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Naturescaping: Butterflies & hummers

By Norm Wagenaar

Now’s the time of year when many gardeners ask the question “what’s next?”

One answer is to consider setting aside a corner of your garden for butterflies and hummingbirds. You’ll enjoy the extra life and colour, and the plant selection isn’t half bad either.

Search on the internet for either butterfly or hummingbird gardens and you’ll find long lists of plants for both categories. The good news for those just getting started is that there’s a reasonable amount of crossover on the lists, which lean towards hardy native species.

Shrubs and perennials that attract both butterflies and hummingbirds include red-flowering currant, elderberries, butterfly weed, bleeding heart and bee balm, to name just a few. Other hummingbird favourites include clematis, weigala, red hot pokers, foxglove, gladiolas, zinnias and dahlias, all of which will provide plenty of garden colour.

The list for butterflies is even longer, to include cone flowers, native roses and asters, fennel, thyme and sage – providing an opportunity to add fresh herbs to your kitchen as you benefit the butterflies.

Different species of butterflies rely on different plants to provide food for their larvae. For example, fritillary butterflies require violet leaves, while red admirals and tortoiseshell butterflies need thistles.

This means you’ll need to do a little homework on the internet and in your library, if you’re hoping to optimize your garden for your favourite butterfly species. But rather than think of this as a chore, consider it an opportunity to learn how your patch of heaven fits into the ecosystem around it.

Norm Wagenaar is a landscaper and writer living in Cedar. For more on Naturescaping, see his blog at

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Marina is Editor of TAKE 5 Magazine.