attracting butterflies

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How We Can All Help the Earth Heal

This week, The Washington Post ran an article entitled: “You – yes, you! – can help the planet. Start in your backyard.”

We’re sharing some of these ideas today.

 

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning with simply offering pollinators, like the endangered Monarch butterfly, a place to stop, eat, and rest, e.g., on a flower pot on your balcony, or planting milkweed in your garden to lay their eggs, is doing much.

 

Hummingbirds

 

Put Out a Welcome Mat for Hummingbirds

Put Out a Welcome Mat for Hummingbirds

 

 

These beautiful birds are wonderful pollinators. Bright colored flowers encourage their long slender bills and tube-like tongues for take in nectar — fueling them for their busy work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing the Post piece emphasizes is using native plants to attract pollinators in general. We’re happy to say Butterfly milkweed, a favorite of Monarchs, is native to Long Island as well as the following plants:

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials, Black Eyed Susans, are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Many coneflowers (Echinacea) are also native to Long Island which you can see on the right of this water feature system consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond, and it is the perfect spot for letting the day’s care’s melt away.

 

Don’t Forget About the Bees

Washington Post Feature Article on Bees

Washington Post Feature Article on Bees

Lastly, don’t forget about those other important pollinators — the bees. Speaking of the Washington Post, several weeks ago they had a wonderful article entitled “The consciousness of bees.” In it, a professor at Queen Mary University of London describes studies that indicate that bees have “surprisingly rich inner worlds.” 

It is a touching piece, which may leave you quite moved by these little creatures, if you weren’t so already.

As for plants that bees love, you’ll find that those listed above today will benefit them as well as butterflies and hummingbirds.

 

Note: The original Post article mentioned today offers other ideas for lawns and landscaping and Deck and Patio is happy to help our clients make adjustments in their yards to create havens for pollinators and make your yard more earth-friendly. And more beautiful! — if we say so ourselves. 

 

For Mother’s Day Flowers: Think ‘Aquatic’

 

If Mom has a backyard pond, stream or water fountain, rather than giving her the usual bouquet, how about gifting her plants for her outdoor waterscape.

 

Plants for Water Fountains

 

Aquascape Inc. Garden Fountain

Aquascape Inc. Garden Fountain

 

A water fountain that is set in a basin is the perfect spot for adding flowers and greenery. Consider free-floating plants which are perfect for a fountain garden. 

Tip: Don’t forget a bit of Miracle Gro. In a fountain basin, floaters won’t get nutrients from other decaying plants that are found in ponds, etc., so they’ll need some nutrients. 

Another tip: Put these plants in the calmest section of the fountain’s basin so they don’t get too much water splashed on them. If the basin is large enough, perhaps there’s room for a few koi as well. Koi and aquatic plants work well together in keeping a healthy waterscape.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a very short video of the sounds and beauty of a fountain-garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — the country’s leading experts on all things pond and water gardens — describes the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

  • Water Lilies Lotus
  • Marginal Plants Water Lily-like Plants
  • Floating Plants Submerged Plants

And don’t worry if you’re choosing the right plant. Ponds are all the more beautiful with a variety of greenery and color.

“In fact, the best designs for ponds and water gardens utilize a wide mixture of plants in different heights, textures and color from at least three of the above groups,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. 

“This gives the most natural look. When installing these, at Deck and Patio we don’t do it in a symmetrical way. We find that a more random placement provides the most natural look.”

 

And when it comes to gift giving, “random” makes the choosing all the easier.

 

Here’s some more aquatic plant ideas:

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

 

The tall aquatic plant on the left of the pond (canna lily) offers a nice tall statement. It thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. 

They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

 

 

Aquatic Plants (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants (Long Island/NY):

 

 

So think water garden plants for this mother’s day. These plants will live a long time in their water bed. And with the outdoor season coming fast toward us, Mom will thank you indeed for the extra color and texture around her favorite sitting spot. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Waterscapes for Tight Spaces

Those who know Deck and Patio for our larger pond/water features (we’ve done over 300 on Long Island alone) might be surprised at the attractive garden waterscapes we install in tight spaces.

The fountain we’re highlighting today was for clients who had recently moved to a new home. When working at their property, one of our team members mentioned that it felt like the garden was missing something — a feature that would offer both the sound and relaxing sight of water movement. 

The clients agreed that a garden fountain would be an ideal finishing touch in such limited space.

