Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Annual Makeover: Creating a Front Yard Butterfly Garden

The landscaping in my front yard is a constant work in progress. Personally, I'm a bit tired of this. After nine years in my house, I want a front garden that looks established and settled. Instead it's become a revolving door of shrubs, perennials, and annuals as I try to determine what can tolerate one moist spot, a heat island, and a long strip of bone dry clay.


Completely ignoring the fact that I don't live in Italy, I find it highly irritating that my front yard doesn't resemble the gardens at Ninfa.

Last January I decided to deepen the beds in the front and stuff them with bulbs. With winter on hiatus, I took advantage of a bulb sale at a local garden center and packed the bed with 260 daffodils and Dutch iris. The bulbs came up late and bloomed at strange times but were more cheerful than a long bed of nothing.


You'll have to take my word for it that this bed is full of bulbs since I forgot to take a picture of them.

To fill in the long empty bed once the bulbs were done blooming, I filled it with annual vinca and lantana. I had also added orange milkweed and dalea to the bed last fall to see how well they would do.


The lantana attracted pollinators but the vinca didn't. However, I loved how colorful and cheap it was.

This bed didn't fill in until the middle of July, which was really frustrating. A cool, wet spring kept the vinca plants small and the constant rain turned many yellow. For about 6 weeks this bed was full of dying bulb foliage and tiny plants. It looked pathetic and drove me crazy!


Orange milkweed, host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, thrive in the hot, dry soil.


There are stepping stones tucked between the plants since we always take a shortcut across the garden instead of using the walkway.


Dalea is a native prairie wildflower that grows well in heat and drought.


I loved the way this bed looked once it filled in but wanted to fill it with perennials that would grow as the bulb foliage died, covering it up.

Taking my cues from the healthy milkweed and dalea, I decided to turn this strip into a butterfly garden. I pulled out all the annuals and added 'Carradonna' salvia, 'Rose Queen' salvia, 'Star Cluster' coreopsis, nepeta, 'Sunshine Superman' coreopsis, and more orange milkweed and dalea. I've linked the pictures to the nurseries I purchased them from. 


'Sunshine Superman' coreopsis seedlings came from the garden.


Nepeta seedlings, variety unknown, came from the garden, too. Nepeta has soft greyish leaves and small purple flowers. It grows well in enriched garden soil as well as dry soil and loves full sun. Both of these pictures are from late Spring 2012.







I actually purchased these locally in August for only $5 a pot and have been babysitting them for the past two months. 


 

According to the Bluestone Perennials website, these flowers develop a purple eye and a purple edge in cool weather. 


I planted all the perennials today. The green sticks mark all the fall blooming bulbs that have started to grow but haven't popped through the mulch yet. They also mark places where I planted dormant orange milkweed. The nepeta seedlings were planted near the light post. They look a bit wretched right now but have healthy roots and new growth. The 'Star Cluster' coreopsis is in the middle of the bed, with the salvias in groups along the edges.


There are two clumps of orange milkweed at each end of the garden next to the large main group of 'Star cluster' coreopsis. Salvia, coreopsis, dalea, milkweed, and nepeta are all tough, drought resistant plants that attract pollinators. I'm sure I'll need to tweak this bed a bit next fall but I'm excited to have tough plants in place to cover up all the bulb foliage. If it snows this winter, we can pile up the snow from the walkway over the perennials without having to worry about smashing any shrubs.

Details :

This bed is about 15 ft long and 5 feet deep. It faces east and receives full sun until mid-afternoon.

Salvia 'Carradonna' - 12
Salvia 'Rose Queen' - 10
Orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) - 10 new plants
Coreopsis 'Star Cluster' - 5
Coreopsis 'Sunshine Superman' seedlings - 3
Dalea seedlings - 5
Nepeta seedlings - 2


41 comments:

  1. Good idea to have perennials if there's any worry about snow pulverizing that bed. I've been considering landscaping around our house and that's a big concern. A butterfly garden sounds like the right idea, with all the heat there I'm sure the butterflies will flock to this spot.

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    1. When I lived in upstate NY near the Canadian border I was warned that falling icicles and heavy wet snow would destroy my shrubs. I planted a flower garden instead and never had to worry about broken branches. Virginia doesn't get tons of snow, but one of my front yard redo's was caused by a freak ice storm that killed my shrubs. A cottage style garden around your house would be gorgeous!

