Pollinator gardens are a great addition to the home landscape. Not only do they support wildlife through most seasons, but they are typically very beautiful with flowers of all kinds blooming in the sun. Fall is such a great time of year to plant trees, shrubs and perennials due to cooler temperatures, increased rainfall and active root growth in plants, which also makes it an exceptional time to plan and implement a garden specifically for the wildlife in your area.
A popular pollinator garden that is easy to design and install is a butterfly island. These islands can be whatever size fits in your landscape and are not designed to connect to other gardens areas in the yard, making it a perfect stand-alone project. Follow these steps and you will find yourself with a gorgeous garden in no time.
1 Location Location Location
Start mapping your yard for the sunniest spot. Finding a place in front of your house is nice as the gardens are quite beautiful to look at. Having a butterfly island in the front and back yard would be a double dose of beauty! Look at your yard every hour from sun-up to sun-down. Notate where the sun is strongest each hour. This will help you determine the best spot for the island.
2 Take the Test
After you have determined where to install your butterfly paradise, take a soil test to determine if there is anything the soil is lacking for best growing results. Our soil tests from Think Soil is fast and efficient, having a turn around time of just 3 days following receipt at the Lab. The results are easy to read and come with simple recommendations that are easy to implement.
3 Make the Plan
Choose which shape best fits your style for the island and draw it out on paper. Forms could include but are not limited to circles, ovals or kidney shapes. Be creative, but remember you will most likely be mowing around the island so don’t get too crazy.
4 Choose the Plants
When designing a butterfly island, you must keep several things in mind. First, are these plants that butterflies will enjoy? What about other species like bees and birds? It is best to choose plants that can do double the work to help wildlife through all seasons. Take the perennial Echinacea for example. Butterflies and bees alike love this plant Spring through Fall for its pollen and in winter, seed eating birds such as the Purple Headed Finch will eat the seed heads if left out for them. Do research on the plants you love and see how they effect the wildlife you want to support.
5 Create Your Design
Designing a butterfly island is a cinch. Keep in mind the “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” method that works so well for container planting, and apply it to the island design. Have a small, blooming tree in the design. Trees that are butterfly friendly include Chaste Tree, Dogwood and Crape Myrtle if you’re in the South. Choose cultivars that are small, growing only to 12 feet. Make sure to offset your tree so it won’t shade out the rest of your island.
Fillers are easy, they will be the shrubs and perennials in the island. Keep in mind the planting rule of design which is to plant in uneven numbers to create balance. Insect loving shrubs include: Spirea, Caryopteris and Weigela. Look for perennials like the aforementioned Echinacea, Black Eyed Susan, Dianthus and Salvia. Skip the actual plant called Butterfly Bush as it is not an American native and does not offer full nutrition for butterflies passing through the States.
When designing an island, think of the spiller as ground cover. Some insect attracting ground covers include Blue Elf Sedum, Ajua and Ice Plant.
With all of these flowering plants, your butterfly island will be the envy of the neighborhood and a lush oasis for pollinators. So do some planning and get working this fall to bring beauty to the landscape and happiness to the wildlife in your area.