How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May is Garden for Wildlife Month

Did you know that May is Garden for Wildlife Month?  You can create a habitat for wildlife right in your own backyard very easily by providing some simple basic elements of habitat like:  food, water, cover and a place to raise their young.  I started providing these elements many years ago.  Some of the things that I provide in my yard are birdfeeders, scattered throughout the yard, a water garden, bird baths, and hummingbird feeders.  I make sure that my yard has a variety of different habitats, for example; there are areas with more shelter in the bougainvillea, and Ligustrum trees.  These areas with more dense shrubbery provide the animals an area to protect themselves from the elements and protect themselves from predators.  I also provide a variety of native plants that are host and nectar plants for many of our pollinators.  Many of these native plants provide food with berries for the birds and squirrels.  I provide a nesting box for our solitary bees and even have a bat house up for our Florida Native Bats.  I don’t think I have any bats, but I am hoping that they will find the house.  I have had it up for some time now.  From what I have read it could take over a year for the bats to find it. 
One of the most important things you can provide for your wildlife is a pesticide free environment. It is important to evaluate your garden practices.  If you are using inorganic fertilizer and spraying pesticides in your garden, you are decreasing your chances of attracting wildlife in your garden.   Native plants are the best choices for your garden. They are more drought tolerant and usually are not as susceptible to pests, so the use of pesticides may be unnecessary.  I know that I always have to pull weeds by hand to keep them under control.  I am not really sure I ever have them under control, but the benefits of having a garden full of butterflies, birds, and bees is so rewarding.   

During the month of May the National Wildlife Foundation will plant a tree in your name if you get your yard certified as a natural habitat.  They also provide you with a lovely sign that you can display in your garden.  I have never displayed my sign.  I should!  The greatest reward is seeing how many butterflies, birds, and bees you will attract to your garden.  You also get to enjoy the beauty of all those blooms.  Happy May Garden for Wildlife Month!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beautiful Butterflies

I just had my first blooms of the season on my Mexican Sunflowers (tithonia).  The butterflies really love these flowers.  The variety I am growing is a beautiful cultivar called “Torch.”  I am still waiting for the Lemon Queen Sunflower to start to bloom.   I love to go out and just watch all the activity in the yard when I get home from work.  It is so relaxing!  There are butterflies everywhere going from flower to flower, the bees are shooting out of their hives going to forage for whatever nectar and pollen they can find, and cardinals and doves are singing their familiar songs.  If the mosquitoes wouldn’t get me I think I could sit out there forever.   The most common visitors that I have in my yard are the Long Wing Zebra, Monarchs, Julias, Gulf Fritillaries, Swallowtails, Skippers, Yellow Sulphurs, and Southern White butterflies.  I really need to get a new camera.  I have a small point and shoot Sony.  Lately I have been using my iphone.  If I’m going to continue this blog I think it would help if my photography improves.   But for now, it will have to do.  


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May all your Weeds be Wildflowers?

I have lived in Miami for many years now but as a gardener I sometimes long for the flowers I grew up with up north.  Some of my favorite flowers growing up were Lilacs, Pansies, Tulips, Asters, Dahlias, Gladiolas, and Daisies. I could probably go on and on remembering more but.... the list would be so long!   When someone asks me which is my favorite it is hard to decide but I think the Lilac and Pansy are at the top of my list.  I am so excited because I am spending a few days in Boston visiting my youngest son at college.  I can’t wait to see him, but I also am excited to see everything in bloom.  Spring should be early this year because of the unseasonably warm weather.  As a Florida gardener it is impossible to grow most flowers I am accustomed to especially living in Zone 10 a/b.   I long for a bed of wildflowers.  I tried planting a wildflower mix a couple of years ago, but without success.  I even made sure that I ordered the mix for the Southeast region.  In recent years I have started planting more Florida natives.  Obviously they do much better.  There is a big difference in the flowers that will grow between Northern, Central, and South Florida.  It is funny but our growing season is actually reversed from the rest of the country.  We plant most of our vegetables from October to April.  I plant impatiens in October and by May it is too hot and humid for them to survive.  I find that Florida natives are more heat tolerant and drought resistant and actually are the plants that our pollinators like the most.  A few years ago I planted some pink porter weed (Stachytarpheta jamaicenis).  Within one of the porter weeds was some Salvia.  Over time the porter weed became over grown but the salvia actually seeded itself in the flower bed.  I eventually took out the porter weed and allowed the salvia to take over.  I have a beautiful bed of mostly red, and some pink salvia.  I continually take the dry seeds off the plants and reseed them in the yard.   I am hoping to create a wildflower area around my bee hives.  I have also sprinkled the seeds on the east side of the backyard hoping that they will grow.  I have been checking lately, and I can see lots of little seedlings starting to grow.  Salvia coccinea is a great plant to have in the garden especially if you are trying to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.  The other flower that I have been trying to grow is Spanish Needle (Biden Alba).  Many consider it a weed and don’t want it in their yard but the pollinators love it. It is actually related to the daisy family and attracts 37 different butterflies.   I get totally excited when I go to a nursery and they give me some Spanish Needle.  I have also been known to stop on the side of the road to collect the seeds.  The plant is appropriately named because the seeds are like little needles and stick to your clothing.   

I discovered a website   I ordered several packages of Florida Native Wildflowers. The emphasis is on Florida native.  I ordered Chapman’s Goldenrod, Frostweed, Coreopsis basalis, Conoclinium coelestinum, Aster elliottii, and Chapman’s Blazing Star.  I have no idea if these will grow.   I have tried to prep the soil for the seeds and I have mowed the area between the hives.  They say not to till the soil or it will stimulate the weed to grow.  I didn’t, but I still have a lot of weeds.  I have been sprinkling Spanish Needle, Salvia, Milkweed, and now I am going to try to see if I can get some of these native wildflowers to grow.  I will keep you posted.  I would like to say I am doing this for my honeybees, but most honey bees will travel several miles to forage.   The honeybees that I am seeing in my yard are probably someone else’s bees.    When my bees come out of the hive they shoot out like a rocket, and off they go.  Where they go I am not sure!  For those bees and butterflies that do decide to visit my yard, and because I just loved the way wild flowers look,  I think it would add a beautiful backdrop to my hives.  I will keep you posted with pictures as to the progress of my wildflowers.  Right now I have lots of weeds; you can see that in the pictures.  Like I said in the beginning of this blog “May all your weeds be wildflowers” and “may wildflowers line your path wherever you go!”

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