They asked us to order and install the fountain. However, fountainscapes make a very easy DIY project. The ‘stacked stone urn’ fountain seen here is from Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL). As a certified Aquascape Inc. contractor, Deck and Patio has used their products in many of the ponds and water features we have designed/built across Long Island. As for their fountains, Aquascape offers a nice variety in various styles, sizes and prices (see video below).

If you’d like to add one on your own, all you need is a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a level. Then, adding a bag of decorative gravel and mulch, you have a picture-perfect-and-sound-perfect-fountain that not only you will enjoy, but butterflies and birds will appreciate your efforts as well.

The first two photos and first video show the fountain we installed for our new clients. Below these, we include a DIY video from Aquascape followed by a link to the various fountains they have available.

 

Garden Fountain:

Garden Fountain:

Although we installed this “stacked stone urn” fountain for the clients, they are easy DIY projects. The kits come pretty well fabricated with a catch basin, pump, piping, and in different sizes. The one we used is the smallest (32” tall) — a perfect scale for this garden.

 

Garden Fountains:

Garden Fountains:

When adding a garden fountain, it is a good idea to locate it near your patio/deck so you can enjoy it whenever you are outside. And if you can position it close to a window, you will be able to not only enjoy the fountain indoors, but also the birds and butterflies who stop by to take a drink.

 

So you can hear the water music, here’s a 5-second Deck and Patio video of this stacked stone urn fountain:

 

 

 

For more water fountain ideas, enjoy this video:

 

 

 

And for a great DIY video from Aquascape for installing their fountains:

 

 

 

By |2021-08-19T13:27:02-05:00August 19th, 2021|Creative Design, Gardening, Landscape Planning, Landscaping, Plants, Serenity Escapes, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on The Perfect Waterscapes for Tight Spaces

Landscaping: Making a Home for Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Eastern Monarch Butterfly population fell again this past February.

The yearly count they say: “continues to show a dramatic decline in this imperiled species.” And to many, these beautiful nectar-feeding insects have become the face of wildlife extinction.

“Isn’t it wonderful, then, that we can do our part to help prevent this decline,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell.

“It can be difficult for these pollinators to find pure food sources causing them to use a lot of energy just hunting for food. So we love that many of our clients ask us to plant flowers that will attract them.”

 

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

In addition to adding the right plants, Dave says it’s also key to create a safe habitat for their caterpillars. Some herbs are ideal for that; Dill and Dutchman’s Pipe, for example, not only provide caterpillars food, but also protective cover before they turn into butterflies.

Organic gardening and environmentally-friendly lawn care products also go hand-in-hand with attracting and protecting the pollinators.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” says Dave. “It isn’t essential to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. In doing that, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Heavy use of toxic chemicals are also dangerous to pets and children. It is much healthier to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process — through a more organic approach.”

Out friends at Hicks Nurseries suggest that tubular-shaped plants or “Umbrels” provide a wonderful sanctuary for butterflies. These give them a landing plant filled with nectar just waiting for them, says one of their experts, who also suggests a seasonal approach that not only provides multi-seasonal color in gardens, but extra months of safe, bountiful habitats.

In spring, you can plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus, for example. In summer, there’s 30-40 plants to choose from, including Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush to name just a few. In fall, there’s Sedums, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, and Golden Rod.

 

Monarchs Love Oranges!

Monarchs Love Oranges!

 

Butterflies will get plenty of moisture from droplets left from sprinklers, morning dew, etc. “However, they do seem to love oranges, not only for food, but to quench their thirst,” says Caldwell. 

Note: To keep ants away from the fruit, put the slice on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day.

“It’s wonderful that so many Long Islanders are helping the environment, in their own quiet way,” says Dave. “They celebrate Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

 

 

 

Monarchs Love Oranges!

Monarchs Love Oranges!

As the name implies, Butterfly Bush is a great choice for attracting butterflies in the summer. “They can reach up to 6-8 feet in height,” says Hicks Nurseries. “They’re fast growing and don’t need a lot of care.”

 

Lavender and Butterflies:

Lavender and Butterflies:

Dave Stockwell says that Lavender (shown here) is another plant butterflies love. “It also gives off a calming peaceful scent. There are several types of lavender that bloom at different times — so you can have its perfume from spring nearly through fall.”

