Garden Photo of the Day

John’s butterfly garden in Michigan

I love this view of the east end of my garden which has my small sitting bench. Some flowers shown are Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), and various coneflowers. Photo/Illustration: All photos courtesy of John Blair

Today’s photos are from John Blair in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He says, “I have been a gardener all of my life since I grew up helping my father, who loved having a vegetable garden, and my mother, who loved roses and beautiful flower beds. When my wife and I got our own home 25 years ago, I was excited to have my very own land to be creative with and soon had a small vegetable garden, flower beds, and water features.

In this photo, the swamp milkweed (Asclepia incarnata) is in full bloom and the purple spikes of prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya) add a nice vertical component to the garden.

“During the winter of 2012, I attended a presentation on creating a butterfly garden utilizing native plants and this really caught my interest! That spring, I expanded my previously small vegetable garden into a much larger garden for not only native plants but my favorite annuals and butterfly nectaring plants. I currently have 54 different species of native plants in my garden, with some favorites being Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, boneset, anise hyssop, purple coneflower, queen of the prairie, ironweed, various blazing stars, five different species of milkweed, bee balm, orange coneflower, and many others.

The ruby-throated hummingbirds love to nectar on the lobelias (Lobelia cardinalis and L. siphilitica).

“I also have added some of my favorite non-natives such as zinnias, cleome, lantana, ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia, delphinium, and Mexican sunflower. I was thrilled to have over 25 different species of butterflies visit my garden last summer and beautiful ruby-throated hummingbirds every day!

The beautiful orange blossoms of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) are wonderful for lining my path and are a larva food source for the Monarch butterfly.

“My hobby of photography dove-tails beautifully with my gardening and I spend time nearly every summer day capturing the beautiful bird and butterfly visitors as well as the incredible beauty of the flowers. Additionally, I have become interested in helping preserve the Monarch butterfly and by planting milkweed as a larva food source and numerous flowers as a nectaring source, I was able to get my garden certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.”

The scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma), ‘Tiki Torch’ coneflowers, and ‘Annabelle’ hydranga are prominent in this photo.

Absolutely stunning, John. I love how wildflowery it is, and how wild and lush it looks. More photos, please!

A Monarch nectaring on meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis).

—-Winter is the perfect time to take a photographic stroll through the photos you took in your garden this year……and then send some in to me at [email protected]!

The garden in mid-July. Purple stalks of prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum) make a glorious show!
This is the west end of the garden showing my arbor with my wind chimes over my small pond. Blooming behind my Monarch Waystation sign are wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) and scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma).

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View Comments


  1. perenniallycrazy 02/03/2014

    Jaw dropping gardening, horticulture and photography John! My hats off to you. I can't believe there are only 8 photos for today's blog. Certainly look forward to much more.

  2. John429 02/03/2014

    Thank you so much, PerenniallyCrazy! I am very honored and thrilled to have my garden selected as GPOD. I'm not usually up this late but I saw Michelle asked for some more photos so I just went through last summer's archive and sent her some more.

  3. user-1020932 02/03/2014

    this is great! i was just reading this weekend about the very LOW numbers of monarchs over wintering in mexico and how everyone should plant as much as they can to help the butterflies. This just makes my day to see this, it's not only beneficial but beautiful as well. i'm with Cherry, my hat is off to you!

  4. GardenGrl1 02/03/2014

    Beautiful garden, wonderful way to raise awareness to the plight of the Monarch. At our local OSU Extension office this past summer, NO monarchs were seen at the butterfly garden. This was the first year they have been absent. We're speculating that it is largely due to milkweed being removed from landscapes.

    Congratulations on your certification as a Monarch Waystation!

    Please share more photos!

  5. greengenes 02/03/2014

    What a way to wake up! Absolutely beautiful! And for a good cause, too. You have done a beautiful job putting it all together. Its like a tapestry! Love it! Iam going to plant more flowers of these sorts. We don't have monarchs but we have the swallowtails which come every year. I do have some of these flowers but your mix is so beautiful.
    What is the green vine in all most all the backgrounds? Thanks for sharing! You have encouraged us all!

