Butterfly-friendly plants

Part of the fun of sowing all these seeds is the need to plan what to do with them.

On the last day of winter vacation from school, I took the kids to the local science museum. A visit to the butterfly house–always one of my favorite spots–inspired me to dig through the seed packets and see what butterfly-friendly plants I might grow for next year.DSC_0755

Butterfly gardening is not an entirely new concept to me, but thus far I’ve preferred to plant for hummingbirds. But who can resist butterflies? It’s time to add to the mix. So I started Datura ‘Ballerina Yellow‘ and a pan of mixed hibiscus. DSC_0771

I already have plenty of rue and bronze fennel, which are terrific host plants. Amsonia, coreopsis, and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) are also ones I both own and have sown this winter. And Maryland wild senna, which will be a new one for me this year, is a primary host for butterflies from the sulphur family.

blue morpho cropped DSC_0771I’m limited in the area of my garden that receives full sun, but I’ll pepper these plants around where I can. The Joe Pye and Amsonia can go in the blue slope, the coreopsis can go on the south-side walkway, and the Maryland wild senna can go in a few different spots, to see where it will thrive.

Here’s a good primer on butterfly gardening, if you care to learn more.

Winter zeal

It’s not much of a winter around here lately, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s. But the trees are bare and the landscape is otherwise fairly bleak. My outlook, however, is anything but, as I have become newly converted to the technique of winter sowing.

Winter sowing is the cheap and lazy gardener’s expressway to paradise. The idea is to take advantage of nature’s cycles of temperature and moisture fluctuations and to allow seeds to do what they have evolved to do. I have only had moderate success with seeds in the past, because while I’ve started off well, at some point life always got busy and I neglected to water them, and the seedlings dried out, or otherwise succumbed to damping off. I suppose that’s still going to be possible with winter sowing, but perhaps in the absence of central heating and arid indoor air, they’ll fare better.

I joined Garden Web’s Winter Sowing forum, and took advantage of their newbie seed offering. A kind soul in Ohio gathers saved seed from other winter sowers around the country, and compiles free packets of seeds for those of us new to the technique. I got my package a few days ago and I was giddy with excitement!

DSC_0002After supper, I dug out the saved milk cartons and Chinese take-out pans, filled them with my favorite shredded coir mix, and sowed Ruta graveolens, Digitalis (sp. unknown); soapwort (Saponaria officinalis), English lavender, and Maryland wild senna (Senna marilandica), an important host plant. Full description of a proven winter sowing technique can be found here.

I must spend all available days between now and April preparing ground for these little guys. But I’ve got the shredded leaves ready to till in. I can’t wait to see how this experiment goes!