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

 

There’s More to Aquatic Plants Than Meets the Eye

Plants Attract Delightful Creatures

Plants Attract Delightful Creatures

It is true that water gardens — and the plants installed in and around them — are delightful to look at.

And they attract equally delightful creatures: chirping birds, flapping butterflies, and croaking frogs.

But there’s more to it all than what meets the eye. “For an ideal water garden eco-system, the key is maintaining clean, healthy water. 

“Pond filtration systems do a lot, as do waterfalls etc. which aerate and oxygenate the water. But at the end of the day, a huge part of creating a healthy system is the water landscaping you do,” says our own Dave Stockwell.

Aquatic floaters and marginals, says Dave, are perfect for gobbling up the excess nutrients that are produced by any pond fish and excessive plant algae growth. They also help by reducing sunlight in the pond, which helps control the growth of algae. 

Plants such as water lilies and irises feed on the nutrients (algae or small primitive unwanted plant life) in the pond water, and produce oxygen while they provide shade and food for the small creatures attracted to the water garden.

Submerged plants  (e.g., anacharis, parrot’s feather or hornwort) will also release oxygen.

 

Aquatic Plants

 

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Deck and Patio Built Pond

The gurus of all things pond/water garden — Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — list the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

  •  Water Lilies

  •  Lotus

  •  Marginal Plants

  •  Water Lily-like Plants

  •  Floating Plants Submerged Plants.

 

“An ideal pond mixes plant heights, textures and color from at least three of these groups,” says Dave. “This gives the most natural look. We also don’t install plants in a symmetrical way. A more random placement looks the most natural.”

“Remember, that while nutrients sound like a good thing, too many in your water garden, and your pond water changes dramatically,” says Dave.

“However, despite the fact that aquatic plants eat up unwanted nutrients, too many plants or plant material will also contribute to an over abundance of nutrients. When plants die in the fall, they fall back in the pond, adding to the problem. We recommend cutting them back before this happens in order to have healthy water.”

But don’t fret if your pond water has a slight tint to it. Crystal clear water has no nutrients. You want some algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc. because they offer a diverse food source for pond fish, frogs, and plants. It’s all about choosing the right plants and keeping them all in balance.

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping

The tall aquatic plant on the left of this Deck and Patio pond (a canna lily) thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. 

They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

 

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features

This photo was taken just after we built the pond. Lily pads, and other in-pond aquatic plants, had yet to be added. But we had installed some attractive peripheral landscaping using plants that like moist, but well-draining soil. 

These do well around a pond but not in one. The red/pink flowers in the foreground are roses. To the right of them are variegated hydrangea and to the left are variegated hosta. All of these plants attract birds and butterflies.

 

Aquatic Plants

Aquatic Plants

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right of this Deck and Patio pond are not aquatic and are not in the water but are perfect edging plants as they attract desirable wildlife — one of the reasons we love our ponds.

 

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping

Pink petunias add a bright statement away from where the waterfalls spill and seep into the ground. Close to the waterfall area we added grassy plants like Liriope that thrive in moist soil.

 

A Healthy Water Garden Eco-system Includes Delightful Aquatic Plants

“The key to an ideal water garden eco-system is maintaining clean, healthy water,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “It is then that you attract and support delightful wildlife such as birds, butterflies, frogs, etc.”

Pond filtration systems and operating waterfalls are a big part of keeping water clean and oxygenated (aerated), adds Dave. “However, another major part of creating and maintaining a healthy water garden system is the aquatic and surrounding landscaping you do.”

Deck and Patio Pond

Deck and Patio Pond

Aquatic Plants

Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — the country’s leading experts on all things pond and water gardens — describes the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

Water Lilies Lotus

Marginal Plants Water Lily-like Plants

Floating Plants Submerged Plants

(Note: Our feature photo at the top of the page is a Lotus.)

“The best designs for ponds and water gardens utilize a wide mixture of plants in different heights, textures and color from at least three of the above groups,” says Dave. “This gives the most natural look. When installing these, at Deck and Patio we don’t do it in a symmetrical way. We find that a more random placement provides the most natural look.”

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

The tall aquatic plant on the left of the pond (canna lily) offers a nice tall statement. It thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

But there’s more to aquatic plants than aesthetics. Plants such as water lilies and irises feed on the nutrients (algae or small primitive unwanted plant life) in the pond water, and produce oxygen while they provide shade and food for small creatures attracted to the water garden. 