  6. flowerladydi 02/03/2014

    Just Fabulous John!,,,,, the colors are so vivid and fresh,,, and you have captured them sooo well with your photos!,,,, I can just imagine strolling down your paths! Love love love all the asclepias and ,Liatris especially,,,,,love the color combo,,, and of course ALL your natives and every other plant,, ( Love Annabelle's too! ) How much fun you must have to see all the butterflies and birds,and to know that you are truly helping preserve them,,, there is nothing quite so sweet as a hummingbird,,,,,

  7. wGardens 02/03/2014

    Another Hat off to you! Wonderful what you have done/ are doing! Love the photos and I too, look forward to more. I read that article about the lack of Monarch's also. I only saw 2 Monarch's here this past year and in our area, there are LOADS of Milkweed.

  8. user-7006952 02/03/2014

    Incredibly gorgeous! I have a small butterfly garden and yours inspires me to do so much more! About how much area does your total butterfly garden encompass? Post more pictures sometime-I would love to see more.

  9. Quiltingmamma 02/03/2014

    Lovely photos and concept. Thanks. Your garden is an inspiration. I have been trying to integrate more native plants into the garden, but so far few butterflies. Lots more small pollinators, but the butterflies are sadly absent. Also have hummers coming in and are a joy to watch. I see what I need is 'more plants'.

  10. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 02/03/2014

    Beautiful, exhuberant, and almost wild looking. Love it. Now I need to buy those lobelia! It's so great to see how aware people are becoming about the monarchs. We only saw one last year. I've added lots of milkweeds and have considered becoming Johnny Milkweed Seed in the neighborhood!

  11. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/03/2014

    Hi, John, what a lushly flower filled garden. I can just imagine sitting on that bench in the first picture and putting myself in a delightful trance of butterfly watching. There is something so mesmerizing about watching their graceful glidings, thoughtful hoverings , and gentle landings. Your commitment to creating such a hospitable habitat for them is inspiring and makes me want to do better in my own garden. Thank you.

  12. appaloosa 02/03/2014

    I loved all these colorful flowers. What wonderful pictures of the hummingbird and butterfly also.

  13. User avater
    HelloFromMD 02/03/2014

    Hi All, I saw only one Monarch last season and I too plant for butterflies and especially for hummingbirds. The hummingbirds returned and I think it is offspring not the original mated pair. John, how much sunlight per day are your plants receiving? My yard is getting shadier and I will have less area for flowering plants for butterflies. I envy all your asclepias, they don't overwinter for me. Brillant color, a jewel box!

  14. wittyone 02/03/2014

    What a wonderful job you have done selecting all these butterfly friendly plants and tending them so carefully. I bet the butterflies and hummingbirds make special detours just to enjoy the buffet you provide.

    Just gorgeous!

  15. Tarrytown 02/03/2014

    Wow, this is fabulous. How much space is devoted to your butterfly garden? And do you have some kind of supplemental irrigation? It seems as if you have a fair amount of thirsty plants (lobelia, swamp milkweed,meadow blazing star). Where I live (north of NYC) not one of the public butterfly gardens received visits from monarchs last year. So hats off to you!

  16. pattyspencer 02/03/2014

    Your pictures are beautiful- I really like how the darkness of the backgrounds all make the flowers in the forground pop - the ones with the hummer and butterfly are my favorites. Congratulation on your certifications as well. Thank you for sharing and I hope to see more pictures of your garden as well

  17. tractor1 02/03/2014

    That dark background almost makes me think those photos were taken at night with flash but I know they were taken in daytime with some sort of a special effect added. I get lots of butterflies and hummers here too, they feast in my wildflower meadow. I've spotted monarchs but not nearly so many as swallowtails. I have a lot of native milkweed in my hedgerows. Good job, John... I'd love to see more photos but without the blackness.

  18. John429 02/03/2014

    Hello everyone and thank you all so much for your wonderful comments! I will be glad try to answer your questions. tntreeman and GardenGrl1 - yes, planting milkweed is one of the important things we can do to help the Monarchs and with the many species to choose from with beautiful colored blossoms (pink, orange, white, yellow, pink), it is a wonderful fit with any garden!

  19. plant_lady_55 02/03/2014

    John, your gardens are absolutely beautiful!!! I'm about 10 miles east of you and also added a butterfly garden several years back. While I've always loved flowers and the hummingbirds they draw in, the butterflies are breathtaking. We are helping them by adding the plants necessary for their life cycle. Your butterfly garden is laid out so well -- I love the path. The plant combinations are dynamic. Love the purple and orange together. Joe Pye weed IS also a favorite!!

