Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening for butterflies in Tim’s Ohio garden

Day 2 in Tim Vojt’s Columbus, Ohio, garden! Today he says, “In addition to planting more flowers attractive to hummingbirds, I’ve been focusing on adding plants to the gardens that are food sources for butterflies. Besides the native Asclepias syriaca, the giants among which I am standing in the photo, I’ve added several other species of milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies. This is the first year that I’ve met with success: there were several batches of Monarch caterpillars. I also planted dill, bronze fennel and parsley as food plants for Black Swallowtail butterflies and had many, many caterpillars as well. I planted both flat leaf and curly leaved parsley. The butterflies passed over the more attractive curly leaved variety for the flat leaved. You’ll have to take a really close look to see the Black Swallowtail chrysalis on the parsley photo. I really liked the foliage of all of these plants in the garden, so I didn’t feel I had to sacrifice aesthetics in order to provide food for hungry caterpillars. Of course, having a garden that attracts caterpillars also attracts predatory insects and birds. Many-a-caterpillar met its Maker before becoming a beautiful, winged creature.” Gorgeous, Tim! So interesting that the butterflies preferred the flat over the curly parsley–I prefer the curly! By the way, the beard is looking awesome! ***more photos from Tim’s garden tomorrow….

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Black swallowtail caterpillar
Black swallowtail chrysalis
Black swallowtail caterpillar
Black swallowtail male

Bumblebee on the caryopteris
Curly parsley
Monarch caterpillar
Monarch chrysalis

Monarch newly emerged
Praying mantis-brown
Praying mantis


Me and milkweed


Come and meet up at the  Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year!

I’m scheduled to give another GPOD talk (A few of you will be getting emails in the next two weeks as I put together the slideshow…), and a number of people have emailed to say that they’ll be at the show, and that they’d love to meet up with a bunch of fellow GPODers!

The RSVPs so far:

Glenda Curdy (Nurserynotnordstrom)
May Kald (GrannyMay) – tentative
Catherine Campbell (CrannyCC) – tentative
Tia Scarce
Jeanne Cronce (Greengenes)
Sheila Schultz
Shirley Graves
Chris Niblack (ChrisSeattle)
Kielian DeWitt (Annek)
Linda Skyler (Meelianthus)


So…who else is going to be there?? Let us all know in the comments, and we can start planning an outing! Perhaps after-dinner drinks one night at the bar at the Sheraton?  I’ll repeat this announcement for the next week or so, at least, and keep a running list of who’s coming….enticement for even more people to come. Oh, and when you comment to say you’ll be there, give us your real name so that I can plan name tags that include both that and your screen name…

<– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <– <–

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View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 01/05/2015

    Way cool Day 2 photos Tim! Your garden is making you an entomologist yet. =) I think it is not only interesting but also wonderful how education and passion for gardening evolve into a whole new level. I can only hope to evolve in such a way in the future.

    I hope you raised a good amount of chi-ching during the Movember fundraiser, too.

    Will be looking forward to day 3. This is my fourth time to check in today.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks, Cherry! When I was in first grade, many decades ago, my goal was to become a lepidopterist-someone who studies butterflies. My goal changed over time, but I really love them bugs!

  2. greengenes 01/05/2015

    How beautiful are all these pictures, Tim. What a joy to be able to see these wonderful insects up close and personal! We only have the yellow swallowtails here in Washington. I can't believe those milkweed you are standing with! T hey are absolutely beautiful! Oh...and yes, you look good too! It's a great picture of you both! I planted a couple of smaller growing kind with orange flowers in late summer last year so Iam hoping they will come back with full force this coming summer. Do you set out a shallow dish of water for the butterflies? Wow...well its been wonderful seeing these pictures. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      This past summer I planted several seedlings of the orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and am hoping they clump up fast! They are great garden plants. I do need to set out a shallow water source. I have a shallow bird bath, but I only see birds, bees and wasps drinking there.

  3. wGardens 01/05/2015

    Well, Tim, another set of GREAT photos! First time I've seen a brown praying mantis- and whew! Never saw milkweed that tall! They LOVE their environment!