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  2. I have some areas which I have planted, replanted, pulled out plants because I just can't decide what to do with the space or what I planned didn't work. I understand where you are coming from. I love that you are turning this space into a butterfly garden. Perhaps you could also add some host plants and fall blooming plants for the late season butterflies?

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    1. Great idea! I have asters and other fall bloomers in my back garden. I also have dwarf abelias in the front that attract butterflies. Salvia usually keeps blooming fairly late in the season but I'll know for sure how to tweak this bed next fall. I was thinking about scattering garlic chive seeds among the plants for late season interest but haven't done it yet. :o) I saw them in bloom in a garden a few weeks ago and they were covered with pollinators.

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  3. The butterfly garden really turned out beautiful once it matured. It will get lovelier each year. Were you able to get photos of any visiting butterflies?

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    1. I am a lousy photographer with a very basic camera so my butterfly photos are few and far between. They did love the lantana, especially the swallowtails and skippers. I need to learn to attract butterflies that move slower. :o)

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  4. The rose queen salvia has become one of my recent favorites. It's a great burst of spring and fall color. You've chosen a nice selection of plants. I've never heard of dalea before. I like the color and texture.

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    1. My dalea comes from High Country Gardens! It took a while to figure out how to make it happy here but now it's thriving. It would do very well for you. :o)

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  5. I'm very taken with the Rose Queen salvia too, and I love the white coreopsis. I would love to see more butterflies in my garden (and maybe improve my own photos of them), so I hope I can introduce a few butterfly attracting plants into my front garden this Spring and Summer (just starting in Australia).

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    1. Rose Queen is a tough plant! It did just fine in black nursery pots on my patio for 2 months with only occasional watering. That's my kind of plant! Does salvia grow in Australia?

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  6. Tammy, these beds look very pretty with annuals and I hope with daffodils too! Your garden will be like an Italian garden very soon.
    I love your sense of humor and nominated your blog to Sunshine Award. Congratulation!
    See it below my last post http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/2012/10/autumn-colors-in-garden.html

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  7. Your new plants in that bed sound like they will work well there. I know how it feels to keep feeling like something is just not quite right for you. Let's hope next year it's exactly what you want.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  8. Tammy, you've done a lot of work and brought in a whole lot of beauty. And, butterflies. All good. As for doing and re-doing, I think that's part of the pleasure in gardening. Once the garden is "finished," so is the gardener. Plant on!

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    1. Thanks! I don't think gardens are ever finished. What's the point in that? :o)

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  9. I definitely like the idea of a calm river spanned by an arched Italian stone bridge from antiquity for your front yard, as shown in the first photo. But the butterfly garden is clearly a great second choice. I second the suggestion for asters and fall bloomers in there with all your lovely bulbs and summer plants. How about gaura for some taller open movement among the mounds of bloomers? It flowers all year and into fall.

    Your newly planted space will come together as it matures and be a colorful, insect-busy spot!

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    1. I love the idea of adding gaura but this bed has a lot of clay and I was worried about drainage. It's been amended with a lots of compost and some Penetrate to break up the clay. I have gaura in my back garden and love it. :o) I'm viewing this design as my rough draft and plan on editing next year.

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  10. I understand working and re-working garden beds. Why is it that the ones by the front door are the ones that look 'ratty' to us? hahaha. I have Nepeta near the water...five of them. Each is at least five feet in diameter, this is their second year. (be forewarned!) I need to get some Butterfly weed, though I am not sure where to put it as the orange is hard to blend in. Your Salvia Caradonna is gorgeous!!! Mine didn't do too much this year, so I moved it. Hope it does better in its new home, will share your photo and tell it to aspire to this greatness. ;-)

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    1. Nepeta is definitely a space hog! I stuck two seedlings in there because I had two I needed to find a home for and wanted to create a sense of fullness. I'll probably end up taking one out next fall. :o) The salvia ' Carradonna' photo is from Bluestone, where I linked the photo. I purchased the Carradonna and Star Cluster coreopsis from them. I hope they end up looking as good as the photo!

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  11. It's a lot of work to get it all in place, but so very important because you will have such a pretty garden next year with so much less effort.

    Can't wait to see the bees and butterflies there!

