Category Archives: Butterfly Gardening

Have You Ever Been Mallow?

Have you ever been Mallow, have you ever tried?

The pertinent question here is have you ever tried using Mallow in your Butterfly Garden?

If you have never used Mallow in your Butterfly Garden, then try it and you will be in for a pleasant surprise! Mallows are flowering plants in the hibiscus family (Malvaceae). They are not only attractive, when in bloom, flaunting an abundance of delicate and colorful florets, but also, hardy too.

It’s no wonder that a variety of North American butterflies, including but not limited to, the Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, West Coast Lady Vanessa annabella, Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, Grey Hairsteak Strymon melinus, Northern White Skipper Heliopetes ericetorum and Common Checkered Skipper Pyrgus communis all claim this lovely plant as a host.

Beautiful species of Mallows can be found throughout the North American and European continents. Here in California, we typically have showy and drought resistant native Chaparral Mallows Malacothamnus, which grow in the form of small trees or shrubs.

Pink Bushmallow Malacothamnus fasciculatus and Apricot Mallow Sphaeraicea ambigua are two California native species which might be encountered while hiking in our local foothills, especially during summer months.

The hot pink and more tropical, Island Bush Mallow Lavatera assurgentiflora can also be found throughout the coastal mainland of California. It can usually be spotted in cultivated gardens, as it is an escapee, and truly only native to the nearby Channel Islands.

Have you ever been happy just to hear your song…?

If attracting butterflies to your garden is your gig, then be sure to make room for a Mallow in your garden! With all the butterflies and blooms abound, you will find yourself both mellow and delighted to be sure!


Pin It

Old Garden Rose Preserves

Roses for Preserves

Gertrud Jekyll, Zepherine Drouhin and Reine des Violettes

Spring brings me a delicate flurry of butterflies and welcomes roses first blooms.

When I’m not tending to my butterfly obsession, I tend to my old garden roses which are blooming especially profusely this year. I wanted to make use of my heavenly scented old garden roses, something that would last all year long, something I could share with friends

I decided to make one of my favorite treats, Rose preserves.  To make this heavenly rose treat, be sure to use organically grown, heavily scented Old Garden, Antique, English or Heirloom Roses for the most divine rose fragrance and flavor. I use a combination of Gertrud Jekyll, Zepherine Drouhin and Reine des Violettes.

3 1/2 cups rose petals (packed, white part at base of petal removed)
2 – 2 1/2 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon or lime

Pulse petals in the food processor and slowly add the sugar and lemon. Add more sugar or lemon if needed.

The preserves are so flavorful and gorgeous, they will take your breath away! Spread on biscuits, scones, crescent rolls, shortcake, dab on vanilla ice cream, cheesecake or cream brulee.  Rose preserves makes a wonderful filling for tea sandwiches, cookies and donuts too!

Rose Preserves

Rose Preserves


Pin It

Bugs and Butterfly Event at Riley Wilderness Park 2011

California Dogface Zerene eurydice

California Dogface (Zerene eurydice)

Bugs and Butterflies Event
Sunday, June 5, 2011
10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Join Obsession With Butterflies along with plant, and insect enthusiasts for a day under the oak trees. Learn about butterflies and how to attract them to your garden. Rangers will lead nature walks through the native plant garden, offer a Hawk Talk and other activities for children. Brent Karner from the LA Museum of Natural History will have his traveling Insect Zoo with many interesting critters to meet up close. Information will be offered by specialists in water conservation, gardening, beekeeping, vector control, wilderness preserves and entomology. A fun day for the whole family!

Some of the vendors include…
Obsession with Butterflies/NABA (North American Butterfly Association)
LA Museum of Natural History
Orange County Vector Control
Wer-Mor n Honey
Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy
Master Gardeners of Orange County
Wagon Wheel Natural History Association

Event Fee: Free with parking
Parking Fee: $3.00

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park
30952 Oso Parkway
Coto de Caza, CA, CA 92679
949-923-2265 or 949-923-2266

Pin It

Deerweed is not just for Deer…

Lotus scoparius, also commonly known as Deerweed,

is definitely not just for Deer!

