Table of Contents

Beautiful Butterfly Gardens: A Sanctuary For Native Pollinators

Cultivating Beauty and Wonder

I ended 2023 with a message of Thanks. Now, I’d like to enter 2024 with a message of Hope. As we are bombarded daily with ugly, depressing news from around the world, I find an even greater need to create sanctuary on our small southern NH property. It’s here that I see signs of life and hope every day. It’s here that I feel I have some level of control over my life. It’s here that I can make a change for the better.

More than ever, the garden is a classroom with lessons worth sharing. So this year, I plan to share more insights, information, and resources to not only help you become a more successful gardener, but also a better steward of your land. My intent is not to preach or lecture, but to inspire. Each of us can decide the level of change we are willing to make in our lives to improve this world for the next generation. Even small changes matter.

Along with my usual practical tips, I will leave you with two incredible movie recommendations below that will give you cause to rejoice and to have hope for the future. Because in the end, it’s all about cultivating beauty and wonder in our gardens – for ourselves, for the creatures that call it home, and for generations to come.

Prioritizing Wonder over Pretty

Over time, I amassed a collection of lovely plants that really didn’t bring any life into the garden. Now I seek plants for their Wonder Quotient. In my opinion, our gardens need to go beyond pretty, and plants must serve as food, pollen, nectar, and foliage to sustain native wildlife.

The good news is, plants with high Wonder Quotients can also be extremely pretty. We don’t need to sacrifice aesthetics to achieve Wonder. Consider the incredibly beautiful and beneficial Veronicastrum. A stalwart in my native pollinator gardens, it competes for the most amazing plant award by visitors and pollinators alike during the month of July. Its 4-foot tall spikes and see-through nature command attention the moment visitors approach our house.

Veronicastrum not only produces profuse pollen and nectar, but it is also a host plant for a couple species of butterflies. The Buckeye butterfly and others lay eggs on its foliage, which feeds the emerging caterpillars. Like the Monarch and milkweed, most all butterflies and moths have specific plants upon which they will host. Without these native host plants, we will have no butterflies or moths.

If you want your garden to go beyond pretty this year, please consider this pollinator powerhouse. It can be difficult to find at typical nurseries and garden centers, so reach out and I can source plants for your garden.

Preparing for Spring

It’s early February, and suddenly the days are noticeably brighter and longer. Temps are milder, as so often happens this time of year. Just as we start to think spring is just around the corner, we’ll be slammed with bone-chilling cold, gray skies, and snow. Life in New England.

While we daydream about the spring garden, there’s plenty to do inside to prepare – including sharpening secateurs, stocking up on organic fertilizers, and starting plants from seed. I’m fairly diligent with keeping my Okatsune hand pruners cleaned and sharpened throughout the year. This helps to ensure clean cuts and minimize the transfer of disease from one plant to another.

I don’t tend to use a lot of fertilizer since my garden soil is full of life and richness after years of composting and amendments. But I do like to have a bag or two of Espoma Plant Tone on hand, as well as Espoma Holly Tone for evergreens and hydrangea. These slow-release granular fertilizers can be applied in spring as you are preparing your beds for the season. If there are areas of the garden that are lacking in nutrients, the Tones are the perfect remedy.

Once I finally tidy up my beds after all the sleeping insects have departed in late April or early May, I sling generous amounts of Plant Tone and Holly Tone on top of the soil. I may or may not scratch it in, depending upon my energy level that day. I finish everything off with a light layer of our homemade pine needle and leaf mulch, water everything in, and sit back and wait for the Wonder to begin.

Feeding for Maximum Wonder

For later spring and summer feedings, my go-to product is Neptunes Harvest Fish & Seaweed fertilizer. This is the one product that is actually applied directly onto the plants’ foliage. It’s super easy to use, and your garden will smell like the ocean for a day (but birds and pollinators won’t mind).

This collection of products will truly make a difference in your garden and help your plants achieve their maximum Wonder Quotient. For my Nashua followers, all of these products can be purchased locally at Nashua Farmers Exchange. This is a wonderful family-operated business with the best products and most knowledgeable staff in southern New Hampshire. Be sure to tell them Barb sent you!

Sowing Seeds for the Hospice Garden

I recently had the pleasure of hosting the CHH garden volunteers for a winter seed sowing event. Thousands of poppy, verbena bonariensis, penstemon, angelica, bee balm, milkweed, asters, ironweed, and more were carefully potted up. The seeds will overwinter outside in my garden, being exposed to all the freezing, thawing, snow, rain, and sunshine.

This method exposes seeds to natural weather systems, and when temps warm up in the spring, the seeds will break dormancy and sprout. They will remain outside growing into seedlings that are strong, healthy, and well-adapted to outdoor temps. This eliminates the need for hardening off. By April, we should see signs of germination, and by May and June, we hope to have small plants that will be ready to plant directly in the hospice house gardens.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 1st for the Community Hospice House plant sale. In addition to our own plants grown from seed, we are hoping to have generous donations from my wholesale nurseries available for purchase. Proceeds from the sale will go towards our many garden needs, including a drip irrigation system, tree work, and more. Stay tuned for more details on exact time and location.

The Magic Beneath Our Feet

For us all to become better stewards of our land, we need to have an awareness of the magic happening beneath our feet. There is so much for us to learn about soil biology. I know, it sounds dull. But it isn’t! How we treat the land and grow our crops impacts us all and especially impacts future generations.

Here are my two movie recommendations that are educational, enlightening, and eye-opening. While some of the content is alarming, they should ultimately fill you with a sense of hope. I recommend watching Fantastic Fungi first. Once you do, you will never look at the dirt beneath your feet the same. Beautifully filmed and immediately engaging, I guarantee you won’t regret the 1-1.2 hour film time.

Next, I recommend you check out Kiss The Ground, which sheds light on the damage done to our land by big agriculture. Be prepared for fascinating insights into how farming, if done correctly, can also reverse so much of the damage it has caused our planet and the atmosphere. This movie is compelling, disturbing, and yet hopeful all at once. I had so many “aha” moments while watching this that I had to watch it again. I assure you, you will come away with the goal of making at least one lifestyle change, and you will finally understand the truth about cow farts.

I would love to hear your thoughts and takeaways from the movies. Please share them below for us all to ponder. Until next time, happy Wonder gardening!

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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