Butterflies in the Garden

Cape May – Garlic chives. How could a plant with a name like that prove irresistible to swarms of Painted Ladies?  The white flowers hit their peak bloom in our garden in early September, just as the first crush of Ladies was passing through. Of course they had to stop and grab some nectar for the road.

The word must have gotten out.  The Painted Ladies just kept coming all season long. We felt like we were feeding half of the North American population this fall.

After the garlic chives petered out, the sedum became the hot spot in the garden.

Clouds of butterflies would scatter anytime we came within a few feet of the flowers. Lucky for us ( and for the butterflies) we have more than one variety of this tough, pink, drought tolerant plant. Not all bloom at the same time. When one cultivar stopped blooming, another kicked in. Waves of sedum kept bringing waves of Ladies.

It was about mid September when waves of  Buckeyes started showing up.  Those are the butterflies with the jewel like circles on their wings. They and the Ladies had no problem sharing flowers.

At the same time, yellow Sulphurs were stopping by the deep blue Salvia Indigo Spires for a drink. A pretty sight.

And the blue Caryopteris did its part for butterfly hunger.

Everyone’s favorite, the Monarch, couldn’t be kept away from our patches of Tropical Milkweed.

The Monarchs started overlapping the other butterflies, but they didn’t really show up in full force until the Ladies and Buckeyes and Sulphurs  headed south. By that time, the sedum and caryopteris were drying up.

Although the monarchs nibbled on the Indigo Spires sage, they much preferred our stand of New England asters, just coming into bloom.

You didn’t need a scorecard to keep track of the freshest flowers in the garden. You just followed the butterflies. They knew where to go.

This monarch even found a few fresh buds hidden among the dried out flowers of the verbena bonariensis.

And the Swallowtails had no problem finding Garden Partner’s prized Italian flat leaf parsley, planted in pots to keep it away from the voles.

Swallowtail caterpillars devoured it before crawling away to form a chrysalis.

See you guys in the spring.

About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak is a journalist, a gardener and a Cape Island resident. She's also Cape May Times' photographer. She founded Cape May Times after a long and lively career in TV news.