There is no denying that gardening in the sub tropics has it’s challenges. It’s either too hot, too dry, too wet, or too humid, all the extremes you can possibly imagine, sometimes all of these in the same week. As someone who has had regular visits from the ‘black dog’ throughout my life, I have always found that gardening, even with it’s extremes, takes me away from my dark place, it absorbs me, delights me and gives me meaning. I find there is nothing better to lift my spirits than a spot of quiet time in my garden, contemplating the small things that visit and call it home, the bugs, the bees and the butterflies. A few stolen minutes to myself, no phone, no computer, no demands on my time or energies, just me and the wonderful world of Australian wildlife.
Why my garden and it’s visitors, regularly lift my spirits.
I have spent the last 7 years encouraging all the wildlife I can squeeze into my steeply sloping, soil poor, 600 square meter suburban block, with bee hotels, bird baths, frog ponds and bird boxes, along with a myriad of interesting nooks and crannies for all manner of creatures, but by far the best thing I have done in this time is to establish a butterfly garden. A place for the butterflies to come and visit, rest, sip nectar, a place where butterflies can come and safely lay their eggs on chemical free host plants. For all my efforts in making compost, growing seeds and weeding, I reap the rewards every single day with the flittering of tiny wings and the regular flash of stunning colours. As many of you may have noticed this summer has seen the skies full of more butterflies than I can ever remember. But how can you get these butterflies to visit your garden? Butterflies need two different kinds of plants, they need flowering plants with plenty of easy access to nectar for the butterflies to feed from and host plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, then for the caterpillars to eat the leaves. Butterflies are very host specific, this means they are very fussy and only like a very few plants to lay their eggs on. If you provide both kinds of plants, you are guaranteed to get plenty of fluttering visitors. ‘Plant them and they will come’. These amazing flying flowers, these ephemeral beauties of the sky, keep a smile on my face and give meaning to my life.
When I am engaged to do butterfly garden consultations the first thing I always ask is ‘Were are you going to put the bench/seat/milk crate?’ Because all the hard work of gardening comes with such great rewards if we just stop and let ourselves enjoy them.
Many people no longer have big gardens or enough space to plant large trees and a vast array of plants but many plants will grow happily in large pots even on balconies, and there are some interesting climbers to attract butterflies into your garden. Whether your space is big or small planting the right plants to encourage the wildlife will reap it’s own rewards.
The Blue Tiger butterfly, (Tirumala hamata).
Mangrove Waxflower Vine, (Cynanchum carnosum).
Corky Milk Vine, (Secamone elliptica).
Yellow Monsoon Bells, (Heterostemma acuminatum). A tropical plant.
The Blue Tiger butterfly also loves Heliotropes and Okinawa Spinach. The male Blue Tiger butterfly collects the pollen as it contains pheromones that make it poisonous to the birds but very attractive to the female Blue Tiger butterfly.
Jo Hammond is the owner of ‘Butterfly Host Plants’ a small business she runs from her home in Ferny Grove, Brisbane. She propagates and sells hard to find host plants for butterflies, runs a website www.butterflyhostplants.com.au and hosts a Facebook page full of amazing images she takes of the butterflies that visit her butterfly garden and call it home.