In California, Arizona, and parts of Mexico, Deerweed sets the foothills ablaze in color from early spring through summer. This brightly hued perennial is a hot spot for local wildlife, butterflies included. Margaret Huffman of the North American Butterfly Association calls this lovely lotus “the best butterfly plant for Southern California”.

The Silvery Blue, Glaucopsyche lygdamus, Bramble Hairstreak, Callophrys perplexa, Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis and Avalon Scrub Hairstreak, Strymon avalona, all use this hardy plant as a host. Female Gray Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus, Orange Sulphurs , Colias eurytheme, Acmon Blues, Icaricia acmon, Marine Blues, Leptotes marina, and Chalcedon Checkerspots, Euphydryas chalcedona, are also rumored to have frequented its flames in search of a place to lay their eggs.

Changing in color from yellow to red once pollinated, Deerweed’s fiery buds attract many other pollinators as well, including the Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii. Rodents, birds and other seed eating creatures partake in its zestful foliage too. Male butterflies can often be found setting up territories near Deerweed. And not to worry; Deer, for whom this plant is not so aptly named, do not find themselves burned where foraging is concerned, as this hearty and drought tolerant native has ample to share.

Lotus scoparius is also known as Deervetch, California Broom and Western Bird’s-Foot Trefoil. It is a sub-shrub in the Pea Family and is commonly found in many areas including chaparral, coastal sand and at roadsides (elevations below 1500 m.). Ironically, despite its blazing appearance, Lotus scoparius is often used and planted for habitat restoration and erosion control after a brush fire. Plant Deerweed , Lotus scoparius, in you garden today and help butterflies and other native species to thrive. KD



Pin It

Butterfly Gardening With Manure Tea

Butterfly GardenNothing has sparked more life back into my tired (hum, or am I talking about me?) butterfly garden than Haven Brand Manure Tea!  This is not tea for drinking, but a blend of natural manure made from pesticide and antibiotic free, grass fed livestock from the Haven Ranch in San Juan Capistrano, California. Realizing the demand from local farmers for her natural soil fertilizer, Annie Haven, of Haven Ranch came up with a wonderful way to package up her naturally rich soil conditioners for the home gardener.

Pipevine SwallowtailHaven Brand manure teas keep my butterfly gardening blooming all year with lots of flowering nectar plants to feed the butterflies that visit my garden and enough healthy vegetation to feed all my “very hungry caterpillars“.  To read more about which plants caterpillars like to eat, visit our Butterfly Host Plants page.

Master magician, munching to and fro, a caterpillar works illusions til’ the end of his show ~K. D’Angelo

Western Tiger Swallowtail

There is no a better way to entice butterflies into your garden then with healthy, butterfly nectar and host plants.

Female butterflies have evolved to be very picky individuals when it comes to laying their eggs. Even when a prospective plant feels, tastes and smells just like the right species, it may be rejected by the female butterfly for a variety of reasons.  It may be to exposed to the elements. It may be to wet? Fungus could grow here! It may be to hot? The eggs might dry up? Evidence of competition may also be present. Chewed leaves mean less food available. Healthy plants means more food available for her young munching offspring. Even the prospective plant may be out to trick the female butterfly by displaying “false eggs” which advertise “no vacancy” here!

Lorquin's Admiral Egg on WillowWhat’s a mother to do? On average a female butterfly may visit up to 10 prospective host plants before picking the perfect one! Even after she has made her choice, she may spend up to 9 hours surveying and selecting precise leaves on which to deposit her eggs. You couldn’t ask for a more spectacular show then watching a female butterfly dance upon your butterfly garden for hours.

A concerned mother plans for her children’s future! She lays her eggs diligently. Depending on the species she may lay them singularly or in a group. She may lay them on the underside of a leaf or in a crevasse. Most always she lays them on the most tender leaves. She may use the simple eye” on her abdomen to lay on the tip of a twisted tendril.

