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When to give up on butterflies? Question of scale and location

11 years ago

I live in an urban, row house neighborhood with a tiny yard. Some of my neighbors garden a bit, some a bit more, some not at all. My backyard is like a courtyard because it is bordered on one side by the back of the house and on the other is the back of the garage. Two small patios and a path in between for hardscape. I have to be very choosy about what I plant. On one patio I have a seat swing that I like to sit in to view the garden. So that side of the garden has goals of visual pleasure, and to some extent, fragrance. But I love to play with plants so I often have competing goals. I envisioned sitting on the swing and watching butterflies sipping nectar on the plants in the viewing garden. I only had so much room, so I planted a "Pink Delight" buddlia for a screen to the neighbors plus the attracting qualities. I figured if there were any butterflies in the neighborhood, that would do it. Well, it is year two, and I have not seen ONE butterfly in my yard other than white cabbage loopers or whatever those white ones are called. The whole yard is barren of butterflies, not just on the buddlia. And it has a lot of plants, it's not a mono-culture--maple, musclewood for trees, lilac, spirea, coneflower, oregano, thyme, mint, roses, raspberries, ninebark, pinks, tulips, mayflower, hosta, sweetfern, blueberry . . . to name a few.

BF said he saw an "orange" butterfly on the buddlia this week. I saw a swallowtail this year in the front yard, probably scoping out my Bishop's weed ground cover to lay eggs on. I have so many plants competing for my favor, I'm wondering if I should just toss in the hat, since it is unlikely I can produce or draw from enough habitat to have much to see. The buddlia doesn't really fit in with my dwarf trees and conifers that I use as screens, and I could just as easily plant a smelly witch hazel there or a smelly viburnum. I have some perrenials and annuals that butterflies like, seems like they would be just as likely to draw butterflies as "the Beast" which is what we call the buddlia. I mean I'm not going to suddenly start using pesticides and the like to scare them away, but I'm wondering what is even possible in this situation. Since I don't like the buddlia for much else other than its butterfly attracting qualities, it seems like it is wasting valuable space at this point since I don't know if if will ever fulfill its intended function. I can grow some host species but again, a limited number and choices have to be made. Even a few blocks away in suburbia I think I might be more likely to have success, but we're not moving any time soon. Anyone have any urban butterfly gardening experiences to share? If you could only grow a garden with half a dozen plants, what would they be?

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