Have you ever felt like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew? We often feel this in the springtime, as we begin our garden. We go overboard, romanticizing images of a full, flourishing garden.
With the spring weather, we have been looking forward to adding some flowers to our butterfly garden. But this time we are looking at it as a journey, a process, something that we don’t want to rush to fill.
It’s been a little less than a year, but having this garden has helped me to grieve, and I don’t see the sense in filling it all in at once, because grief is a process. Each shovel full of dirt moved has helped me feel a little stronger, each hole dug has given me a little bit of solace, each seed sown has provided a promise of beauty to come.
I won’t be done grieving just because the garden is filled. I want spaces to come out to each birthday and plant a new flower for Millie.
Finding Plants for the Butterfly Garden
Recently we took a family trip to an outdoor nursery to pick a few flowers for Millie’s garden. I love our local nursery – The Gardener Nursery. The owners are knowledgeable and friendly and they always have a great selection of flowers, plants, and shrubs. They even had some annuals so we were able to buy a few tomato plants.
Mon Cœur (MC) just enjoyed the car ride. She was so quiet I thought she had fallen asleep a few times. It’s these little things we forget we miss in the midst of self isolating during a pandemic. When we got to the nursery it was a nice cool morning and very few customers, so we were able to roam around freely, looking at the inventory and figuring out what we wanted for our garden.
MC decided she would be in charge of carrying the garden map and the pencil, and when I wasn’t looking, I caught her inspecting the flowers around her:
I almost melted, watching her smell each different flower. We picked out just a few new flower specimens to add to our garden. We were looking for specific areas of the garden to fill as well as specific plants to buy. In particular, we wanted to fill a shady spot and find deer-resistant plants, as we just recently noticed some nibbles taken from the camellias and gardenia.
I was especially interested in finding plants that were shade loving for a hill we have in the garden. We found three azaleas: George Tabor, a beautiful light pink; Formosa, a bright pink; and Girards Pleasant White.
Azaleas aren’t specifically mentioned as butterfly attractors, however, they are beautiful, flower prolifically, and do well in the shade. We decided to go with one-gallon pots of azaleas and spaced them about 5 feet apart.
Depending on the culture, azaleas portray different meanings. According to flowermeanings.org, in Japan and China, the flower symbolizes home or homesickness. In Victorian times, it was a sign of temperance. It has many other meanings, among them: taking care of oneself and others, and caring deeply for someone.
Azaleas are NOT deer resistant, and as such, we are keeping them in cages until we can figure out if deer are going to be a true threat to our garden and until the azaleas are better established. As MC and I ventured out the following morning to plant the azaleas, we noticed a bright green hummingbird perched on the wire of the cage. What an amazing way to start our morning garden adventures!
Chouchou really wanted to get some phlox for ground cover, to help keep weeds down on the hills. One feature of the garden is some mounds of dirt we placed throughout the garden to serve as a canvas for flowers.
He wanted the path to be meandering and for the mounds and flowers to help surround us with wildlife. For those walking along the path to be in the moment, and not just looking ahead to where they go next. Until we are able to fill all the hills, phlox is a great way to take up space, since they are supposed to spread 18″.
They also have beautiful little blue and pink flowers. According to perennial-gardens.com, phlox symbolizes harmony. We would have purchased more, but the price for a gallon plant was a little expensive, so we will buy seeds next year and plant them throughout the garden.
We both wanted to add a couple of butterfly bushes. We decided to go with full size plants, as they can reach heights of six to eight feet, and will provide plenty of shade and food for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
We found one that will produce pink blooms, Pink Delight, and another that will produce dark purple blooms, Black Knight. They are only about two feet tall right now, but in our experience, they grow quickly. The nursery advised us to cut back the butterfly bushes to about 2 feet in late winter/early spring, which will help the butterfly bush continue to grow prolifically.
According to Theresa Dietz’ book, The Complete Language of Flowers: A Definitive and Illustrated History, Buddleja is a symbol for tenacity. Fitting, since as I was researching this there are many articles that say how invasive this plant is. Additionally, I remember when Chouchou cut down a butterfly bush that had grown taller than the house and really taken over the front of our house. It came back with a vengeance the next season.
Other sites have cited rebirth, new beginnings, and peace after struggle as symbols for the butterfly bush.
Shortly after we planted our nursery haul, Chouchou came home with some amazing buys on daffodil and tulip bulbs as well as a few hydrangeas. When we find homes for all these beauties, we’ll post another update!