In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
April, 2006
Regional Report

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Surprise! Fatsia is not known as a butterfly host plant, but seeing is believing.

Bring on the Butterflies

Nothing gets a child hooked on the natural world faster than watching a larva feed for days, spin a cocoon, then emerge as a butterfly or moth. Garden so your patch of the world nurtures butterflies and other pollinators, and you'll grow better kids, too.

Nature-Deficit Disorder
In his landmark book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv writes that, "baby boomers -- Americans born between 1946 and 1964 -- may constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water." Without those ties, the next generations will not see gardening, or small farms, or even conservation in the greatest sense as important. The consequences could be profound, both on the individuals who are emotionally cut off from their environment, and the habitat that sustains us.

In home gardens, the nurturing of nature goes on every day. By choosing a combination of flower shapes, sizes, and colors, you create an attractive garden to welcome bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other important pollinating insects. But consider two more factors: height of the flowers and your gardening practices. Both make a huge difference in the numbers of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and other pollinators that visit your garden. By planting flowers at three heights -- ankle, knee, and thigh of the average adult -- you provide the multidimensional buffet they seek.

Always remember that the same controls that keep the aphids from devouring your tomatoes, even if they are organic controls, are toxic to many insects you'd like to have in your garden. Use targeted, predator controls whenever possible, and spray or dust only the affected plants, not the entire garden.

Plant These Butterfly Magnets
Some of the grandest, easiest-to-grow plants also are hosts for some of our most beautiful butterflies. Plant candle plant from seed now for sweet sulfurs; parsley, fennel, and dill for swallowtails; maypop for beloved gulf fritillary; and milkweeds for the monarchs. Teach your children about them, so they will understand nature's vital importance to their future.


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