  20. John429 02/03/2014

    greengenes - thank you so much! I wasn't sure exactly how it was going to turn out since I planted it all at once the spring of 2012 on a freshly cleared area. As a retired engineer, I made a spreadsheet in Excel to plot out all of the variables of each plant - plant height, flower color, water requirements, sun/shade requirements, etc. to decide where to plant each plant. Being a technical person devoid of artistic ability, I just hoped for the best and I really lucked out LOL! The green vine in the backgrounds is wild grape vine. This vine was previously rampant on my garden site and it was a real chore digging it out. However, I left it around the perimeter of the garden as I thought it would make a nice backdrop to the colorful flowers. I'm really glad I did!

  21. davsav 02/03/2014

    What a beautiful, beautiful garden for the butterflies and birds!! The hummingbird picture is now my desktop background. I hope you don't mind. It is stunning, thank you, thank you for sending in your pictures.

  22. John429 02/03/2014

    flowerladydi - I'm so glad you like my garden :-) The thing that gives me joy about my photography hobby is it allows me to share the beautiful things I see with others. To wake up this morning and find so many kind comment really makes my day!

  23. user-1020932 02/03/2014

    all that since 2012???!?! i'm in awe.
    spreadsheets, Excel, variables :( i usually at home just dig and plant and point and shoot for photos. John, should you ever be in east tennessee, please call me, i need help!

  24. John429 02/03/2014

    jilles - I really pleased my garden has inspired you to expand! In answer to your question, my garden is about 1800 square feet. However, I have run out of space for plants so I am going to expand it this spring.

  25. cwheat000 02/03/2014

    John, pastels are sweet, but there is something extra wonderful about all those saturated colors, spanning the whole spectrum. You have made a stunning butterfly sanctuary. I saw a few monarchs in my garden last year, but many more swallowtails. I will joins the effort and add more milkweed( I only have one plant now). I love the orange variety! P.S.- that photo of the monarch on the native liatris is really special. Nice mulching job too!

  26. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/03/2014

    I'm with tntreeman, John, your butterfly garden is extra impressive knowing it has only been in place since 2012.
    In the second photo down, is the tall pinkish purple plant a variety of milkweed? And is your pathway lined with lantana or are those shorter yellow and orange flowers the milkweed? Hope I haven't embarrassed myself by asking.

  27. Yeddi 02/03/2014

    Hello John,
    Thank you for the beautiful pictures. I have a wildflower strip which we sowed when a drainage pipe was laid and I did not want to grass it over. The wildflowers are now in their sixth year, the first year was a bit sparse, the second year saw a good fullness with masses of coneflowers, sweet william, blackeyed susan and golden rod. There are also gaillardia and flax. The golden rod has started to take over and I am informed by another wildflower gardener that the most effective way of dealing with large areas similar to my own is to use a portable propane burner early in spring to target small areas.
    My home is in a somewhat rural area so butterfly weed seeds itself regularly in the flower beds. I do not cut back any perennials of any kind in the autumn, leaving anything which wishes to seed itself to happily grow. That means some extra weeding but worth it for the butterflies and birds. We also do not use herbicides or pesticides and find that the wildlife will take care of most things in a balanced way.
    Last year there were less butterflies than usual, but still a good number of visitors; monarchs, swallowtails, yellow sulphurs and many more not yet categorized by me.I am certified to have a Wildlife compatible garden, which thrills me. Gives me something to live up to! Next step, Monarch waystation certification?
    Incidentally, I live in Central Ohio so to see a Michigan garden in such a wonderful state of cultivation gives me even more hope of good things to come.

  28. John429 02/03/2014

    wGardens - I have heard of areas like you mention with loads of milkweed but no Monarchs :-( The best we can do is to keep planting so the food source is available. One nice thing is that milkweeds are perennials, so once they are in place, they will be there for possible future Monarchs to find even if we didn't see any last year.

