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While the painted siding makeover has certainly been an attention-stealer this year, we’ve also been working on a few more exterior makeovers as part of our overall landscaping design plan. In particular, the side of the house is something I know you long-time readers will be familiar with. We’ve done a number of small projects over here, but a big one is in store soon!
First, you may recall when I poured a concrete slab for my trash cans to help hide them from the street, as well as creating a small wooden screen to help obscure it even more. Now, I’m focusing more on what will grow next to it. Long-term, I really want this area to have a few different features:
- A cut flower garden full of different blooming plants that I can take into the house for bouquets whenever the mood strikes. I enjoy doing this with my hydrangeas, but I want a little more variety and a place where I can establish them all without feeling like I’m messing with the rest of the garden design. Hence: cutting garden area!
- A long line of what I tend to refer to as “pointy shrubs” (I know, I sound like a master gardener don’t I? /s), also known as Arborvitae (or similar) and pretty potted plants that will obscure the neighbor’s fence that is falling down.
- In the middle, a series of pavers and gravel or pavers and grass that will allow us to pull our truck closer to the back yard when we need to unload things like gravel and mulch.
Disclosure: Our sponsored partnership with Stihl made it possible for our garden transformations this year, where you’ll see some of their helpful tools featured. All words and opinions are 100% my own. Hope you enjoy!
Of course, all of that is a lot. But before I could do any of it, we had a very long higher-priority to-do list. I mentioned in the post about the new exterior that we were waiting on the painters to finish the job before we started all the new planting to prevent trampling on new growth. That meant we’d miss the winter and spring bulb planting season and need an alternative for this year. But we didn’t want to leave it looking like this — or worse! The side of the house had turned into an easy spot to dump yard debris and that needed to END.
We figured for now, the best thing we might be able to do is establish a new garden bed that would add some cheerful flowering plants without adding much maintenance. And after doing some of the front porch demo and trying to relocate the bees that were living there, I thought: I can solve multiple problems with one solution: a butterfly and bee garden made from easy-to-grow wildflowers.
5 Big Benefits of a Butterfly Wildflower Garden
1. You don’t have to mow or maintain.
As far as no-maintence gardens go, a butterfly garden is the perfect interim option when you can’t make up your mind about what to plant. They don’t need much to establish, and it wound up not requiring much watering either (and for our hot summers, that’s saying a lot).
You can, of course, also continue to have a wildflower garden year after year if you want! But I definitely want my cut flowers so I’ll be looking for ways to mix some bulbs in when it’s time to plant again.
2. It draws butterflies, bees, and other beneficial bugs.
I plan to create a few little supports in this area of the garden so I can hang a few of my new bee hotels around the garden bed. Keeping them happy and flowers in bloom is a win-win. Wildflowers draw other beneficial bugs like praying mantis and ladybugs too.
3. Its good for your yard’s ecosystem.
A garden’s food chain is important to keep healthy, and wildflowers can be home to part of it. The bugs that seek shelter in wildflower gardens are food for larger predators, but the beneficial ones also take care of smaller pests like aphids. Plus, if you plant native wildflower species in your garden, you are helping the conservation of your local butterfly population by providing them with food and a place to nest their eggs.
4. It helps pollinate other plants.
Bees and butterflies are excellent pollinators and are especially helpful if you have nearby vegetable gardens. Some plants, like our apple trees, require cross pollination in order to bear fruit. That wouldn’t be possible unless we had helpers taking on the task of feeding from plant to plant and picking up/spreading pollen around wherever they go.
5. It’s more beautiful than having a pile of weeds again.
I’ve lived in this house long enough to know that if you don’t plant something in your yard, something else will figure out a way to put down roots (pun intended — thank you, I’ll be here all night). We have already gone a number of rounds with this side of the house; it gets tons of sun, seems to be a magnet for weeds, and we tend to forget it’s there until we realize the weeds are out of control again. This time, I wanted something a little prettier to look at after the work it took to clear everything out and prevent weeds from taking over again. And sure, one person’s “wildflowers” can be another persons “weeds”, but they are a heck of a lot more cheerful to look at, even if we wind up having to do other types of weed maintenance when the cutting garden takes hold.
6. Babies love it.
Ok, so this one is a little hyper-specific, so I’m going to call this one a bonus! But we noticed that E loves looking at plants all over the yard (and now that we’re in the teething months, trying to soothe him when he cries requires a whole arsenal of distraction techniques). He is a little bullish when handling leaves and flowers, but the wildflowers seem especially suited to bearing the brunt of his limited motor skills. And they make beautiful photos that we already cherish. :)
Since we had enough seed, we also wound up planting wildflowers in the front garden beds for the same reason. That area has been a higher priority to replace though, so we actually wound up going from weeds to bare dirt to wildflowers to new landscaping a bit faster. You’ll see all the before and after of those efforts in the next post!
How to Plant a Butterfly Garden
1. Remove weeds and cultivate the soil
For best results, it’s good to completely clear the dirt of grass and weeds first (to prevent anything else taking hold) and break up the soil. We did this using a Stihl multi-tool called the KombiSystem — it’s great for small yards like ours because you can get a lot of different functions out of one tool. It consists of a single powerhead with a motor and then multiple different attachments (such as a cultivator, pole pruner, trimmer, etc.) This lets us establish and maintain our yards without needing a lot of storage space for separate extra tools.
2. Spread several layers of wildflower seed
We found a good mix of common wildflower seeds and did several passes of spreading out seed over the course of a few days.
3. Water regularly for 2 weeks
It takes about 14-21 days for the seeds to germinate.
4. Let it grooooow!
And it really is that simple! If your yard is like ours, you’re bound to lose a little seed thanks to birds, but it was clear after things started growing in that we blanketed it pretty well. I planted a few bulbs around the perimeter to help establish the new garden when I have more time to plant (you can see those in the photo as well), and It’s been a nice surprise to walk around to the side of the (newly white) house and get strong cottage vibes. And all of the bright colors keep changing since each type of flower has a different blooming schedule. All in all, I think this was a pretty solid decision for us. (And TBH, K kind of deserves most of the credit, here — I was focused more on the house upgrades on the front while he decided to do all of this… which made it even nicer since I didn’t have to do the yard work!).
I have no idea how much it may have helped (in combination with weather, our new garden beds that I’ll talk about later, etc.), but our backyard fruit trees were very heavy with fruit this summer and our vegetable garden has been growing like crazy!
That’s it for now, but don’t miss the next posts coming this week — I’ve got a few more posts in store for ya as I catch up on all of the things we’ve been up to!
- The new front yard garden reveal (part 1)
- The new garage door!
- 101: how to plant flowers