Yesterday I visited Marcy Cunkelman in Indiana County and toured her beautiful garden.
Her whole yard is planted for nature, especially birds and butterflies. She uses all natural fertilizer and balances the plants for pest control. No chemicals in her yard! They would kill the very insects she is trying to attract.
Did you know butterflies are picky about where they lay their eggs? They choose the plants their caterpillar larvae like to eat.
Marcy knows which plants host the various butterflies and cultivates them to attract the species she desires. Her favorite is the monarch butterfly whose host plant is the milkweed. Her garden has lots of it and many nectar plants for the butterflies to feed on.
Marcy fosters monarchs and tags them in late summer before they migrate. Every day she checks the undersides of the milkweed leaves to see if monarchs have laid eggs there. She knows from experience that female monarchs prefer tender young leaves. When the plants bloom, the leaves are too tough though the flowers provide a good nectar source.
What a great place to be a butterfly: food and drink, meet and greet, mate and lay eggs.
Marcy's garden is a posh resort for butterflies. The monarchs are its kings and queens.
(photo of a monarch butterfly on a thistle by Marcy Cunkelman)