  29. hummergirl 02/03/2014

    WOW John WOW!! You have got heaven on earth for those butterflies and hummingbirds! I love your pathway and can imagine how it is to wonder through and enjoying all of the visitors! You have done an amazing job with your plant selection, and I must admit, I have made myself a list!! I am installing another hummingbird/butterfly garden this spring and will use plants from your native list. Thank you for sharing, and I want to also chime in and say: more picture's please!

  30. John429 02/03/2014

    Tim_Zone - great job planting more milkweeds! One thing I have done the last two years is to gather the seeds from my milkweed and save them. In the winter, I take the seeds out to open fields I have carefully selected in the neighboring countryside and plant them! I also do this with many of the seeds from the native plants in my garden to help rebuild the native plant population in my area. Last winter, I targeted six areas within 10 miles of my home for prairie restoration (I used Google Earth to help find some of the sites!). I planted thousands and thousands of seeds, matched to their needed environments in these areas. I'm hoping some of them sprout and help rebuild these areas with natives instead of the invasives that are so common in fields now.

  31. bee1nine 02/03/2014

    Hi John, Here goes...Do not seem to find a Buddleia (butterfly bush) growing in your very lovely, welcoming habitat attracting garden? As I'm hoping not to create a
    problem mentioning such. I know they can be invasive by their
    seeds if you do not deadhead regularly. And banned in many states. Personally, I don't have a problem with them.
    I do cater to butterflies and hummers in my plantings.

    It's quite wonderful to see more ecosystem gardening taking
    place like yours. BRAVO!!!

  32. John429 02/03/2014

    Quiltingmama - one thing you can do to attract more butterflies is to plant similar flowers in groups as this will make in easier for the butterflies to find. I don't know if you are in a part of the country that you can grow these particular flowers but I have found zinnias, lantana and Mexican Sunflower are three types of nectaring flowers that are my most popular ones for butterflies in my garden.

  33. John429 02/03/2014

    meander1 ans appaloosa - I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos. I do just love my little bench! I discovered at one point that I hadn't planned for a place to sit to actually enjoy the garden so I found this neat small bench and placed it near the east end of the garden. When I sit there quietly, I just blend in and the butterflies and hummingbirds come all around me! It is such a thrill and makes me feel so good that I have been able to provide this place for them to come to :-)

  34. GrannyMay 02/03/2014

    John, congratulations on creating such a beautiful butterfly and hummingbird paradise! The colours are fantastic! Hard to believe you when you say you have no artistic ability, as your garden is a visual feast. Leaving the vine as a plain background works very well and your photographs show it all perfectly! Especially stunning are the photos of the monarch and the hummingbird. Love it all!

  35. John429 02/03/2014

    HellofromMD - So heartbreaking to hear you have such a wonderful place for Monarchs but so few. With the terrible news of such low numbers at the Mexican overwintering site, I am worried as to whether I'll have any this summer too. In terms of sunlight in my garden, I am a bit challenged. My lot is nearly all wooded except for the garden area which is on my south border, which borders on a housing project. Because of the houses to my south, it is open sky, except I have tall trees to the east and west of my garden, which cuts off direct sunlight. I don't get full sun until about 10:00 AM and it cuts off at about 5:00 PM due to tall trees.So in answer to your question, I get roughly 7 hours of good direct sunlight.

  36. John429 02/03/2014

    wittyone - thank you so much! In terms of the butterflies and hummers making a detour to come to the garden, you are so very right! Before planting my garden, we were lucky to see one hummer a summer and it was a big event. With the garden in place, they are a near-continuous presence! Also, I have been interested in butterflies my whole life and know all the species that are normally here in this area. Since I planted the garden, I have seen many new species I have never seen in this area before. Such a thrill to see these wonderful creatures :-)

  37. John429 02/03/2014

    Tarrytown - I so glad you enjoyed the photos :-) In terms of size, my garden is about 1800 square feet. For irrigation, I do most of it by hand. I have four different short lengths of hoses hidden in each quadrant of the garden which allows me to easily reach each area without pulling a long, heavy hose that could break over the plants. I love the new hoses that shrink up when you turn the water off because they are lightweight and are easy to stow. It takes me about two hours to water the entire garden, but I don't do it every day. On average, three times a week, depending on rain and outdoor temperature.