Aquatic floaters and marginals, adds Dave, are perfect for gobbling up the excess nutrients that are produced by any pond fish and excessive plant algae growth. They also help by reducing sunlight in the pond, which also controls the growth of algae. 

Aquatic Plant: Arable Hornwort

Aquatic Plant: Arable Hornwort

One submerged plant, arable hornwort, is a great example of plants that eat up algae and will also release oxygen. 

“Remember, that while nutrients sound like a good thing, too many in your water garden, and your pond water changes dramatically,” says Dave. “However, despite the fact that aquatic plants eat up unwanted nutrients, too many plants or plant material will also contribute to an over abundance of nutrients. For example, when plants die in the fall, they fall back in the pond, adding to the problem. We recommend cutting them back before this happens in order to have healthy water.”

Dave says not to fret if your pond water has a slight tint to it. “Crystal clear water has no nutrients. You want some algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc. because they offer a diverse food source for pond fish, frogs, and plants. It’s all about choosing the right plants and keeping them all in balance. 

To complete an enchanting water garden eco-system, the plants you put in around your water feature’s edge will aid in attracting birds, butterflies, pollinators, etc. No pond/water feature will be completely free of algae but it can be kept in check and in a natural way.

 

Aquatic Plants (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants (Deck and Patio Project /Long Island/NY):

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right are not aquatic and are not in the water but are perfect edging plants as they attract desirable wildlife — one of the reasons we love our ponds.

_____________

Bonus: Keeping the garden’s water circulating using a pump, or adding waterfalls, will help prevent mosquito larvae from hatching. 

 

By |2019-05-22T14:14:02-05:00May 22nd, 2019|Aquascape Biofalls, Creative Design, Gardening, Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Moss Rock and Stones, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Plantings/Pondscapes, Plants, Ponds & Water Features, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on A Healthy Water Garden Eco-system Includes Delightful Aquatic Plants

Love Birds and Nature? How About Your Own Natural Retreat!

Ever notice how every few scrolls on Twitter, etc. will show a delightful bird, a funny squirrel, someone saving a desperate animal, a croaking frog, or lovely vistas — all squeezed in between posts of angst and politics?

Well. As helpful as these momentary breaks online are, the best break is enjoying nature close up, away from our phones. As Diane Sawyer’s Report: ‘ScreenTime’ showed a few nights ago, families are challenged today. They’re spending too much time with technology. And most, deep down, hunger for more family-time and time outdoors. 

Ms. Sawyer’s report reminded us of a very special Deck and Patio backyard natural retreat we did several years ago. The wife contacted us saying she always loved birds but hadn’t seen many in her yard in a long time. She was also hungering to see butterflies, etc. Could we come up with a plan to bring nature alive on their property?

It soon became clear they wanted something truly special. They had already contacted other companies to provide them with a backyard conservatory and charming wooden bridge. Our challenge was to ensure we incorporated these into our own landscaping design in a harmonious way.

“The multi-feature natural retreat we proposed and built included a deck to overhang a new backyard pond — in such a way so that it looks like the pond continued under the deck,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In addition to these, our plan called for two 35-foot long babbling brooks, multiple waterfalls and lush multi-seasonal landscaping.”

To make it look as if Mother Nature designed this entire retreat, adds Dave, our team chose, for example, each rock and boulder carefully to create the right “water spills.” Sometimes a rock was chosen because of its crevices allowing for planting perennials within. 

The homeowners were very involved in choosing the plants. In the end, we incorporated about 5,000 bulbs, almost 300 species of wooded plants, as well as evergreens, and about 150 varieties of perennials.

 

Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

It was important to create a variety of different spaces and focal points, just like you experience in nature when you move about. In one place you sit next to the pond and observe the waterfall. Other times you’re walking through a wooded path. The lush landscape attracts a myriad of birds (and butterflies) so the sights and sounds of nature, along with the rushing water, are as relaxing an experience as is possible outdoors.

 

Waterfalls and Ponds:

Waterfalls and Ponds:

The rocks we used for the four-foot multi-tiered waterfall/pond came from farmers’ fields in New Jersey. Some weighed over three tons. Carefully placed, the scenes suggest one is trekking a natural preserve or wilderness. 

 

Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Whether on their new deck, or in their glass conservatory, the family enjoys dining together al fresco to the sounds of birds and croaking frogs. When lounging outside, they can take a quiet moment to feed their koi. 