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks. I've never seen common milkweed this tall either. Don't know what it is, but they are intent on taking over!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/05/2015

    Super congrats on Operation Butterfly, Tim...your thoughtful plant additions look like they certainly did the trick and lured in some new residents! Include me in as agog over the height of those milkweed plants...I had no idea there was a variety that could get so tall. Ha, they are practically a forest. What was it like when they went to seed and the white silk came raining down?

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Hi MIchaele. Those common milkweeds are such a wonder. Why they are so tall, I'll never know. The seeds were very slow to ripen and split. In fact, the first time I actually saw any take flight was last week. I am definitely hoping to 'infect' the neighborhood!

  5. mainer59 01/05/2015

    I love your nature pictures! Question: what I identify as the black swallowtail caterpillar on dill and parsley looks like the one with the lime green stripes. I thought its chrysalis was brown like a tiny dead leaf and rarely found although the caterpillars are prolific. The first photo id-ed as a black swallowtail has red dots. What is it? And does the green chrysalis on parsley go with it?

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks, Harriet. When the Black Swallowtail caterpillars hatch, the first couple of stages (instars) are black and white and look like bird droppings. Later on they changed their coloring. For the chrysalis, my understanding is that there are several batches over the season. The chrysalises that hatch in summer are green like the one in the picture; the ones that overwinter and hatch in the spring for next year's butterflies are brown. They all have the same shape and hang with a little silk waistband. Super cool!

  6. annek 01/05/2015

    Bravo Tim! A successful exploration into the world of butterflies. Unless you're very short, I'm amazed at how big the milkweed gets ?. The brilliant colors are spectacular, I would bet even moreso in real life

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      I'm definitely not tall, but some of those guys topped out around 10 feet. Crazy. Normally they are 3-4 feet.

      1. digginWA 01/05/2015

        OK, good. It's not just me thinking that milkweed is a much shorter plant. I was about to go read up on this giant species!

      2. annek 01/05/2015

        3-4 feet sounds like an average size for milkweed....I've never seen any as tall as you grow them....

  7. NCYarden 01/05/2015

    Awesome. Great effort to attract these delightful friends of the garden. Beautiful photos too. I really like that down shot on the curly parsley. I had no idea milkweed grew so big and tall. Pretty amazing.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      I've never grown parsley before. That rich, saturated green color will probably always be in my garden, butterflies or not!

      1. NCYarden 01/05/2015

        Can't blame you. Looks fantastic.

  8. hontell 01/05/2015

    Tim, your photos and your garden rock, thank you on a cold gray day.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks! Now that we've dipped into the teens today, I am enjoying the hope of next year's green.

  9. terieLR 01/05/2015

    Tim, you have truely inspired me to plant for the butterflies this spring. I especially like the Black swallowtail on the dill photo. Superb. Your mention of their predators made me aware of the fact that our obsession with feeding the birds most likely plays a big part in the reason we see so few butterfly. Would close plantings help to camouflage the chrysalis?

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      That's great, Terie. I don't think birds are so much a problem as pesticides, loss of habitat and food sources. Butterflies lay lots of eggs and the caterpillars have their own defenses. The coolest thing I saw this summer was the smart monarch caterpillars would chew the base of the milkweed leaves just enough so the leaves would bend down against the plant stem. Then they would hide out under the leaf head down and eat the leaf.
      Assassin bugs were my worse predators this year. I think close plantings certainly help. My big concern for the spring is the overwintering chrysalises. I tend to clean up the garden long before butterflies will hatch, so I'm going to have to keep an eye out for them so I don't toss them into compost!

  10. Cenepk10 01/05/2015

    Really enjoyed the pictures ! It was a nice little education. I try to plant for them as well - but haven't paid much attention except to enjoy them fluttering around the garden. That was fun !

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks! I know bugs aren't for everyone. My wife won't even look at a picture of a caterpillar! cheers.

