Family Stories

A Kansas Butterfly Garden

-by Greg Hoots-

When my wife, Cheryl and I moved into our present home, there were no flower beds established on the lot.  There was a long, narrow flower bed along the front of the house, but there was no sign that anything had ever been planted in it, or at least there were no signs of flowers having grown there.  The first year we filled it with flowering annuals, and between the rows of flowers, we planted two rows of green beans.  The beans added some green foliage to the spartan bed.

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This Monarch pauses on a Cosmos plant to warm itself in the morning sun.

In the years that followed, our gardening moved to the back yard where we planted a small area about 8-foot wide by 24-feet in length. We established raised beds to limit the amount of weeding we would have to do, as we chose a sunny area once sewn in grass for our little vegetable garden.

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The vegetable garden as it appeared in this view from 2011 was very organized.

As the years passed, my wife began to plant perennial plants and the beds began to fill, so we expanded the garden several times.  About five years ago, Cheryl began planting crops which provided a breeding habitat for butterflies.  Initially, we planted milkweed, the only plant on which the Monarch butterfly will lay its eggs, but we soon expanded our “host” garden to include dill and parsley plants, the host plants most favored by several varieties of Swallowtail butterflies common in Kansas.

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A once-formerly unused and unkempt hillside has been transformed to a feeding oasis for Kansas butterflies.

We continued to plant more flowering perennials in an effort to provide nectar sources for feeding butterflies that visited our garden.  Last year, I tilled a very steep hill in the backyard that had always been problematic, as it was too steep to accommodate mowing by a gas-powered mower.  After tilling the hillside, I planted it in Zinnias and Cosmos flowers, both popular with butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

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This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was captured by the camera in flight in the nectar garden.

We also planted a section of perennials on the hillside, establishing a stand of Black-Eyed-Susans and Shasta Daisies. I covered these perennial favorites with straw throughout the winter months, and they thrived during their second year in the garden.

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Black-Eyed Susans thrive in the perennial section of the nectar garden.

In 2018, we captured scores of caterpillars in the garden, feeding them for two weeks until they morphed into the chrysalis stage before becoming showy butterflies which we released into the backyard sanctuary.

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Cheryl releases a freshly hatched Monarch butterfly.

In 2018 we released 49 Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies in the back yard, and the nectar garden provided food for hundreds of visiting butterflies and hummingbirds throughout the year.

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Tiger Swallowtails abound in the nectar garden in July and August. Swallowtails do not migrate, but overwinter in Kansas.

The Nectar Garden at Night

Nighttime brings thousands of moths and other insects of the night to the butterfly garden where they feast on the same nectar that the butterflies and hummingbirds eat during the day.

The nighttime brings new opportunity to see the flowers of the garden in photos.

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A Passion Flower vine wraps around the trellis entering the hillside garden.

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The showy Zowie Zinnias are a favorite of butterflies.

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Zinnias have a short growing cycle, making them ideal for most growing zones.

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Zinnias are easy to grow and are a favorite of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

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Giant Red Zinnia

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Giant Purple Zinnia

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Black-Eyed Susan

The showy green Luna moth is a curious anomaly in the butterfly garden.  This butterfly-like moth eats nothing during its short life in the moth state.  Luna moths can often be seen hanging from bushes and flowers at dusk where the remain suspended until midnight when they take flight to begin their mating ritual

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This male Luna moth chose a Crepe Myrtle plant in the butterfly garden to hang, awaiting his midnight mating ritual.

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A male Luna moth hangs on a Crepe Myrtle in the butterfly garden, awaiting the midnight hour.

 

To view our butterfly garden, click on any photo below and look at the pictures in a gallery format or as a full screen image.

 

 

 

Click on any of the night photos below to view in a gallery format or as a full-screen image:

 

 

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