With the increasing spread of urbanisation bringing about a reduction in the amount of natural meadow land spaces this has played a part in reducing the amount of natural habitat for butterflies. However, the good news is that you don’t have to put in a great deal of effort to entice these wonderful creatures into your garden. Butterflies are so synonymous with glorious British weather and can help make an already beautiful garden into a magical summer paradise and butterfly garden.
Even if you’re garden is tiny, butterflies will still be attracted to it as long as you have planted suitable nectar plants as it’s the nectar from the flowers that supplies the adult butterfly with food. To increase the proliferation of butterflies in your garden, you should plant suitable flowers such as bluebells, dandelions, pansies, primroses, sweet William and wallflowers for spring and if you want to encourage butterflies to stay right through from spring to autumn, in the late summer you should have chrysanthemum, French marigold, forget-me-nots, lavender, mint or honeysuckle etc. In fact, your garden centre will be able to give you plenty of advice of nectar bearing plants of both spring and summer varieties to create a suitable butterfly garden.
You should also plant the flowers in sunny but sheltered spots as butterflies enjoy the warmth and the more different species of plants you have in your butterfly garden, the greater the variety of species of butterflies you’re likely to attract. Keep them well-watered too as this helps them produce far more nectar.
You can also boost the population of butterflies in your wildlife garden by providing a good food source for caterpillars. Nettles, Sweet Rocket and Garlic Mustard are all ideal and most common species of butterfly will be happy to lay their eggs on these plants. Most caterpillars will not cause noticeable damage but if you have problems with caterpillars eating the likes of your cabbage leaves in your garden, take time to pick them off as opposed to spraying with pesticides. Alternatively, some gardeners prefer to cover their cabbages with fleece during spring time to stop butterflies from laying their eggs there. For those who are not that keen on having nettles growing amidst other garden plants, you might prefer to plant some nettles in pots instead and bury the pots in the ground in a sunny area where they will do the same job but not get out of control. If you grow herbs, plant enough in the garden for both yourself and the caterpillars as they enjoy eating things like fennel, parsley and dill too and this will help to keep them away from other flowers in your garden.
The less you tidy up your garden over the winter, the better it will be for the following year’s butterfly population so that caterpillars or pupae of butterflies lay undisturbed. And, although the average life span of a butterfly in its adult form is around 4 weeks, a few species, such as tortoiseshells, can actually live through the winter months and do so by tucking themselves away in deep vegetation or ivy and can even take up residency and hibernate in sheds.
By offering the right environment for both butterflies and caterpillars to flourish, you’ll be rewarded with a marvellous butterfly garden spectacle during the summer and you’ll have played your part in maintaining a wildlife garden tradition that has always seemed uniquely and quintessentially British.
Here in Tilford Cottage Garden we encourage butterflies in any way we can. We counted 15 species of butterfly this season: Brimstone, Orange Tip, Small Tortoise shell, Small copper, Small blue, Small Skipper, Meadow brown, Small and Large white, Red admiral, Painted lady, Comma, Silver washed fritillary, Speckled wood, Wall.
These are a few plants that will readily attract butterflies to your garden