 

 

Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”
— Rachel Carson, 1962

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

From whales to elephants, coral reefs to pollinators, this year’s Earth Day (Monday, April 22) will be focused on protecting the earth’s species. And while not everyone is quite prepared to, say,  set up bee hives in their yards, there is a pollinator almost everyone does want to attract and protect — the butterfly.

“We’re frequently asked by our clients to create settings that will attract these beautiful insects,” says Dave Stockwell. And we’re not the only ones. Local nurseries have seen a large spike in purchases in recent years of pollinator-friendly plants. 

Whether or not you are a gardener yourself or prefer using a landscaper (we can recommend one, should you need it (smile), creating butterfly-friendly areas in your yard is a very easy way to do your part In the Earth Day celebrations. 

“Hummingbirds are another pollinator you will wish to attract,” adds Dave. “When attracting pollinators, you might also attract some bees, but if you plan your yard’s landscape design well, you can enjoy all these small visitors, but at a comfortable arm’s length. This is good for both you and the insects.”

Another consideration, of course, is avoiding toxic chemicals in your plant care.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” says Dave. “It not necessary to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. Besides, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Not to mention that toxic chemicals in large amounts are also dangerous to pets and children. A more organic approach is a much healthier way to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process while you’re at it.”

caterpillar

caterpillar

 

Let’s start with the basics.

It’s just as important that caterpillars have a safe habitat on your property as it does the full-grown insect.

Consider such herbs as Dutchman’s Pipe or Dill which not only give the larvae something to munch on but also provide protective cover.

 

Moving on to food.

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Umbrells (or tubular-shaped plants) are a great example of a protective sanctuary for butterflies. It’s a great landing plant and its nectar is just what these insects love.

Also consider a variety of plantings throughout the seasons to create friendly habitats:

— in spring, plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus;

— in summer: there’s a large number of choices including Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush and Black Eyed Susan;

— in fall, consider Asters (see feature photo at top of page), Golden Rod and Sedums.

 

Special Treats for Butterflies

Butterflies Love Oranges

Butterflies Love Oranges

 

“Humans and birds aren’t the only species who love orange juice,” says Dave. “In addition to the liquid butterflies get from from leftover sprinkler droplets and morning dew, they love a bit of orange.”

One of our contacts at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury suggests that, “if you want to keep ants away from the sliced fruit, put it on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day, he says.

 

 

“As we go about our daily work,” says Dave, “we’re happy to meet so many Long Islanders who are helping the environment, in their own quiet way. They, in fact, celebrate Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

By |2019-04-11T12:23:11-05:00April 11th, 2019|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Plants, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

The Benefits of Aquatic Plants and Water Garden Landscaping


Water Gardens, and the plants installed in and around them, are delightful to look at. They also attract creatures that offer a daily open-air symphony: chirping birds, flapping butterflies, and croaking frogs.

For an ideal water garden eco-system, the key is maintaining clean, healthy water. Pond filtration systems do a lot, as do waterfalls etc. that aerate and oxygenate the water. But at the end of the day, a huge part of creating a healthy system is the water landscaping you do.

 

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Aquatic Plants

The gurus of all things pond/water garden — Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — list the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

  •  Water Lilies
  •  Lotus
  •  Marginal Plants
  •  Water Lily-like Plants
  •  Floating Plants Submerged Plants.

“An ideal pond mixes plant heights, textures and color from at least three of these groups,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “This gives the most natural look. We also don’t install plants in a symmetrical way. A more random placement looks the most natural.”

But there’s more to it than aesthetics. Plants such as water lilies and irises feed on the nutrients (algae or small primitive unwanted plant life) in the pond water, and produce oxygen while they provide shade and food for small creatures attracted to the water garden.

Aquatic floaters and marginals, adds Dave, are perfect for gobbling up the excess nutrients that are produced by any pond fish and excessive plant algae growth. They also help by reducing sunlight in the pond, which also helps control the growth of algae.

Submerged plants  (e.g., anacharis, parrot’s feather or hornwort) will also release oxygen.

“Remember, that while nutrients sound like a good thing, too many in your water garden, and your pond water changes dramatically,” says Dave. “However, despite the fact that aquatic plants eat up unwanted nutrients, too many plants or plant material will also contribute to an over abundance of nutrients. For example, when plants die in the fall, they fall back in the pond, adding to the problem. We recommend cutting them back before this happens in order to have healthy water.”

