Michigan Butterfly Garden: Before & After Photos

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Before Photos

With spring moving in, I've begun work on our horrid front-yard landscaping. With the tortoise garden in the backyard, we have spent much more time landscaping that area (we've only lived in the house for 3 years this August). @Prairie Mom suggested I post before and after photos of what will hopefully become our butterfly garden sometime later this season. My fiancé and I are huge fans and advocates of native gardening, which supports the natural ecosystem of a particular area. Even adapting native gardening in a small area, such as your yard, can really have a positive effect on the environment! I have adapted some native plants (that are safe for my Russian to eat) into my tortoise garden and you can see those in my photo albums or here: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...-russian-tortoise-enclosure-and-garden.92343/

The ultimate plan for the front yard is to get rid of all the pesky lava rocks and "Windsor stones" and to replace that with new, fresher topsoil and wood chips. I think the wood chips in the backyard are a nice pine bark and we'll probably purchase the same again to match. By late summer, our butterfly garden will (hopefully) be full of milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), maybe Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium spp.), spiked blazing star (Liatris spicata), bergamot (Monarda spp.), and other plants that butterflies and hummingbirds love. Most of these plants should be native to Michigan or the Midwest area of North America, woo hoo! I've heard that if you want monarchs, plant Asclepias incarnata; and if you want swallowtails, plant dill (Anethum graveolens), so I may also get some dill. The milkweed is not only food for the monarchs, but it is also the plant where they lay their eggs. They cannot survive without milkweed! If this kind of gardening interests you, check out MonarchWatch.org. This is a huge project, so don't expect to hear back from me for quite a while!! XD

My fiancé is out studying for an exam, so I'll be getting a workout all by myself! Here's the very front flowerbed, just outside the front door. What you can see is a lot of dry, nutrition-less dirt where most of the lava rocks have been removed. I'm still racking some up from this area. They go down almost a foot deep! :mad: Under that layer is some plastic tarp, which will also be removed. Almost directly under that is clay. When the housing developments came through the area in about the 1950s or so, they removed all but a tiny bit of topsoil, leaving our darn yards with more clay than we need. :( We have a couple random plants down already, and they will need much more topsoil in the future. My fiancé wanted a heather plant; we put down a Chinese lantern plant that happened to really thrive; there is some milkweed; and a cardinal plant that may or may not live... :confused: These plants are mostly still dormant from the winter.
front.jpg

Just last night we finished pulling out that giant root ball from the hole you can see! My fiancé did a "caber toss" kind of thing with it yesterday and got 6'! :D It's pretty heavy. It was a large bush, severely overgrown, that the previous homeowner did not prune at all! :mad: The top branches were just about growing into the gutter at the roof when I chopped all the branches off last season. Plus its absence allows more sunshine into our front room window there, where most of our plants are growing (including my precious lime tree). :<3: I have 2 or 3 more stumps of these to remove this spring.

front 2.jpg
Here's a weeping cherry tree, which I'm thinking was planted with the original landscaping. Our neighbor across the street had one too and removed it because it doesn't seem to do very well. We've removed a lot of dead branches from it in previous seasons. Maybe it just likes to be pruned a lot. I'd personally like it entirely removed eventually and replaced with a native ornamental tree (assuming there is one). o_O Serviceberries are nice. The weeping cherry drops a lot of sticks and makes quite the mess. On the right is my yucca, which hasn't grown much since I planted it last year (but maybe its roots are just growing first). I really like their flowers, so it's kind of a random plant for the butterfly garden. :rolleyes: We like a lot of plants...

front 3.jpg

Here's the back of the front yard on the side of the house; you can see my finch feeder in the distance. Rabbits live under our back deck and often run under the fence, moving around a lot of the lava rocks. I'll be raking them and bagging them up to leave out in the garbage each week, a little bit at a time. There is NOTHING else you can do to get rid of these darn rocks! :mad: They're incredibly frustrating to get rid of, so I advise you to seriously consider whether you want these in your garden before purchasing them! The lava rocks really take up a TON of space, which means we'll more than likely need a giant pile of topsoil dumped off at our house to refill our flower beds! :confused:

front 4.jpg

It's only 44°F out today, so I'd better keep moving to stay warm. The sun has moved up in the sky a little so now it's back to work!
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
88,528
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
The sides might not be tall enough. I love the configuration.
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Shovel's broken. Fiancé's gonna kill me... :eek:

shovel.jpg

The sides might not be tall enough. I love the configuration.
Which sides? If you mean for keeping the bunnies out, we've given up on that. They go wherever they like and it doesn't bother me any. But that's easy for me to say since all my tortoise plants are enclosed and safe, while all of my fiancé's are out and got nibbled on by the rabbits over the winter! XD
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Here's the front of our house before we bought it; lush, but kind of hidden behind those big bushes. We really wanted to open up our front window more. There's also nothing in the front flower bed except for lava rocks, so hopefully all of our flowers really add some much needed color to the yard. You can see there's another bush (that's now a stump) on the opposite side of the garage, and more lava rocks, so that will come out as well. Sigh. I need to hire some assistants!! :cool:

old_front.JPG
 

Prairie Mom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2014
Messages
4,414
Before Photos

With spring moving in, I've begun work on our horrid front-yard landscaping. With the tortoise garden in the backyard, we have spent much more time landscaping that area (we've only lived in the house for 3 years this August). @Prairie Mom suggested I post before and after photos of what will hopefully become our butterfly garden sometime later this season. My fiancé and I are huge fans and advocates of native gardening, which supports the natural ecosystem of a particular area. Even adapting native gardening in a small area, such as your yard, can really have a positive effect on the environment! I have adapted some native plants (that are safe for my Russian to eat) into my tortoise garden and you can see those in my photo albums or here: http://www.tortoiseforum.org/thread...-russian-tortoise-enclosure-and-garden.92343/

The ultimate plan for the front yard is to get rid of all the pesky lava rocks and "Windsor stones" and to replace that with new, fresher topsoil and wood chips. I think the wood chips in the backyard are a nice pine bark and we'll probably purchase the same again to match. By late summer, our butterfly garden will (hopefully) be full of milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), maybe Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium spp.), spiked blazing star (Liatris spicata), bergamot (Monarda spp.), and other plants that butterflies and hummingbirds love. Most of these plants should be native to Michigan or the Midwest area of North America, woo hoo! I've heard that if you want monarchs, plant Asclepias incarnata; and if you want swallowtails, plant dill (Anethum graveolens), so I may also get some dill. The milkweed is not only food for the monarchs, but it is also the plant where they lay their eggs. They cannot survive without milkweed! If this kind of gardening interests you, check out MonarchWatch.org. This is a huge project, so don't expect to hear back from me for quite a while!! XD

My fiancé is out studying for an exam, so I'll be getting a workout all by myself! Here's the very front flowerbed, just outside the front door. What you can see is a lot of dry, nutrition-less dirt where most of the lava rocks have been removed. I'm still racking some up from this area. They go down almost a foot deep! :mad: Under that layer is some plastic tarp, which will also be removed. Almost directly under that is clay. When the housing developments came through the area in about the 1950s or so, they removed all but a tiny bit of topsoil, leaving our darn yards with more clay than we need. :( We have a couple random plants down already, and they will need much more topsoil in the future. My fiancé wanted a heather plant; we put down a Chinese lantern plant that happened to really thrive; there is some milkweed; and a cardinal plant that may or may not live... :confused: These plants are mostly still dormant from the winter.
View attachment 168080

Just last night we finished pulling out that giant root ball from the hole you can see! My fiancé did a "caber toss" kind of thing with it yesterday and got 6'! :D It's pretty heavy. It was a large bush, severely overgrown, that the previous homeowner did not prune at all! :mad: The top branches were just about growing into the gutter at the roof when I chopped all the branches off last season. Plus its absence allows more sunshine into our front room window there, where most of our plants are growing (including my precious lime tree). :<3: I have 2 or 3 more stumps of these to remove this spring.

View attachment 168077
Here's a weeping cherry tree, which I'm thinking was planted with the original landscaping. Our neighbor across the street had one too and removed it because it doesn't seem to do very well. We've removed a lot of dead branches from it in previous seasons. Maybe it just likes to be pruned a lot. I'd personally like it entirely removed eventually and replaced with a native ornamental tree (assuming there is one). o_O Serviceberries are nice. The weeping cherry drops a lot of sticks and makes quite the mess. On the right is my yucca, which hasn't grown much since I planted it last year (but maybe its roots are just growing first). I really like their flowers, so it's kind of a random plant for the butterfly garden. :rolleyes: We like a lot of plants...