Butterfly Garden Real Estate SignA female butterfly is not a Realtor, but she might as well be. Location is everything to her! Location, location, an investment in her species future…

Haven Brand Manure TeaHaven Brand Manure Teas or as Annie Haven says “Moo Poo” teas are odor free and come pre-measured and ready to brew in its own gauze draw-string pouch. It’s so easy to make brew up a jar of this miracle liquid fertilizer, just fill a container with up to five gallons of water, drop in a tea bag and let it “steep” for a day or two.  Water your indoor or outdoor plants with the brew and in no time, you’ll be rewarded with bigger, healthier plants, fruits, vegetables  and flowers!

You can find Haven Brand Natural Tea Soil Conditioners online at

Enjoy the butterflies,


Pin It

Raising Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterflies are one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the world, they can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Migration and the wide range of available host plants is what helps make the painted ladies so widely distributed.  The larvae (caterpillars) of Painted Ladies feed on more than 100 types of host plants, particularly Thistles (Asteraceae), Mallows (Malvaceae) which include Hollyhock (Alcea) and Cheeseweed (parviflora).

Girl Holding Painted Lady Butterfly

Mackenzie’s Butterfly

Painted Ladies are one of the easiest butterflies to raise because not only will the young larvae feed on so many different host plants, they will also feed on a specially formulated artificial diet.  This artificial diet makes it possible for the larvae to be sold in butterfly rearing kits and are often raised and studied in classrooms by elementary students.  The popularity of “Butterfly Larvae Rearing Kits” has also contributed to the distribution of these beautiful and abundant butterflies.

It’s fun and easy to raise Painted Lady Butterflies and rearing butterflies is truly an educational experience that every child will certainly enjoy and remember for years to come.  The easiest way to raise Painted Lady Butterflies is by purchasing a Butterfly Rearing Kit.

Butterfly Rearing Kit

Butterfly Rearing Kit

One of the most popular kits is made by Insect Lore, the kits include a reusable pop-up butterfly habitat, artificial diet and easy to follow instructions. The kits don’t actually contain any butterfly larvae, you will need to mail or FAX the enclosed coupon to Insect Lore, once you receive the larva in the mail, the fun begins!

The larvae will feed on the artificial diet for about 10 to 14 days and when they are ready, they will begin to crawl to the top of the food container. Once they have securely attached themselves to the top of the container, they will begin their miraculous metamorphic change, shedding their skin one last time to expose the their final layer, which is known as the chrysalis.  At which time you can transfer the lid with the attached chrysalises to the butterfly habitat.

Painted Lady Butterfly Eggs

Tiny Blue Eggs of the Painted Lady Butterfly

In about 10 to 14 days, your beautiful painted lady butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises.  You will get to enjoy watching the butterflies in the butterfly habitat.  To extend the fun and life of your newly emerged butterflies, you can feed the butterflies by providing fresh flowers for nectar and variety of fruits, like slices of banana, peach, cherries, watermelon and oranges.

After a few days in captivity, you may consider adding one of the butterfly host plants I mentioned above and you will certainly be rewarded with an ample supply of tiny blue butterfly eggs!  Make sure you will have an ample supply of pesticide free host plants to feed the hatchlings, if not or you can order some ready-made artificial diet from our butterfly gift shop.

Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae

Win A Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae Kit

If you’ve already had the pleasure of raising painted lady butterflies and already have a butterfly habitat, you will be able to simply order a butterfly refill larvae kit for your butterfly enclosure.

At anytime you may want to release your adult painted lady Butterflies into your backyard, local park or butterfly garden.

To learn more about butterfly gardening for the benefit of butterflies, visit our Butterfly Gardening web page!

Pin It

Come to a Caterpillar Convention… Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia circutaria)

The name Phacelia comes from the Greek word, phakelos, which means bundle.

Caterpillar Phacelia, Phacelia circutaria, is a plant species native to California, which looks exactly as it’s name suggests, like a bundle of caterpillars.

Look for this group of hairy, sun-loving annuals from March to June in the chaparral covered foothills of California.

Coming upon them is like attending a Caterpillar Convention, where each participant seems to enjoy flaunting it’s flora, exhibiting tiny buds as if they were fancy hats atop it’s head.

