do I).

You are lucky to start from scratch. I would cover your entire area with 3-4 inches organic compost, place pots according to your plan, stand back and make sure it’s pleasing. Then plant down through the compost. Water well. Plants will need water the first few months to get established but not after that. Be sure to take lots of pictures as you go.

Would you like a list of plants to consider? If you can take pictures of the spots I can help with suggested plants.