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    1. I'm excited not to have to wait til mid-July to see that bed fill out. I'm hoping other people in my neighborhood will see the garden and try something similar. :o)

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  12. I'm looking forward to photos next summer when everything is happily growing and blooming. Someday I want to try Dalea. I purchased seeds once but they didn't emerge. You've got me thinking I should give it another go. Where I would put them, is beyond me but I would never let such minor details bother me. :)

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    1. I bought my dalea from High Country Gardens. It needs sharp drainage and full sun, kind of like a penstemon. I've never grown it from seed. When I am just dying to grow a certain plant and have no where to put it, I stick it in a pot. :o)

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  13. I'm looking forward to seeing all those lovely daffodils in Spring! The hard work will be worth it.
    The white coreopsis is lovely... I'm going to keep my eyes open for them over here x

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    1. Coreopsis and salvia are so tough I knew they'd survive that long dry strip. They'd be great in your flower garden, too!

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  14. Years of trying to make butterflies happy result in a plan. Yours looks good. My mother always overseeded her bulb plantings with Shirley poppies. I add larkspur to that. It took another while to find a bridge between early bloomers and summer blossoms. I never expect to be 'finished' as a butterfly caterer.

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    1. I agree! I'm sure I'll always be changing the menu. :o) The poppy/larkspur overseed is a smart idea.

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  15. The bed is going to look great! Those plants should be happy there, and they'll look beautiful together.

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  16. The suspense will kill me this winter waiting to see how it all turns out--I'm sure it will breathtaking, and the butterflies will love it! That Orange Milkweed is nifty--I'd never think to plant it, but it looks fantastic! And the Coreopsis and Dalea are pretty, too!

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  17. Wow, thanks for the shout out in your Garden Love section!!! I am honored that you have gotten inspiration from my garden! That's the best compliment! I hope that your garden re-do in the front is all that you have in your mind's eye :-) I was just telling a client yesterday that fall planting is for the plants and spring planting is for the gardener. When you plant in the fall it is better for the plants, but then the gardener has to wait till spring to see the results. When we plant in the spring, it's not as good for the plants, but at least we don't have to wait as long to see the results of our labors. So keep us posted!!!
    Oh, the Fred Meyers. H'm...good question. I moved them at some point when I realized that a volunteer lantana was going to smother them. I will be shocked if they survived, but I'll have to look and get back with you. Stay tuned...

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  18. Those annuals look great! I've decided to plant some more bulbs as well. They are so beautiful in springtime.

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  19. Wow, looks like there is so much planning to do, so each season would herald a new crop of beautiful plants and flowers. Here in the tropics, thd plants thrive year round. My lantanas start off as a bedding plant and after a few years it has become to look like a small tree. For variety, we add different types of annuals.

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  20. I think I should make a garden sign that says "Work in progress - ALWAYS!" Like you, I don't know how, after so many years of hard work my garden doesn't look exactly like I want it to. Plants and weather can be unpredictable and that's exactly what my garden reflects. Maybe the fact that I needed out there, fixing this, replanting that, each season, is just the universe's way of keeping me in shape.

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  21. With a name like Casa Mariposa I would expect lots of butterflies in your garden. :) I hope your front garden comes along well. I have some renovating to do mine too, but it's small. You've got so much space to work with!

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  22. Gardening is all about moving stuff around and changing stuff and adding stuff and moving stuff and reviewing stuff and blending colours and textures and changing stuff and adding stuff...we all do it so well.
    A true garden is a changing entity, and gardeners adore change, so continue to have fun in your garden.
    After eleven years, and LOTS of changes, I still have not got my Japanese garden to anywhere near what I envisioned....wish me luck.

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  23. Congrats, I am honoring you with the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.. enjoy. So many enjoy your blog! as do I!

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  24. Thanks so much for the mention in your "Garden Love"! Like Toni, I too am honoured that I have inspired you.
    I think your bed of annuals looked great, but I can understand the frustration of having to wait until July to have them fill in. A Butterfly garden is a wonderful idea. I like the color of the Salvia 'Rose Queen' and that white Coreopsis. I have something similar to your Salvia 'Carradonna' among the plants along my front fence. I look forward to see how it all turns out next summer.

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  25. I can't wait to see this next year! It will be stunning.

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  26. That all sounds wonderful - colourful, tough, and wildlife friendly. Your description of the front garden being a revolving door really made me smile, as I had one just like it in my last garden!

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  27. “There are stepping stones tucked between the plants since we always take a shortcut across the garden instead of using the walkway.” – I’m afraid this is not a very good idea. It can damage the plants there, if you keep using it as walkway. If you really want to have a walkway there, you must relocate the other plants that can be affected. It’s much better if you will put a small fence to act as a border. ->Jeremy Beauregard

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