Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gardening for Butterflies (the book)

The Xerces Society recently released a new book entitled “Gardening for Butterflies.” I was excited to see them cover the topic because their earlier book “Attracting Native Pollinators” is a wonderful resource and I expected this new book to be similarly helpful for the very current topic of how average folks can garden for butterflies. I was not disappointed!

The book is organized into the following sections to help gardeners have the deepest understanding of the subject:

-          Knowing butterflies and what they need is a section that gives you an excellent understanding of butterflies as insects, what makes them different from moths (there is a separate section later on gardening for moths), the different groups of butterflies, the butterfly life cycle, the concept of host plants vs. nectar plants and non-food considerations for supporting butterflies.

-          Design considerations for a butterfly garden section includes basic design principles, regional plant suggestions, and beautiful sample design layouts for a variety of conditions (including a rain garden, for example).

-          The section on butterfly garden plants of North America includes over 200 suggestions across all regions with information such as bloom times, color, height, nectar value, larval host information and native range as well as a color picture.

-          Tips about finding native plants for your butterfly garden, evaluating your choices, installation of the garden and maintenance are covered in the fourth section. I particularly appreciated the information about finding insecticide-free plants but I knew that The Xerces Society would be the first to include that type of information.

In addition to the main practical sections, the Preface included inspirational words about how gardeners can make a difference and Chapter 1 was a thorough treatment on why butterflies matter and why they are in trouble. While monarch butterflies might have sounded the alarm for the average gardener, experts know that they are not the only ones in need of our help.

Giant swallowtail laying an egg
Beyond butterflies and gardening, two of the remaining chapters covers gardening for moths and points about helping butterflies beyond gardens such as in parks, business and road landscaping as well as on farms. Anywhere that a plant grows, it can help butterflies if properly chosen.

Finally, the last chapter covers tips for observing and enjoying butterflies. You can get even more involved by participating in citizen science projects and they list some of the ones in place at the time the book was published.

So if you’re interested in gardening for butterflies and would like some expert information, pick up a copy of this book and you’ll be all set to learn what you need to do it right.

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