  11. GrannyMay 01/05/2015

    Tim, it is wonderful to see these gorgeous butterfly and caterpillar photos! I wold love to see a Praying Mantis up close, never have! Now I'm truly envious of you. Monarch butterflies are quite rare here, only slightly more plentiful in the interior of British Columbia, but you have inspired me to add Milkweed to my list of plants to add this spring because you never know what will happen unless you try! I have had a lot of luck with Anise Swallowtail visiting Fennel plants and captured a photo of a chrysalis on a nearby garden obelisk. Great photo of you, dwarfed by those wonderful plants.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      May! Thanks for sharing the photos. I love that you have a shot of the caterpillar with its little 'stink horns' extruded. It is quite a smell. We don't have the Anise Swallowtail around here. I looked it up and boy, is it beautiful. Almost looks like a cross between our Black and Tiger Swallowtails. Very cool.

      1. GrannyMay 01/05/2015

        Thanks Tim. I got too close with the camera that time and was shocked to see the stink horns come out as a defensive reaction. In spite of having looked closely at caterpillars all my life, I never knew till that moment that swallowtail caterpillars could do this.

        1. greengenes 01/05/2015

          These are beautiful pictures, GrannyMay! Thanks for sharing!

          1. GrannyMay 01/06/2015

            Thanks Jeanne.

  12. sheila_schultz 01/05/2015

    I think I'm going to start calling you Professor Tim, the Butterfly Guy! These photos are so very cool... thanks for the beginnings of my butterfly education! My grandkids are going to go nuts ;)

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      So is it the crazy beard or the obsessive-compulsive spouting about caterpillars?!

      1. sheila_schultz 01/05/2015

        All of the above ;) and I'm likin' your beard Tim... it's a built in napkin!

  13. GrannyCC 01/05/2015

    Wonderful photos Tim. You have amazing detail. I have quite a few Swallowtail butterflies in my garden but I have never seen their chrysalis although I have seen the caterpillar.

    I am reading a novel called "Delicious" by Ruth Richl who is Editor-in Chief of Gourmet magazine. It is the story a young woman who corresponds with James Beard during the second world war. He advises her to collect milkweed pods at their young tender stage and lightly braise them. I looked it up and they said to be sure it isn't Dogbane which is poisonous. So please do some research before you try this!!! I am not an expert and I wouldn't want anyone to get poisoned.

    Thanks for the delightful look at your beautiful garden and it's gorgeous visitors.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks for the tip, Catherine. My wife loves Ruth Richl, so I'm sure we have the book somewhere. We just might be trying braised milkweed pods next summer!

  14. yukohartley 01/05/2015

    Hello Tim,

    Your garden is great. I really like how you have planted to attract butterflies. I have a question about your milkweed. I planted milkweed for the first time this spring to attract Monarch butterflies. I looked at the photographs of your milkweed and they are much larger than my plants. I planted from seed and also bought some plants. None of them developed seed pods. I planted rather late in the spring. None of my plants was nearly as large as yours. What is the secret to large milkweed? When do you plant them? Do you raise them from seed? Do they come back by themselves in the spring?

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Hello, Ladybug. I have several different types of milkweed in my garden and all are perennial, so will come back year after year. Most hardy milkweed seed should be planted in fall in order to sprout in the spring, but I don't think that is 100%.
      The milkweeds in the photo are common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, but are very unusual. I really don't know why they are so big. I planted some seeds taken from a plant in a friend's yard, maybe five or six years ago. His plants were only about 3 feet tall.
      They do take a while to mature enough to bloom. Mine started to make a clump after a couple of years and then they started to spread VERY aggressively, sending runners under a sidewalk, six to eight feet from the clump. The plants that come up from runners are mature plants from the get-go. They have a deep, deep taproots and don't transplant well (really not at all).
      There are other more well-behaved species. The only types of milkweed that I see in nurseries are A. tuberosa and A. incarnata, which are much, much smaller plants with small leaves, no matter how old they are. Does that help?
      Best of luck. Monarchs need all the help they can get!

      1. yukohartley 01/05/2015

        Thanks for the great tips. I will start seeds in the seed starter before spring.I am also crazy about bugs and animals. When I was a kid, I collected caterpillars and praying mantis eggs and enjoyed watching them hatch. My brother did not want to look at them.

