by germinatrix | June 27th, 2011
We ALL want to be attractive, don’t we? And we want our gardens to be attractive – in lots of ways. Not only should our gardens look as spectacular as we want them to look, they should literally ATTRACT – we want life in our gardens!
One of the reasons I adore planting fennel is that it is a host for the Anise Swallowtail butterfly – one of the most beautiful flitting, fluttering things in my garden. In the photo above we see a very fashionable 5th instar anise swallowtail caterpillar, almost getting ready to turn into a chrysalis. He’s been gobbling up the fennel since he hatched from his egg, as an adult, he’ll be helping to pollinate umbelliferous herbs and vegetables – carrots, dill, parsley, and my favorite – fennel. Mates will be found, eggs will be laid, and the cycle will start again. Plant fennel and other umbellifers to attract anise swallowtails to your garden (fennel is also a home to ladybugs and ladybug lions, so have at it – go to town!).
In my Los Angeles garden, I grow about 4 varieties of passion flowers. This one is P. ‘Jeanette’, and the hummingbirds LOVE HER! I am a crazy fan of hunmers, and planting to feed them is high on my list of design imperatives. My most vigorous passion flowers are in bloom all year long, and they are constantly visited by Annas, Allens, and Costas, chirping madly and sometimes getting territorial. It is such a delight to see so many of these fairy birds zipping their way to and fro – so plant to attract! Other plants I have that are hummingbird magnets are aloes, grevilleas, salvias, and zauchneria.
I take it for granted that everybody loves bees – I was shocked when someone asked me to design a garden that kept bees away (needless to say, I didn’t design that garden!). If you love to grow flowers and food, you NEED bees. Your gardens will never truly thrive if you don’t invite bees in to hang out and have a party – they are the primary pollinators of our gardens. Most estimates say bees pollinate 80% of our fruiting and flowering crops – the rest being taken care of by birds, butterflies, moths, and bats. So we gardeners MUST love our bees! One way I show my bee love is by planting marjoram. I have an enormous, overgrown marjoram plant that I have to brush by whenever I enter my backyard raised beds. I like to keep this particular marjoram big and full, I let it flower as long as it will – this plant is exclusively for my bees. If you could only hear the sound – a loud, frantic buzz emanates from the billowing herb. It is unsettling to some, but to gardeners it is like birdsong! There are hundreds of bees frolicking in the flowers, and then they go play in my nearby tomato and squash plants, helping my harvest. My little garden mascots, I want to attract as many of them as possible! To do so, I hold off on harvesting some of my edibles and let them bloom – arugula, artichokes, mustards – and I include verbenas, borage, and sunflowers. And the bees come.
Just look at this subtle beauty. She is doing her duty by my African Blue basil. There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, Angels & Insects, where a young woman is woo’d by a man releasing butterflies around her – they lighted on her dress, tickled her shoulders, and charmed her. The next night, he released moths – and they tried to tickle and tempt her, but she was disgusted. Watching the movie, I found the moths MORE alluring – but hey, that’s me. I love moths. They also have a place in our gardens – they pollinate many of plants that give off heady scents at night, like cestrum nocturnum (night blooming jasmine), moonflowers, and brugmansias. Don’t let these lovely butterflies of the night go hungry – attract them, too! I eradicate any cabbage looper that I find, but if I see an odd caterpillar munching away, I’ll give it some leeway – it might turn into a glorious moth that I’d be happy to spot in my twilight garden.
And if you want to attract bats – and who doesn’t – plant a yucca! Mine has yet to bloom – I can’t wait for those creatures of the night to wing their way into my corner of the world! I’ll keep you all posted!
XOXO, Your Germinatrix