Thursday, May 13, 2010

Butterfly garden

My most pleasant memories of childhood were those of a nearby garden with lots of beautiful flowers and butterflies flitting around. 1980's in Delhi used to be the good old days of flowers, parks and less crowd; a fictional dream in the nowadays urban life. The pleasant dream, which it was to be in such gardens, got drowned in the sea of urban chaos. But getting posted in a small city with a big house was an opportunity to live up that dream again. I started planting flowers without any conscious attention towards attracting butterflies. Gradually, as the garden evolved, so did the kind of life forms visiting it. It was this year, my sixth with the house and its garden, that I got a whole lot of butterflies gracing the place. Watching these magically beautiful insects, I felt like reliving my childhood dream. Inspired, I thought about consciously making the place more butterfly friendly. I surfed the net for making an ideal butterfly garden but the information was either woefully inadequate or of places having a very different flora and climate from mine. So, it was by sheer chance that I got some of the right kind of flowers for butterflies and felt like sharing my experience here: The first and foremost requirement for a butterfly garden has to be the plants which attract them. Lantana being the universal favorite, tops my list! Pentas, a shrub with small star like flowers, too attracts a number of butterflies to the garden. Single petaled Dahlias were an interesting package this spring. They seemed to hold a very special place in the butterfly heart, as I could find two, three, and at times even four butterflies sitting together on a Dahlia rosette! And mind you, the big gorgeous double Dahlias had no takers as far as butterflies are concerned!! Helichrysum blooms too were always surrounded by butterflies and this rare Silverline butterfly visited this garden only once and had its eyes set exclusively on the paper like bloom, leaving aside fancy ones like Roses and Amaryllis. Verbenas, acting as a perfect host, too had groups of butterflies looming around for nectar Sunflower and Gaillardias, the summer annuals, welcome the butterflies even in scorching summer months Buddha belly plant whose virtues I have discussed before also, brings butterflies to my garden almost throughout the year Then there are those plants on whose leaves caterpillars thrive. There are hundreds of these horrible looking butterfly precursors gnawing away greedily on the leaves of plants they set eyes upon. These include Amaryllis, Lemon,Radish and host of others, a classic case of beasts molting into beauties. These things have voracious appetite. They reduced the leaves of a full lemon plant to skeleton in a matter of day! Another point that came across for a butterfly garden was an absolutely zero use of insecticides. Last year too I had the same flowers but the butterflies were absent. This year I decided not to use any insecticides, mainly because of the horrible things I had read about them. An unforeseen bonus was the sudden increase in the number of butterflies, though I had to tolerate some extra, nasty, mosquito bites.


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