Robert Frost called them "flying flowers." Artists and children delight in them and lepidopterists study them. As a gardener, I am forever enchanted by the visit of a brightly colored butterfly with its velvety wings-especially at the most unexpected time while slaving away at weeds or dividing. It's like a friend stopping by who appreciates your garden.
Fritillary upon your viburnum, like night moths visiting the nicotiana, or dragonflies and damselflies in the meadow, offer an unmistakable extra pizzazz to the garden. And they always seem to appear at that impromptu moment.
Or is it impromptu? Actually, much can be done to coax them into your garden.
A few facts: of the Insecta class and the Lepidoptera order, they form a complete metamorphosis. Approximately 200 species exist in New England, ranging from the Great Spangled Fritillary to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the Question Mark. Cold-blooded, they thrive on warm sunshine and absolutely shun windy conditions.
To attract butterflies, we need to make only relatively small changes in our current practices and styles," states Alcinda Lewis in "Butterfly Gardens," published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As usual, habitat is crucial. In the wild, many clues are offered on attracting these pollinators upon which so many plants, such as milkweed (Asclepias) or Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium), depend.