Serendipity Gardens: Bringing butterflies, hummingbirds to gardens

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 16, 2017

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

The day was warm with a gentle breeze as I watched the garden alongside the driveway come alive with monarch butterflies filling the air. After grabbing my camera and taking many photos I posted on several social network sites that I belong to about the feeding frenzy at my house – I invited people to bring a chair and their camera to enjoy this magnificent sight. It wasn’t long and a friend who lives fairly close to my house appeared with her camera ready to shoot some photos. She mentioned that she had been preparing lunch when she saw my post and put the salad makings back in the refrigerator and headed over to my house.

As we stood next to the meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis) the monarchs just swarmed us and what a sight it was! She could not get over how awesome it was to see so many monarchs at one time. We estimated it was between 50 and 75 of them in this garden. This went on all day and as night approached I thought this would be the end of this magnificent spectacle — little did I know that it would go on for about a week.

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It was only about a week later when another feeding frenzy happened but this time it was with painted lady butterflies. They covered the lantana, zinnias and butterfly bush. There were so many I couldn’t begin to count all of them. Again they would swarm my body as I approached the flowers giving me goosebumps — what a day it was. As if this wasn’t enough excitement swallowtail butterflies have been seen in great numbers in the gardens also.

Tiger, black and giant swallowtails covered the Joe-pye weeds in great numbers adding even more stimulation to my senses. Just when I think it has been the most amazing year in my gardens I have been deluged with those adorable, tiny green tree frogs everywhere I glance. I had not expected it to be such a fabulous year for viewing things in my gardens because the garden themselves were not all that great looking but who am I to say what butterflies and frogs find delectable.

If I could have only one flower to draw the monarchs into my gardens it would be the meadow blazing star. This plant stands 3 to 5 feet tall and mine has five branches covered with purple, shaggy blooms that open from the bottom to the top of the plant. They would be so weighted down with butterflies, sometimes a dozen on each stem that I finally had to stake up the branches. Another reason I had to do this was that the feral cats have been lying in wait to pounce on the butterflies knocking the stems over and bending the tops of them. Talk about giving me heart palpitations worrying about my monarchs and trying to chase the cats away from the area to keep the monarchs safe.

The colorful zinnias, kiss-me-over the garden gate, tithonia and phlox have been a beehive of activity with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds galore. Now that I plan to add a few more feet to this garden along the driveway I placed an order for more native plants this past week. Red bee balm, lavender hyssop, more meadow blazing star, compass plant, western sunflower, purple prairie clover, hoary vervain and woodland sunflower will be added to bring in even more pollinators next year. I am so excited I can hardly wait for next year to arrive!

The other day I was watering the plants along the south side of the fence where my mason bee house is and I looked inside to see that I have something that has built nests but not sure if it is bees or wasps, but at least something is using it. My gardens are so full of pollinators it brings a big smile to my face every time I see them.

Even have a few hummingbirds that have been around all summer and they sure have enjoyed nectar from all of these plants.

“Serendipity: accidentally finding something wonderful while not looking for it.” — Adriana Law

Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at