Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Butterfly Gardening: a new book by The Xerces Society

Have you heard? There is a new book out on gardening for butterflies. A book that is worthy to sit on every gardener's shelf and referenced frequently.

Spicebush Swallowtail visiting butterfly weed
Gardening for butterflies has been trending in the gardening world for many years. I have given presentations to garden clubs, master gardeners, mom's groups and other garden organization on gardening for butterflies and moths. I love educating on this topic!  Gardening for butterflies is what I consider the gateway to gardening for all wildlife. If people get hooked on attracting butterflies to their garden and see all the joy and life it brings, they will soon graduate to gardening for bees and other beneficial insects.

Spring Azure

But despite people's enthusiasm for butterflies they, like many other insects, are in peril. I have noticed in my own garden, that butterfly populations fluctuate from year to year. Some years I have an abundance of a certain species, while other years there seems to be more diversity. Mounting evidence is showing that butterflies as a whole, not just the Monarchs, have been in decline at exceptional rates.

Monarch on Ageratum
When you consider that just one in ten butterflies makes it to adulthood, habitat loss and use of insecticides makes their survival even more challenging. To encourage gardeners to plant more to support butterflies, the Xerces Society recently published a new book Gardening for Butterflies. My friend, Penny, gifted this book to me as an early birthday present.


The forward, written by Robert Michael Pyle of Gray's River, Washington pens that "by nurturing, enriching, and diversifying your own habitat of home, you are taking part in real butterfly conservation."

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Carolina Jessamine
This comprehensive book begins with why butterflies (moths and other beneficial insects) matter, then moves on to the butterfly life cycle and different butterfly families.  An entire section of the book focuses on how to design a butterfly garden, providing sample plans to put the principles into practice using regionally appropriate plants.  Examples include a rain garden and upland habitat, xeriscape garden, multi-use backyard garden, meadow and roadside habitat.

Question Mark finding minerals in sandy soil in driveway

A large part of the book consists of native plant profiles, which support butterflies. Beyond garden design, the authors discuss plant selection, installation and maintenance. I was thrilled to see an entire chapter on gardening for moths included.

Pearl Crescent on coreopsis

And even if you don't have a place to garden at home, the book (and arguably perhaps the most important section) discusses how to get your community to incorporate gardens to support wildlife, be it businesses, college campuses, parks and greenspaces, roadsides and utility corridors, or farms and wild areas.

gray hairstreak on summersweet
All this fabulous information is supported by outstanding photos submitted by Xerces Society members. My fellow gardening friend and native plant advocate, Penny, has several photos featured in the book, a few of which she photographed in my garden. One of the photos is of me in front of (and behind) the camera.

The Xerces Society 'Gardening for Butterflies' page 265

This book will benefit novice and veteran butterfly gardeners alike. Whether you are looking to start a garden that attracts these beautiful creatures or spruce up and expand your established butterfly garden there is information in here for you. Reviewing the best plants for butterfly gardens (by region), I found that there are still a few plants I need to add to our garden.

Eastern Tiger swallowtail on buttonbush
Butterfly gardeners ARE changing the world. How much impact your garden will have to prevent butterflies from disappearing depends on what plants you incorporate in your landscape plan.

(Note: the butterfly photos appearing in this post are mine and do not appear in the book) 

Gardening for Butterflies can be purchased at The Xerces Society store or Timber Press

20 comments:

  1. That sounds like an absolutely wonderful book - I'm just trying to get our borders organized at the moment and would love to incorporate one or more butterfly border(s). Of particular interest as well would be the section on getting the community involved in adding butterfly friendly plantings - helping out in community gardens is something I'm hoping to get more and more involved in the years to come. This book is now on my wish list. And LOVELY photo of you in the book, Karin!

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    1. I really liked the section 'helping butterflies beyond the garden fence'. It is so important to grow these common areas in the community to educate the general public as well as demonstrate what an impact we can have on nature (positive and negative).

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  2. Timber Press is sending me a review copy of this book. After reading your comments, I can hardly wait to receive it! I agree that butterfly gardening is like a gateway drug to habitat gardening for all wildlife. Its popularity is one of the most encouraging trends in gardening in recent years.

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    1. That's great Dorothy! I am looking forward to reading your review.

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  3. Great review Karin! I'm so glad they included the photo of you in the book since you do so much to educate others on butterflies and native plants!

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    1. All because of you Penny! Thanks for submitting the photo!

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  4. Very cool!! I'm always interested in more butterfly gardening books. :o)

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  5. Sounds like a great book! Your butterfly pics are gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks! I hope you check out the book. It is a great read.

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  6. Nice! How awesome that your photo is in the book! I've always enjoyed your butterfly photos, Karin. I will ask for this book for my birthday, too.

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    1. It's a good one. You'll really enjoy it! So, when's your birthday?

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  7. PS Just wanted to add that it's great that your picture is in the book! Great picture of you too.

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  8. I agree that gardening for butterflies is really a gateway for gardening for wildlife in general! That's definitely how it happened for me! That sounds like a great book. And how cool that your picture is in it!

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  9. Great review! Can't wait to read this!

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  10. Great, i wish we can make something like that book here. I was into butterflies a few years back, but when i delved into hoyas the butterflies were shelved as 2nd priority. But when a butterfly alights on my hoya flowers, or sometimes moths at night, then that was double the fun. Oh how i really wish to have something like this book in the tropics.

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  11. Sounds like a valuable book! I am concerned that many plants grown for the mass market have been treated with systemic pesticides that are harmful to the pollinators they are supposed to attract. Many people are planting these plantsin their 'butterfly gardens" and unknowingly contributing to the butterflies' demise!

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    1. I agree. It is a great concern. Many nurseries are using insecticides to ensure blemish-free plants which only leads to them being toxic to pollinators. They do address this issue in the book 'evaluating plant selection at your local nursery' and 'ensuring insecticide-free nursery plants'.

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  12. Karin thanks for bringing this book to my attention....it looks wonderful!

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  13. This was a very nice gift Karin. Some gardeners are making a nice impact for insects with native plantings, but many others still need education on resisting to use pesticides on garden plants. Caterpillars are a main target too.

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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