If you hung around long enough (for several weeks at least), you could watch as each coiled stem slowly unraveled itself, proudly showing off it’s pretty lavender flowers, one by one…

Click the cute but sassy fellow above (just returned from the convention I guess) to learn more about Caterpillar Phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria), one of the few “caterpillar” species in nature which does not become a butterfly! KD

Pin It

Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour 2010

Tour 39 of Orange County’s  most incredible gardens in full bloom, May 1st and May 2nd from 10:00am to 5:p00 pm

orange county garden tour

Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour

Each of these gardeners has generously consented to share their passion for gardening with us and I urge you to attend as many of the gardens on the tour as you can.

bleeding heart

Bleeding Heart

A bit of history about the Mary Lou Heard: In 1985, Mary Lou Heard opened Heard’s Country Garden Nursery, a magical nursery tucked away on a seldom traveled road in Westminster, California. The gardens were full of unique and often old fashioned annuals and perennials such as “Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate”, “Bleeding Heart” and “Four O’Clocks”. These, along with whimsical garden art, English and old garden roses, scented geraniums, herbs, vines and small trees made the nursery a delightful and special place to visit. In the center of the pebble-dusted paths was a small quaint old wooden “cottage” filled with gifts, books, potpourris and small bags of the finest organic fertilizers available. In the far back of the garden was another old wooden building, it too, filled with antiques, gifts and more home décor….it was for me, a gardeners’ shabby chic shopping heaven.

In 1993 Mary Lou came up with the notion of a garden tour, “real gardens by real people”. This is a self-guided tour, where you drive from home to home at your leisure to view the gardens.  The Heard’s Garden Tour was an instant success, bringing in over 800 garden lovers the first year and in later years, drawing in thousands of visitors. In 2000 Mary Lou Heard was diagnosed with cancer and two years later she would close her beloved nursery, and in her final Heard’s Country Garden Newsletter she wrote. “Though there are still many more gardens in my heat that have to be planted – the body is calling for a rest. Saying good-bye is the hardest thing I have had to do.”

The annual garden tour continues today, thanks to the Mary Lou Heard Foundation.

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar Munching on Fennel

For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Mary Lou Heard, this memorial garden tour holds a special place in our hearts. And for me, it’s especially significant, because it was at Heards Country Gardens Nursery, where I found my passion, butterfly gardening! Immediately upon attending a butterfly gardening class at the nursery, I was forever obsessed with butterflies. I was so fascinated with every detail of the butterfly class, taking notes and asking questions, that I could hardly wait to get home and start “gardening for the benefit of butterflies” myself. I especially remembered waiting in line to purchase a chrysalis from the teacher, Cathy, the “Butterfly Lady”, but to my disappointment, by the time I made my way to the front of the line, Cathy was out of butterfly chrysalises. She did however have a couple of caterpillars, and upon assuring her I was growing pesticide free fennel in my garden, she sold me one of her Anise Swallowtail caterpillars. I ever so carefully took it home, fed it, fretted over it, until finally that memorable day came when my Anise Swallowtail Butterfly emerged from it’s chrysalis, I knew I was hooked.

butterfly garden

Wood’s Wildlife Wonder

This story brings me to tell you about one of the gardens on the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour, it’s at the home of Helen and Ken Wood. The “Wood’s Wildlife Wonder” is filled with plants and trees selected to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Helen is a master gardener, her garden is certified as a  North American Butterfly Association certified butterfly garden, Monarch Way-station and Native Habitat. Last summer I had the pleasure of attending a “butterfly tea” at her home and was amazed at the number of butterflies visiting her garden. If you live in the Orange County area, I urge you to take the Heard’s Garden Tour, and don’t miss stopping by the Woods Garden, I’m sure Helen would be happy to talk to your about butterfly gardening. Be sure to bring your camera!

Mary Lou introduced me to the world of butterfly gardening,  I hope to inspire others to take the tour and begin gardening for the benefit of butterflies. ~Vickie

For a list of gardens on the 2010 tour, visit

Pin It