Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Monarch Butterfly Feeding Station

Monarch Butterfly Wayside & Feeding Station

The Monarch Butterfly with its orange, black, and white markings, adds such vitality and beauty to the garden space.  From childhood on, they seem to have found an enduring place in our minds as we see them pass through our lives on their migratory routes coming from, or returning to Mexico.  It takes all of four generations for the complete round trip, from Mexico to Canada and back to Mexico.

Each generation lives only two to six weeks as adults, though the fourth generation reaches the Canadian border.  That generation lives up to eight months.  It is the one that travels the return journey of up to three-thousand miles back to Mexico.  There it reproduces the following Spring.  Those young are the ones who start the long journey once again.  It is so fascinating to think that the ones who finally return to Mexico and go to the very special Winter area there, have never been there before.

Monarch in the  Aster Field along Lake Path at GAWE

In order to attract and to feed these long journey travelers, Gardens at Waters East has incorporated a number of plants and items into some of the garden rooms on the property.  You will actually see many of these plants and ideas when you browse through the different postings for the gardens.  Hopefully this posting will encourage you to develop in your own garden areas similar plants to make a way station for both the Monarchs and other butterflies.  You may not know it, but Monarch Butterflies are prolific pollinators, second only to the bees.  If for no other reason than this, invite them into your garden.

In addition to the information here, search the web and you will find many sites with helpful hints on making your garden inviting to Monarchs and other butterflies.  The show the butterflies will bring to your garden is wonderful – and it is free.

Gardens at Waters East is fortunate indeed that the adjoining property owners have the same interest in helping butterflies survive. Taken together, the three owners have more than twenty-two acres of land where butterflies are welcomed and cared for with food, water, nesting, and resting areas.  On top of that;  less than 1,650 feet south of these properties is a thirty-five acres private conservancy with native plants, trees, and grasses; and to the north less than 1,700 feet is a state nature  preserve with much the same vegetation and a crystal clear trout stream.  Gardens at Waters East sits firmly in the middle of this exceptional shoreline stretch of land and is a welcome refuge and feeding station to many butterflies and other creatures.

Even in the Winter season milkweed has a beauty

Especially for the Monarchs, Gardens at Waters East has “cultivated” some large areas of milkweed, the essential food for these beautiful travelers.  Three of the larger areas range in size from four-hundred square feet to more than five-hundred square feet.  In addition to these special areas, milkweed is grown throughout the property and the adjoining properties.  It is an experience of awe and wonder seeing hundreds of Monarchs dropping down onto this garden area like orange leaves from the sky during their journey.  It is a real privilege and a joy to witness such a “happening”.

Milkweed pods awaiting the return of the Monarch

In small or large gardens, you can create a place that Monarchs and other butterflies will seek out and want to visit.  They will “appreciate” your efforts and you will delight in the show they bring.

 Butterfly inviting flowers at GAWE

Following is a partial list of the plants growing at Gardens at Waters East.
These and others encourage the presence of both Monarchs and many other butterflies.

Aster Field at GAWE

American Highbush Cranberry Viburnum
Wild Columbine
Baptisia Australis
Butterfly Weed
Butterfly Bush Buddleia
Joy Pye Weed
Cardinal Flower
New England Aster
Purple Coneflower
Blazing Star Liatris
Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Bee Balm Monarda
Shasta Daisy
White Yarrow
Mexican Sunflower
Queen Anne’s Lace
Sweet William

 Joy Pye Weed on the edge of the Rain Garden at GAWE

In addition to these plants;  there are other items that help make Monarchs welcome in the garden.  There are many resting and sunning stones throughout the gardens;  bushes and trees to protect the butterflies form strong winds;  low level watering areas with stones for the butterflies to rest on;  and areas of sand and mud at the shore for needed salts and minerals in the butterflies diet.

The Gardens at Waters East has done its best to be a place of refuge, feeding, and rest to these long-journeyed travelers.  One rightly can take pride that in some small way, the Gardens at Waters East is helping the continuing preservation of this beautiful and fragile creature we share.

Reference Note:  For a complete list of the ten (10) Principles of Design used here and throughout Gardens at Waters East, check out the archive postings for November 14 – 24, 2010.

If you wish to email a message or share photos of your garden please do that through this Blog site or with an email to:


  1. Jack I thought I knew a lot but I have learned so much in this one post...I will be bookmarking this and may want to do some follow up posts and link into you so people find this wonderful info...i love butterflies and have done a lot to add plants for them especially the monarchs. I have a meadow I seeded that many pollinators and birds visit but I see there a few plants and things I can still add...wow...you got my creative juices flowing this morning...

  2. Great plant list Jack. These beautiful butterflies migrate to our area, in Santa Cruz county, CA, each winter. They're beautiful to see by the thousands in the eucalyptus trees here. We recently became a certified Monarch Waystation at the farm, but still have much more planting to do for the butterflies, including adding more native milkweeds to the property. We love seeing them here.

  3. Hi Jack - Beautiful photos and I've learnt a lot from this!

  4. Yes, you are so fortunate (as are the Monarchs!) that your adjoining neighbors share your interest in being a certified Monarch Waystation! Your pictures are beautiful - I can only try to imagine what it must be like to actually be there.

  5. Andrea, Ive seen the Great Migrations on National Geographic where they showed these Monarch butterflies from the first eggs of the first generations when they laid on milkweed in Mexico then to North Canada then back again to Mexico after the 3rd generations! It was so amazing for these delicate beauties to travel so far and back again to their original home!

  6. Oops sorry typo error..I called you Andrea! Haha..

  7. I love your pictures! The last one is wonderful!!!

  8. Nice post! I raised over 200 monarchs last summer. Can I add, that for me--any many folks I talk to--Asclepias incarnata is the preferred larval host plant by far among milkweeds, and for nectar, liatris ligulistylis brings them in by the pairs like no other perennial. I've personally found the native aster laevis also a big favorite of all fall pollinators, and for summer, cassia hebecarpa, or wild senna--both long bloomers.

  9. This was a very informative post. Thank you for sharing the information. I only have several butterflies here at home but this is good considering I don't have a lot of flowers or plants to attract them.

  10. Jack, your butterfly images are beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

  11. You are doing a great job with the plants, gardens as well as info and photography. I will put your link in my post rightaway. Cheers!

  12. Jack, your big garden is a sort of resort for butterflies! :)
    A very good job, anyway.

  13. Hola Jack, thank you for this interesting info about butterflies and for the plants that invite them. I will love to see more butterflies in my garden like I used to see before and will plant much more of those I have at hand.
    If you go to Argentina you will surely love it!!!

  14. This is a stunning site, just scrolling through a few posts. Thanks for visiting Late Bloomer, and commenting about the Monarchs. I'm so happy doing this episode has connected me with a large, caring community of butterfly lovers. Your photos are superb, and I look forward to your blog posts now that I have subscribed! - Kaye