Dave says not to fret if your pond water has a slight tint to it. “Crystal clear water has no nutrients. You want some algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc. because they offer a diverse food source for pond fish, frogs, and plants. It’s all about choosing the right plants and keeping them all in balance.

 

 

To complete an enchanting water garden eco-system, the plants you put in around your water feature’s edge will aid in attracting birds, butterflies, pollinators, etc.

 

No pond/water feature will be completely free of algae but it can be kept in check and in a natural way — providing you with a daily outdoor natural symphony.

 

 

 

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping:

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping:

The tall aquatic plant on the left of the pond (a canna lily) thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

 

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features:

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features:

This photo was taken just after we built the pond. Lily pads, and other in-pond aquatic plants, had yet to be added. But we had installed some attractive peripheral landscaping using plants that like moist, but well-draining soil. These do well around a pond but not in one. The red/pink flowers in the foreground are roses. To the right of them are variegated hydrangea and to the left are variegated hosta. All of these plants attract birds and butterflies.

 

Aquatic Plants:

Aquatic Plants:

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right are not aquatic and are not in the water but are perfect edging plants as they attract desirable wildlife — one of the reasons we love our ponds.

 

“Pondless" Waterfall Landscaping:

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping:

Pink petunias add a bright statement away from where the waterfalls spill and seep into the ground. Close to the waterfall area we added grassy plants like Liriope that thrive in moist soil.

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 2016: Attracting Butterflies to Home Gardens

 

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

As landscapers, Deck and Patio’s team is frequently asked by homeowners to plant flowers that will attack butterflies. Yet even we were surprised at how widespread the desire for butterfly gardens has become.

In speaking recently with our friends at Hicks Nurseries, in Westbury, we learned that they have seen a huge spike in the purchase of pollinator-friendly plants, as well as a large uptick in the size of audiences attending seminars on the subject.

“Those interested are outdoor people, who traditionally enjoyed creating gardens that brought in birds to feeders and provided opportunities to watch butterflies,” says Caldwell. “More and more, however, we’re seeing a desire to create safe havens for butterflies, as well as other pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds.”

Caldwell says the growing awareness in how pesticides has affected the pollinator populations has helped stir this awakening. “Butterflies and other animal groups are having trouble with repopulation because it is so hard for them to find pure food sources. Butterflies, for example, often use too much energy hunting for food.

“It’s also key to create a safe habitat for their caterpillars. Some herbs are ideal for that; Dill and Dutchman’s Pipe, for example, not only provide caterpillars food, but also protective cover before they turn into butterflies.”

Organic gardening and environmentally-friendly lawn care products go hand-in-hand with protecting and attracting the pollinators, Caldwell adds. Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, agrees.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” he says. “It isn’t essential to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. In doing that, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Heavy use of toxic chemicals are also dangerous to pets and children. It is much healthier to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process — through a more organic approach.”

As for ideal food, tubular-shaped plants or “Umbrels” provide a wonderful sanctuary for butterflies. “These give them a landing plant filled with nectar just waiting for them,” says Caldwell. She also suggests a seasonal approach that not only provides multi-seasonal color in gardens, but extra months of safe, bountiful habitats.

“In spring, you can plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus, for example. In summer, there’s 30-40 plants to choose from, including Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush to name just a few. In fall, there’s Sedums, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, and Golden Rod.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies will get plenty of moisture from droplets left from sprinklers, morning dew, etc. “However, they do seem to love oranges, not only for food, but to quench their thirst,” says Caldwell. Note: To keep ants away from the fruit, put the slice on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day.

“We were delighted to learn that so many Long Islanders are helping, in their own quiet way, to help the environment” says Dave Stockwell. “They’re celebrating Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

 

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

As the name implies, Butterfly Bush is a great choice for attracting butterflies in the summer. “They can reach up to 6-8 feet in height,” says Caldwell. “They’re fast growing and don’t need a lot of care.”

 

 

Lavender and Butterflies:

Lavender and Butterflies:

Dave Stockwell (Deck and Patio) says that Lavender (shown here) is another plant butterflies love. “It also gives off a calming peaceful scent. There are several types of lavender that bloom at different times — so you can have its perfume from spring nearly through fall.”

 

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

Earth Day 2016 Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO

This is the first of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd). Next week, our blog will cover sustainable water features and rainwater harvesting. 

 

 

 

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