September's Butterfly bonanza
PUBLISHED: 23:12 28 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:46 20 February 2013
There's lots of fluttering around the flowers in September, gardening expert Sue Beesley tells us
September is a wonderful month spot butterflies in your garden. We've already seen Peacocks, Red Admirals, Commas, Small Tortoiseshells and a Holly Blue this week, gorging themselves on nectar in the warm sunshine.
The reason September is such a good time is that adult butterflies hatch out in late summer from eggs laid earlier in the year and will feed on nectar-rich garden plants into October.
They are trying to build up enough fat reserves to hibernate or migrate. But they only drink nectar so they not only look beautiful, they do your garden no harm at all, and will helpfully pollinate your plants.
The best-known plant for attracting butterflies is the Buddleia, and deservedly so. We counted 18 butterflies on one plant earlier today. The
key to success with these vigorous plants is to cut them back very hard
indeed in spring.
This will keep the shrub in check and ensure that flowers are produced at about eye level in late summer - perfect for butterfly watching.
Buddleia 'Empire Blue' seems to be the favourite of the Peacock butterflies. It's a lovely warm blue and is sweetly scented too.
One of my favourite late summer plants, Echinaceas seem to attract a
beautiful butterfly, the Comma. It's easy to identify, large with a rich, coppery, deeply cut wing shape.
Echinacea 'Rubinstern' is hard to beat. It is in flower from mid-July and produces a steady supply of rich pink flowers with huge central golden domes stuffed with nectar until the first frosts.
Sedums are great too, their stiff flower heads opening in late summer into a platform of tiny, starry flowers, perfect for a hungry butterfly.
'Matrona' is a robust plant which doesn't flop, with red flushed leaves and pink flowers. 'Purple Emperor' is a real stunner with deep purple leaves and matching flowers.
Other great plants for attracting butterflies include lovely, airy Verbena bonariensis, and the Asters, or Michaelmas daisies. Of course, all of these plants are beautiful too, so you don't need to compromise between having a beautiful garden and attracting butterflies.
But all butterflies were caterpillars once and these need food too. A patch of nettles is the perfect food for Peacock caterpillars, for example. So don't be too tidy around the edges - around the compost bin or behind the shed are perfect spots to leave nature to do its own thing.