        1. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

          Sure thing. Any reputable seed source should tell you whether or not the seeds need a certain freezing/chilling time before they will germinate.

  15. schatzi 01/05/2015

    Awesome achievement, Tim. Great photos. I have many flowers and herbs and never spray, but it seems I see fewer butterflies and bees every year. Worrisome. Plenty of dragonflies, tho. I will have to plant more parsley, dill and milkweed and see what happens. Your little piece of heaven certainly seems to please the butterflies. And me! I was always somewhat bug phobic until I took an advanced class as a Master Gardener and had to do an insect collection and a plant collection. We had a wonderful man who was the entomologist and MG educator on the topic, who sadly we lost last fall. He taught me (us) so much. You are a pretty good entomologist yourself. Great job.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks, Shirley. Butterflies really do seem to be on the decline. It is very sad to me. Glad you are over your bug phobia, and sorry for the loss of a great educator. Insects never bothered me, but I have to admit to being phobic about spiders.....I'm a little desensitized now, but they really creep me out......
      I do love those dragonflies!

      1. schatzi 01/05/2015

        I can tolerate them - the spiders - outside, but I hate walking into their webs in my face! In the late summer, I walk thru some parts of my yard with my arm up in front of my face! They are not especially welcome inside either. But in becoming desensitized and better educated as a gardener, I have also come to appreciate garter snakes as predators of slugs and mice. Now when I disturb one sunning, I apologize! Anything bigger than that is still off limits for me tho. Live and learn.

        1. schatzi 01/05/2015

          Oh, and of course you know the spiders are predators too. I always tell our MG clinic clients that spiders are their friends in the garden, even tho they are an equal opportunity predator and take good bugs too at times. But they are creepy.

        2. User avater
          Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

          You and me, both. There are usually webs across our porch-to-street sidewalk, so in late summer I walk to my car in the morning with coffee cup in one hand, free arm flailing madly in front of me to keep those webs off my face! As long as they don't catch me by surprise, they are welcome in the garden, though.

  16. user-6891665 01/05/2015

    Just lovely. Thanks for sharing

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks so much!

  17. Meelianthus 01/05/2015

    Tim, you are definitely one with nature and certainly in your own butterfly heaven. What a
    wonder - and all so beautiful ! I think my favorite pic is of the black swallow tail caterpillar, but the praying mantis are so amazingly cool also. What a joy to share your gardens with all of those creatures. Here in WA, I'm still trying to figure out what is the purpose of the
    SLUG ! Ugh!! For some it has become a beloved symbol of the PNW, for me it is just a ravenous pile of slime. Anyway, thanks for sharing the beauty of you gardens once again Tim - and for nurturing all of those wonderful creatures.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks, Linda. We have the miniature version of slugs here. I think their purpose is to be food for other creatures and to vex gardeners! If they somehow did something useful, like repel squirrels and other destructive creatures, I might like having them around. As it

      1. Meelianthus 01/06/2015

        Right ! and so far I have not found any of those 'other' creatures. I do know that ducks and chickens love them - gross! but I have neither. Oh well.

  18. user-7007327 01/05/2015

    Tim, you live in a butterfly and insect haven. Mantis are my favorites. Thank you for the treat.

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/05/2015

      Thanks, Elizabeth. I have to admit that I snap a photo pretty much every single time I see a praying mantis. They are so animated and intelligent-looking, it's easy to anthropomorphize!

  19. user-7007076 01/06/2015

    Thanks for sharing and your labeling your fabulous photos! I am so inspired for this next growing season. Flat leafed parsley and bronze fennel will make their debut in my garden in addition to another butterfly species. You're like a modern day Claude Monet for you're clearly an artist with plants! What an exotic looking path of milkweed you've created. Create work!!!

    1. User avater
      Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/06/2015

      Wow, Sarah. What an incredible compliment. Thanks. I do think of the garden as an ever-changing, living painting. It's my art!

  20. thevioletfern 01/06/2015

    The Milkweed! Stunning! Enjoyed seeing the life in your landscape tremendously.

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