View attachment 168078

Here's the back of the front yard on the side of the house; you can see my finch feeder in the distance. Rabbits live under our back deck and often run under the fence, moving around a lot of the lava rocks. I'll be raking them and bagging them up to leave out in the garbage each week, a little bit at a time. There is NOTHING else you can do to get rid of these darn rocks! :mad: They're incredibly frustrating to get rid of, so I advise you to seriously consider whether you want these in your garden before purchasing them! The lava rocks really take up a TON of space, which means we'll more than likely need a giant pile of topsoil dumped off at our house to refill our flower beds! :confused:

View attachment 168079

It's only 44°F out today, so I'd better keep moving to stay warm. The sun has moved up in the sky a little so now it's back to work!
You're Shera the Princess of Power!!!! I can't believe the lava rocks are a foot down! I never use pebbles in my yard just because of that. I have solo dug many a garden bed and it's not for the weak hearted:) Your home and garden setup are BEAUTIFUL!!! I'm so excited to see all you do!
 

Prairie Mom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2014
Messages
4,414
Shovel's broken. Fiancé's gonna kill me... :eek:

View attachment 168121

Which sides? If you mean for keeping the bunnies out, we've given up on that. They go wherever they like and it doesn't bother me any. But that's easy for me to say since all my tortoise plants are enclosed and safe, while all of my fiancé's are out and got nibbled on by the rabbits over the winter! XD
Ba ha ha ha! I have a shovel that I broke the end of last summer just like this. I still have the blade. I use it to pick up tortoise poop:D
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
You're Shera the Princess of Power!!!! I can't believe the lava rocks are a foot down! I never use pebbles in my yard just because of that. I have solo dug many a garden bed and it's not for the weak hearted:) Your home and garden setup are BEAUTIFUL!!! I'm so excited to see all you do!
Thanks so much! I'm so tired from yesterday!! I don't think anything will get done after work today. o_O
Ba ha ha ha! I have a shovel that I broke the end of last summer just like this. I still have the blade. I use it to pick up tortoise poop:D
Aww, thanks! Turns out my fiancé already heard the wood cracking on it so we bought a new one and a holder for the hose at the hardware store yesterday. When we got home, we got another big stump out of the ground and removed a couple branches from a tree that were growing over our garage. Small achievements!!
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
I spent most of this weekend recovering from a busy work week and catching up on dishes and laundry! Unfortunately that pushes the butterfly garden further down on the to-do list. :( But to update, hubby had to remove all the Chinese lantern plants (Physalis alkekengi) we threw in there last season. They were beginning to take over the area and were circling around hubby's heather plant. The nights are still rather cold, so the milkweed has not yet begun its spring growth. The weeping cherry tree (which we may end up removing eventually) is now flowering so I'll be sure to get a photo of it later today.

I think I have all my seeds together, so if I can clear enough ground of lava rocks in the next few days, I'll be able to get those in the ground!!! :mad: I'll post which seeds I've planted once I do so. The trunks, branches, even roots of those annoying bushes we removed made some great firewood once they dried out (which didn't take long at all)! :D So we're slowly progressing...
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Updates! :) Recently, we tore out the Chinese lantern plants (Physalis alkekengi) from the front yard, worried they would take over the area. Here they were, growing back with a vengeance:

lanterns.jpg

Hubby's parents "gave" us some of the yuccas in their yard they no longer wanted ("gave" as in, he dug some up in the cold and rain last night) and we planted them in our yard this morning. Which meant we needed to clear some lava rocks out of the front area to provide more dirt for the plants. While we did rake some away from the front flower bed, we tried to redistribute them and cover some with more dirt. We found some nice black soil underneath so we figured we'd put down the rest of our seeds and see what happens. The seeds listed below have different germination codes so I haven't a clue what, if any, will come up!

