Monday, 3 September 2012

Buddleia finally feeds the butterflies

Feeding time on the buddleia in the east garden
I feel myself that it has been a pretty lean year for butterflies. Walking on the headland at the white strand in Co. Clare yesterday afternoon the cliffs were a turned a hazy shade of blue by armies of scabious flowering only feet from crashing Atlantic waves and of course flitting through the scabious happily sucking nectar on an exceptionally calm day were pretty brown speckled butterflies.

Echinacea offers up lots to bees, butterflies and other insects

This morning wiping the sleep out of my eyes it was small tortoiseshells that caught my eye flitting on the terrace from dahlia to echinacea and back to the buddleia of which they seem really besotted. I always thought it funny that the buddleia is called "the butterfly bush" because I have never seen butterflies on it either here or elsewhere but finally the butterflies have arrived and they can't leave it alone!

single flowered dahlias with open centres are best for insects

Another great plant for the small tortoiseshell is the herb oregano. Here it flowers in the border around the vegetable garden where it draws armies of butterflies in the later part of September.Butterflies are the second most important pollinators for us gardeners but this tends to be forgotten in the scramble to prevent cabbage whites from laying eggs in our cabbages. If you want to help the butterfly population here are a few pointers;

Crashing over the pathway oregano flowers late into Sept

Getting more butterflies in the garden

Put plants that they like to feed on in clumps in the garden, as it helps them to see them better than isolated individual flowers.If you are growing perennials like echinacea you will find it improves greatly in drawing butterflies after a few years when the clump is larger and more flowers are produced. In terms of colour butterflies are drawn to pinks, purples and yellows. Oregano, chives, lavender and rosemary are useful herbs and butterfly friendly plants too.

Butterflies need to sunbathe to keep their bodies between 28-38 degrees Celsius otherwise they struggle to fly. They love sunbathing on large flat stones that have spent all day absorbing the sun. In your garden, it’s really helpful if you leave a few flat stones around in sunny south facing positions sheltered from the wind to give them a nice warm resting place.

Avoid using garden chemicals- I think you all know that one already!

You can buy or build butterfly houses. The Eden project in the UK who gave these tips also make a special butterfly house for butterflies and moths to be fed and to overwinter safely in the garden check it out here Butterfly house.

Learn more about Irish butterflies here

UK Butterflies here

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