How to convert a wasteland into a butterfly garden

  • April 21, 2013 · 2:00 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

On Sunday, April 21 we're meeting in the attractive garden of group member Debbie Lopez, who transformed a veritable wilderness into a lovely example of how beautiful nature can be. We'll examine before-and-after photos of the two-acre property, inspiring many gardeners to realize that a spectacular small garden can be created from part of what was once a wasteland.

Debbie found gardening in the semi-tropical environment of southwest Florida was very different from the pleasure she enjoyed when gardening in her native New York. Her first attempts here resulted in almost all the plants dying, and that failure made her lose interest in gardening for some five years. Then she happened to attend a meeting in Cape Coral held in a butterfly garden with beautiful flowers, and she gained inspiration.

She started reading about local butterflies and their favorite plants, frequented the lovely butterfly enclosure in the Naples Botanical Garden, discussed plans with nearby butterfly gardeners, and slowly the ideas for her garden became a reality.

As with all large projects, Debbie found the work is more manageable when done in several small stages. She started by building some trellis in a small area, and continued expanding the garden from there. She planted the shrubs and vines preferred by native Florida butterflies and their caterpillars. It took two or three months for the butterflies to discover her garden, but now they regularly visit in abundance. Visitors at this meeting will see the wide variety of colorful butterflies this beautiful garden attracts.

Each species of butterfly typically lays eggs on only one species of plant, the only one that will be consumed by the caterpillars that hatch from those eggs. Debbie will show us how to recognize which caterpillars are currently browsing on which plants, and what the chrysalis (cocoon) of each species looks like when the caterpillar is pupating.

Debbie's garden also features an impressive 9,000-gallon fish pond with a small waterfall that looks as if it were designed by nature itself. She created a filtration system to keep the water crystal-clear, using beneficial nitrifying bacteria instead of chemicals to maintain the clarity. The pond houses about 30 Japanese koi with their long flowing fins, and many African cichlids. A net covering protects the fish from the beautiful but voracious egrets, herons and other water birds that fly overhead.

The meeting will take place from 2 to 4 PM, the prime time to see the greatest number of butterflies visiting the garden. We'll admire them fluttering from flower to flower around us as Debbie explains and we dine on her wine, cheese and other snacks. Members can bring additional foods and drinks if they wish. The meeting will include a guided tour around the large property, with Debbie answering whatever questions you may have.

Meeting hosts have to know how many members to expect, so please indicate if you plan to attend by clicking either Yes or No in the RSVP section in the upper right corner of the screen. All gardeners are welcome at these free events, so you can invite any interested friends and neighbors. Please indicate the number of guests you're expecting when you RSVP. We're sure this will be another very interesting and informative get-together. See you then?

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  • Suzanne and P.

    We all owe Debbie a debt of gratitude for preparing the most professional presentation of the dozen meetings the group has had. Some of her friends and neighbors were invited to this event, boosting attendance to a record-breaking 36. (With some snowbirds starting to fly back north, future meetings are bound to be less impressive.) Those who attended learned how to attract beautiful butterflies to their garden by planting the appropriate shrubs and vines for each species, and even how to create a water feature to enhance the beauty of a garden. Those who couldn't attend missed a really informative stroll through an extensive and very lovely garden. They can see 22 pictures of this event by clicking the link marked Photos at the top of the screen. Everyone's advised not to miss the next informative meeting in two weeks.

    April 22, 2013

  • Mia A.

    Thanks again. My daughters and I enjoyed your gardens and pond. I think my girls loved your pond the best. I must get my pond going again. Like you said, "One thing at a time." Wednesday is still good for me. Thanks.

    April 22, 2013

  • Lisa O.

    Debbie, we found two chrysalis for the giant swallowtail and wanted to know if you would like them for your citrus tree.

    April 21, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      And if Debbie doesn't want them, Lisa, we'd be happy to adopt them and give them a good home on our own citrus trees.

      April 21, 2013

    • Debbie L.

      I would love them Lisa, Thank You

      April 22, 2013

  • Debbie L.

    THANK YOU EVERYBODY FOR COMING OUT TO SEE MY GARDEN, HOPE IT GAVE EVERYBODY SOME IDEA OF WHAT THEY CAN DO IN THERE HOME]

    April 21, 2013

  • Lisa O.

    I loved the power point showing the before and after pictures. It is so inspiring. Thank you Debbie for sharing your beautiful property with us.

    April 21, 2013

  • Colleen

    Working:(

    April 20, 2013

  • Debbie L.

    I WILL BE GIVING OUT MILKWEED SEEDS AT THE MEETING ON SUNDAY!!!
    LETS HELP THE MONARCHS THRIVE!!

    April 16, 2013

  • Fred R.

    I have to cancel as the Caloosahatchie Bromeliad Society has a meeting the same day.

    April 15, 2013

  • Missi

    Crumb! I forgot that this is the same day as the rummage sale fund raiser I am holding to support our local parrot sanctuary! So sorry to miss this event! It looks to be fabulous & I love butterflies..

    April 8, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      I'll be 80 just 15 months from now, Fred, so I'll have to catch up before then. Thanks for the warning.

      April 9, 2013

    • Fred R.

      Right behind you Peter but do hurry. At our age we don't have a moment to waste. :-)

      April 9, 2013

  • Fred R.

    I just came in from watering my orchids and bromeliads. I had wonderful company. Birds were singing their little hearts out. What a wonderful feeling to be out there communing with nature.

    April 9, 2013

  • Lisa O.

    I love seeing before and after pictures. The photos on here look so pretty, I can't wait to see it in person.

    April 8, 2013

  • Marilyn and T.

    What type of butterflies eat leaves of the beauty berrybush? Looking forward to seeing everyone.

    April 1, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      The only species of caterpillar I know of that feeds on the leaves of beautyberry is that of the Rustic Sphinx Moth, Manduca rustica. The plant itself is well named; its neon purple berries are strikingly beautiful. And a chemical in the leaves is used to repel mosquitoes, so it's a good shrub to have in your garden.

      April 7, 2013

  • Jeanie

    I will be in Georgia starting the 18th of April for about a month. Would love to be here.

    March 29, 2013

  • Fred R.

    I hope we get a reminder as I tend to forget.

    March 28, 2013

    • Suzanne and P.

      You'll get a reminder one week before the event, Fred. But it's wise to make a note in your calendar as well.

      March 29, 2013

  • Fred R.

    Love to learn how one prevents plants from getting all eaten up by these lovely caterpillars. I've lost a bunch.

    March 28, 2013

  • Suzanne and P.

    We're breeding butterflies in our garden's screened enclosure and fish in our own ponds, so we're certainly going to attend this event to learn more from Debbie.

    March 21, 2013

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