Friday, October 8, 2010
A New Wildlife Garden: Chapter 1...by Andrew Geist (August 2010)
It's done, it's in the ground! All the studying, planning, choosing and wondering "is this right?" "is this best? is behind us. What a journey and what an education for a new native plant-butterfly-bird gardener!
About eight months ago, during Miami's "winter" in January, I decided I wanted a butterfly garden in the back yard. To make a long story short, this idea transformed into wanting a very special butterfly and bird garden that would use all available sections of my 1/3 acre yard (front, back and both sides).
I also went on the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Butterfly Garden tour with Linda Evans, which I highly recommend. This walk is offered every Sunday at the garden, with Linda leading it every other Sunday. Linda, who is Vice-President of Miami Blue Chapter and a recent “Volunteer of the Year” at Fairchild, has a wealth of knowledge on butterfly plants.
I have never met a book I didn't like, and so I purchased a library of books on the subject. My favorite resources turned out to be:
Florida Butterfly Gardening: Marc and Maria Minno;
Florida Keys Wildflowers: Roger Hammer;
Everglades Wildflowers: Roger Hammer;
Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and Their Host Plants: Marc Minno, Jerry Butler, Donald Hall;
Butterflies through Binoculars: FLORIDA: Jeffrey Glassberg, Marc Minno, John Calhoun;
Native Trees and Shrubs of the Florida Keys: Paul Scurlock;
A Gardeners Guide to Florida's Native Plants: Rufino Osorio;
Native Florida Plants: Robert Haehle, Joan Brookwell;
The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida: Gil Nelson;
Butterfly Gardening with Florida's Native Plants: Craig Huegel;
Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening: Jaret Daniels;
Attracting Birds to Your Garden (article): Roger Hammer;
Miami Blue Chapter's ONLINE list: Butterfly Host Plants for Southeast Florida (http://www.miamiblue.org/plants.php).
I need to get a good book on Florida moths (any suggestions from anyone?). I see a lot of moths that look like baby hummingbirds and I am told they are “hummingbird moths” in the genus Hemaris of the sphinx moth or hawkmoth group and that are beneficial pollinators.
Early in the process I decided to remove nearly all trees or plants in the yard that were not either bird or butterfly attracting species, or at least native species. Lucky for me my good friend, Scott Muggleston, owner of Scott's Tree Care, along with his crew, helped me with this very labor intensive task. This meant I was left with only my mature live oaks (one of the best bird attracting trees in south Florida and a host plant to the Horace's Duskywing), 1 pomegranate tree (hummingbirds really hit the flowers), 5 mango trees and 1 banana plant (for us to feed on!), and 1 ligustrum tree with white flowers that seem to attract nectaring butterflies.
In my selections, I also went by the plant zone (10b) and tried to stay away from wetlands plants not likely to thrive in my well-drained situation. A resource I learned about only recently would have been helpful in the beginning, and will be in the future: You can go on the website of the Institute for Regional Conservation (www.regionalconservation.org), find the "Natives for Your Neighborhood" page, enter your zip code, and learn what plants historically grew in, and are recommended for, the area.
Now, about 6 months in the ground, I have not yet spent much time trying to identify the different butterflies and moths in my yard. I am still trying to perfect my yard, which keeps me occupied with plants in my free time. Soon I will be able concentrate more on the butterflies, moths and birds. Of course I know the common easy to identify ones. I am hoping the more things start filling out, the more different species I will start seeing.