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Fluttering butterflies and busy bees
A lively garden is full of perennials attracting butterflies and bees. Fortunately, the flowers produced by these nectar-rich perennials also contribute to the charm of your garden. What’s more, these colourful, profusely flowering plants enliven your garden experience: it’s fun to watch the beautiful fluttering butterflies and busy bees.
Bees and butterflies are in decline. Although gardens can’t replace the natural habitats of most butterflies and moths, a garden can supplement nature for around twenty species of butterflies. Warm days are particularly good for watching butterflies in the garden. You can spot the commoner species such as the Peacock Butterfly, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Cabbage White as well as some less familiar butterflies such as the Comma. The best way to attract butterflies to the garden is with nectar plants. Most of these species – like Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) produce lovely flowers. Butterflies also need warm sheltered places. As a bonus, you can provide a butterfly house for them.
There are many more moth species (e.g. the Small Emperor Moth and the Striped Hawk-moth) than butterfly species. Flowers pollinated by moths emit very little fragrance during the daytime. But as soon as dusk approaches, they release delightful scents that will attract these nightly visitors from great distances away. Place these perennials close to the patio to allow moths to enjoy the fragrance and nectar. This way, you too can enjoy the fragrance and the fluttering moths. Flowers that start emitting a stronger scent at night include Evening Primrose (Oenothera), Phlox, Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) and Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).
The little bees buzzing in the garden do a very important job: they pollinate the flowers. If you want to enjoy this spectacle, plant several different flowering perennials in the garden. This way, you give the bees plenty of opportunity to do their work, and you make the garden even prettier! Some flowers that produce a lot of nectar are Self-Heal (Prunella grandiflora), Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum), Goldenrod (Solidago), Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) and Speedwell (Veronica longifolia). Honeybees are the most familiar bee, but there are also many species of wild bees. Solitary bees like to nest in a bee house or insect hotel that should be placed in a dry and sunny location.
Combine perennials attracting butterflies and bees
But what if you don’t want to make major changes in your garden and plant a huge amount of perennials attracting butterflies and bees? Fortunately, you don’t have to. Adding just a few butterfly plants will attract bees and butterflies. That’s because many nectar plants will also attract bees. Butterfly plants will look wonderful in borders and beds, but they will also thrive in pots and containers. In June, the garden centre will offer a large selection of plants attracting butterflies and bees. Good ones to look for include Oregano (Origanum laevigatum), Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis), Catnip (Nepeta), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum), Goldenrod (Solidago) and Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis). You can plant these profusely flowering perennials right into the garden, and you won’t have to wait long to see the first bees and butterflies fly around. Many of these species will bloom well into the autumn.
The top 10 butterfly plants:
- Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii)
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
- Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Oregano (Origanum laevigatum)
- Phlox (Phlox paniculata varieties)
- Brilliant Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile)
- Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis)
Did you know that…
you can attract butterflies to the garden from April through October? You can do this by planting flowers that bloom at various times. Spring-flowering plants such as Aubrieta, Honesty (Lunaria) and Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) are musts in a butterfly garden. For the summer period, use Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Oregano (Origanum); for autumn, plant Brilliant Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile), Liatris and Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii).