A flower garden is a place of serenity where you can just get away from it all in your own backyard. There's nothing comparable to breathing in the soft fragrances of rose, jasmine and hyacinth, with the sun and wind working together to spread warmth onto your face. Blue skies and the soft rustle of leaves in the trees can bring a little bit of comfort and paradise to your life.

Imagine, then, a splash of color catches your eye: a beautiful, dainty butterfly has found its way into your floral arrangement! This unexpected, yet pleasant surprise can become a daily occurrence if you plan and plant the flower varieties just right.

The flower varieties you choose will make a big difference. Planting larger groups of flowers will help butterflies notice them. Many gardeners start with a purple or bicolor butterfly bush and surround it with perennials.

Consider the purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, Brazilian verbena, daylily, catmint, lavender, phlox, goldenrod, ironweed plant, aster and sedum. Annual favorites for a butterfly-magnet flower garden include zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, sweet alyssum, cleome and lantana. These are the beauties of your garden, but you'll need to also be considerate of your larvae hosts. They like to snack on parsley, dill, bronze fennel, milk weed and nettle.

Once the flowers for your plant habitat are in place, take other environmental factors into consideration. Your precious butterflies want a floral wonderland, but also a place that is safe from wind, rain and predators, so try adding hedges and small, dense shrubs like honeysuckle or butterfly bushes; trellises or fences covered in passion vines or hops. Generous brush piles of bark, logs, rocks and leaves allow for hiding during winter months or stormy days.

Even "organic" pesticides agitate the sensitive butterfly, so keep your guests protected from any chemical sprays or dust. Be sure your butterfly habitat has at least six hours of full sunshine, with flat rocks where they can bask in the sun to warm up before taking their early morning flights.

Just like humans, bachelor butterflies also want a place to drink after work: mud puddles, shallow pans of damp sand and gravel or wet dirt all make ideal gathering spots. Rotting fruit, watermelon rinds and seeds are delicious nutrients that create a true butterfly nirvana.

If you'd also like to take advantage of the hummingbird-attracting powers of the flower, a hummingbird habitat is just as simple. Usually a bright red nectar feeder is the quickest way to invite these quick, tiny creatures to your backyard.

However, to keep them around at all times, they'll need fresh water to drink and bathe in, a combination of sunny and shady perches, willow or eucalyptus tree nesting materials, as well as delicious plants, such as dahlias, cosmos, foxglove, geraniums, petunias, irises, honeysuckles, trumpet vines, azaleas, butterfly bush, hibiscus, cardinal flowers and snow angels. A flower garden can be a place of respite for you, but also an epicenter of life for colorful insects.

By: Michael Selvon

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