Attraction in the garden Butterflies: Creating a habitat for these winged beauties is easy, and the results -- on the ground and in the air -- are guaranteed to be colorful.

June 21, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

When 200 Painted Ladies are released in Mount Washington next Sunday at 3 p.m., surely some of them will decide to make Wesley Home their permanent home. Maybe they'll even be joined by a few Black Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites and Red Admirals.

Even the most finicky butterfly would be lured by the brilliant orange butterfly weed, flowering Russian sage and other enticements designer Gary Baverstock has planted in the retirement community's new butterfly garden.

With a diameter of about 15 feet, the island garden -- it's in the middle of Wesley Home's front lawn -- is small enough that amateur gardeners can easily duplicate it. The plantings are all common annuals and perennials available at local nurseries. What makes it unusual is its clever yin-yang shape, with a curving path through the middle.

Baverstock has "bermed" the two plots, building the ground up at their centers to add more visual interest.

"It creates the feeling of a bit of enclosure rather than having everything flat," he explains.

For your own butterfly garden, Baverstock suggests, start with a sheltered but sunny spot. Plan a garden that flowers throughout the season.

But don't use double-flowered varieties, because butterflies can't get at the nectar.

"Old-fashioned roses like rugosa with its open flowers are good," says Baverstock, who has his own design business and works with Ladew Topiary Gardens and the Maryland Horticultural Society. "Especially if you don't want to be spraying all the time." And, of course, you don't want to be spraying all the time if you're trying to create a healthy habitat for the caterpillars that turn into butterflies.

Right now, the newly planted garden at Wesley Home gives only a hint of the spectacular colors it will sport when in full flower. Baverstock has used, among others, purple coneflower, purplish-pink Catherine Woodbury day lilies and butterfly bush, which flowers profusely throughout the summer. Butterflies are particularly attracted to purple, although they like almost any bright color.

In your own butterfly garden, keep it simple, Baverstock recommends, with plenty of repeats to tie the garden together.

"Don't use one each of 30 different flowers. In any garden I try to have at least three clumps of the same flower. It's easier on the eye. Always plant in odd numbers unless it's a formal garden."

He mixes in annuals to give the garden brilliant color all summer, but he also plans carefully for how the garden will look when it's not filled with flowering plants.

"Vary the leaf shape," Baverstock says, "Look for leaf texture and variation in leaf color -- silvers and greens and dark greens."

Although the new Wesley Home butterfly garden is small, there's still room for a bench. Baverstock has planted ornamental grasses behind it to create a sheltered feeling, and English thyme in front. When the thyme is crushed as someone approaches the bench, it gives off a wonderful scent. (These plantings are, of course, to attract humans, not butterflies.)

Baverstock has one final bit of advice. After your garden is planted, don't worry about having to hold your own butterfly release.

"You really don't have to do a lot to bring wildlife into the city," he says. If you plant it, they will come.

Butterfly release

The butterfly release and dedication of the Wesley Home's new garden is open to the public. It takes place next Sunday, June 28, at 3 p.m. The retirement community is located at 2211 W. Rogers Ave. in Mount Washington. To get there, take the Jones Falls Expressway to Northern Parkway (west). Take the first right onto Rogers Avenue. Wesley Home is up the hill on the left.

Perennial favorites

Here are some of the perennials garden designer Gary Baverstock recommends for a butterfly garden in this area. All XTC can be seen in the Wesley Home garden.

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)

Black-eyed Susan

Buddleia (butterfly bush)

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Day lilies

Jupiter's beard

Penstemon

Perovskia (Russian sage)

Phlox

Purple coneflower

Rugosa

Salvia

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

Pub Date: 6/21/98

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