Here you can see the seeds sprinkled about with about 3 or 4 different varieties of bulbs (which were free from my aunt and I've no idea anymore what kinds of flowers they are).

yuccas.jpg yuccas2.jpg

The best part was opening up the milkweed pod we'd harvested last fall and spreading the fuzzy seeds into the garden! :p

butterfly_seeds.jpg

Here are the seeds we planted:

  • Roundstone Native Seed Co. - Butterfly and Hummingbird Mix [Contains: 4 native grass species and 15 native wildflower species: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Blackeyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), Spiked Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Royal Catchfly (Silene regia), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), Rigid Goldenrod (Solidago rigida), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)]
  • Burpee Mammoth Dill (Anethum graveolens) - Apparently the swallowtail butterflies love it. You could smell the dill from just the seeds!
  • Prairie Moon Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Prairie Moon Rose Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
  • Prairie Moon Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)
  • Prairie Moon Prairie Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)
  • Burpee Zinnia Giant Flowered mix - Butterflies apparently love zinnias!
  • Burpee's Bee and Butterfly Flower Mix (More info here!) - We got this packet for free at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo.

Here's the front after Hubby finished raking out the new soil, which should have mixed the seeds around more too. Soon we'll be able to cover the area with mulch and remove the Windsor blocks (exchanging them for the yuccas to Hubby's parents!). :D A lot of the lava rocks we raked toward the weeping cherry tree, so we're "renovating" in sections!

frontyard.jpg
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Surprise! Last day of my semester and came home to open the koinobori in the mail! :) Just in time for Children's Day on May 5 (celebrated in Japan). I love the carp wind sockets and we're big on multiculturalism -- I know we're not in Japan. :p I wandered from the traditional ones so we could make it our own tradition. And yes, the little green one represents Steve the tortoise!

koinobori.jpg
 

Yelloweyed

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2015
Messages
539
Location (City and/or State)
SoCal California
Yay for Steve's koinobori. During Christmas our mantle is full with stockings, 4 for human family plus 8 for non-human family.
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
UPDATE: Very happy to report that our recently planted milkweed is still doing quite well, and we haven't had very much rain lately, so it's good to know that these plants are so tolerant of our weather. :rolleyes:

I will post photos when we get home; we have some seedlings coming up although who knows what everything is since I seed-bombed the heck out of everything. It looked like there were mostly weeds outside the area where we mulched, obviously. o_O

Also super happy that hubby and his dad started loading up some of those pesky Windsor blocks last night. They will be using them at their cottage to prevent erosion as they reside on a hillside. Otherwise, we had planned to sell the blocks on Craigslist, but I like this idea better -- it's less money my parents-in-law have to spend. :p So all good stuff. The only crummy news is that the heat (and a lack of extra time) has kept us from working in the yard more and our replanted yuccas don't seem very happy. Good thing they were free! Photos coming this weekend!
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Crazy growth in our "butterfly garden" so far! :) And unfortunately, lots of weeds, and with school, I haven't had time to pull them all out yet. :(

Here's the first sunflower I've grown!! :D I just threw the seeds in the dirt on a whim because I'd had the seeds for a year or more and didn't think they'd be viable anymore. There are a couple more stalks, one that gets more water and sun and it's twice as tall as this one but the bud hasn't opened yet. So more sunflower photos to come. :)

sunflower.jpg
 

Momof4

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2011
Messages
9,755
Location (City and/or State)
San Diego
My butterfly garden died in our heat:(

Yours looks great!!
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Very cool. The squirrels will have a heyday with that sunflower come fall.....

Best of luck!
Thanks! I'll need it!!! :D
My butterfly garden died in our heat:(

Yours looks great!!
I'm sorry to hear about your garden! I haven't spent nearly enough time caring for it this spring because of school. I'm hoping to have an even better garden next year. Hubby just weeded the other day, so it should perk up our milkweed. :)
 

Oxalis

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2013
Messages
2,962
Location (City and/or State)
Michigan
Here are some more photos from the other day. I threw some zinnia seeds down and they really went to town!

zinnias.jpg

We found some more milkweed when it bloomed too. We put down more milkweed seeds than anything else, so I'm not surprised. :D I didn't see any dill come up so that was a bit of a bummer, but I'll try again next year. Hubby tore out most of the grassy looking weeds in these photos and we actually found more baby milkweed plants. Yay! :)

milkweed.jpg
 
TortoiseSupply.com

New Posts

Top