The Butterfly Garden and Preserve
Our Butterfly Preserve
by Christina H.
Last Summer when I first signed up for CUUC’s Community Harvest Garden, my plot was already full of Pepper plants and such from the previous gardeners who worked it. I noticed around the entire garden area there were a number of beautiful native plants and other pollinator plants. The bees and Butterflies loved them.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to grow Parsley and had these big yellow and black caterpillars eating heartily on them – a dismay to most hardworking gardeners. Actually, they are the caterpillars of the big Black Swallowtail butterflies. I am partial to these caterpillars. They make the most elegant looking butterflies. They also like Fennel which can cause frustration to the average gardener.
I mentioned to Deb that I would like to have a butterfly garden where people could put their caterpillars on the parsley there. Well, if you know Deb, you know she jumped right on it and said “yes” I could do that. At the time, the area to later be called The Butterfly Preserve, was covered in huge bushes of wild Tomatoes. I wasn’t in such good shape last summer and was rather cautious about doing much. Deb and others prepared the area for me. If you have done much gardening you know that is a real treasure. They pulled up all the big sprawling Tomato Bushes along with any weeds and transported piles of compost to it, which I later spread around.
Having this wonderfully prepared ground I set out to planting parsley seeds. Three times I planted them. Every time they came up I believe it was the resident rabbits that munched them down to a bare nub. I now know rabbits love parsley! It was winter now and the pickings were slim after all.
A few finally grew just a little and then this early Summer, there was Deb again, buying Parsley plants for the Butterfly Preserve which are doing really well now. I’m always happy to see a few missing leaves knowing it supported some wild life or caterpillar. There are 6 Fennel plants doing well also, which were started from seed by a friend. I learned the Caterpillars I saw on them were Old World Black Swallowtails.
Not to leave out the Monarchs, I grew Milkweed from seed starting them in the refrigerator during the winter. A few were also donated by a Texas Master Naturalist friend. Then there were other natives I planted which were also donated such as some Penstemmon from Jo. A native Cutleaf Daisy I picked up from the Native Plant Society at one of their meetings. There are also Cone Flowers (Echinacea) I purchased as roots, as well as some Cosmos flowers doning their brilliant orange flowers at this time. The seed packet said they are landing lights for the butterflies. I believe it. There is also Liatris (Gay Feather), Prairie Vervain which tried to take over, and Mealy Sage, as well as domestic Carrot I let flower, and wow! We are going to have a lot of Carrot seeds! I may have missed a few but you are welcome to go take a look. Just please stay on the mulch outside the garden.
Its been a labor of love with many hands taking part. It’s also in the works to be listed as an official Monarch way Station.
We have a big wonderful garden right next door. Hope you go out and sit a spell on one of the numerous benches. Maybe spot some bees and Butterflies. Don’t miss the pond down by the big old Pecan tree, complete with a couple of benches under it. Take some pictures. Play a flute, Write. Visit. Enjoy.
May you be blessed by the wonders of nature…and you don’t have to go far.