  38. John429 02/03/2014

    tractor1 and pattyspencer - I so glad you enjoy my photos. I use a wide angle lens to gather in as much of the scene as possible. I also wait for days with medium-bright clouds which provides the muted light that gives photos an almost ethereal look.

  39. John429 02/03/2014

    plant_lady_55 - thank you and Joe Pye Weed is one of my favorites as well. Since we are in the same area, have you been to Matthaei Botanical Garden? In their beautiful Gateway Garden is where I first learned of Joe Pye Weed. The huge, pink/mauve flowerheads are just spectacular and their nicely labeled plants helped me ID it. I knew right away that this was a plant I wanted in my garden!

  40. John429 02/03/2014

    davsav - Thank you so much for you nice comments and please do use the hummer photo (or any others of mine, if you wish) for your background.

  41. quinquek 02/03/2014

    Stars! All this since 2012? I think I'll just lie down and howl. Beautiful plantings, and some great ideas as we've thought of making a specific bed into a "bird & butterfly" garden. Am also curious about the Buddleia. As a novice thinking about attracting butterflies, that's where my mind first went.

  42. John429 02/03/2014

    cwwheat000 - I too love the orange Butterflyweed milkweed! Orange is my favorite color and this particular plant is one of the first ones that caught my interest in native plants. If you want to add more milkweed, I can suggest saving your seeds from your butterflyweed this summer when the pods open and replanting them wherever you want more. Also, there are a number of native plant nurseries where you can buy milkweed plants. A couple of my favorites are Prairie Moon Nursery and Prairie Nursery.

  43. John429 02/03/2014

    meander1 - I too am shocked at how fast the garden has grown in just two seasons! Most folks that have seen it have guessed it has been in place for many years because the plants look so mature. In regards to your question about the second photo down on the left, The rose colored flowers on the left side of the path are Swamp Milkweed. The tall purple plumes to the right of the path are called Prairie Blazing Star. The shorter yellow and orange flowers directly lining the path are lantana, corresopsis and cigar plant. The rich orange blooms set back from the paths are Butterflyweed milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). And never embarrassing to ask a question, meander1 - I asked tons of them when I was getting started with all this :-)

  44. John429 02/03/2014

    Yeddi - your garden sounds just wonderful! And what a great way to make lemonade from lemons on that strip of disturbed soil. I'm glad to hear that you don't used herbicides or pesticides either. I feel both of those things run counter to having a natural habitat. Also, I don't mind the weeding either - just one of gardening's pleasures. Also, the nice thing about leaving up last years plants all winter and through early spring is there are no doubt butterfly chrysalis made in those plants that will hatch into next years butterflies and the seeds from the flower heads will be a nice winter bounty for birds. I'm also glad to hear you will be getting your garden certified as a Monarch Waystation!!

  45. GrannyCC 02/03/2014

    Beautiful and amazing what you have achieved in so short a time. I have several Buddlei but I know they are being thought of as invasive. I am certainly going to try some of the other flowers you have mentioned. I too have heard of the shortage of Monarchs and butterflies in general so we all need to do our best to support them. Love the meandering paths and exuberant plantings.

  46. John429 02/03/2014

    Hummergirl - Thank you so ery much! Also, it is neat to hear your description "Heaven on Earth" of the garden because that is exactly the phrase I use to describe it too! When I go there to sit quietly and the hummers and butterflies and flowers are all around me, I imagine that this must be just a little bit what heaven is like :-) If you want to talk any more about plants for your new butterfly garden, please feel free to contact me on [email protected] as I'm always glad to correspond with you (or any other folks) who are interested in this subject. Also, I sent Michelle the editor eight additional photos of my garden if she would like to post any more here :-)

  47. John429 02/03/2014

    bee1nine - I actually forgot to mention the buddleia! As it is not invasive here in Michigan, it is a wonderful compliment to my butterfly garden and it a super nectar source for butterflies and pollinators. I currently have five varieties planted in the garden although they are sort of hard to see in the photos I submitted.

  48. John429 02/03/2014

    GrannyMay - I am so pleased you like my garden :-) I didn't think I had any artistic ability and still think I just lucked out. I often think of the old story of locking a hundred monkeys in a room with a hundred typewriters and that eventually, one would write Shakespeare by just random luck. That's what I think happened here with me LOL!

  49. user-7006902 02/03/2014

    I love to see and hear about gardeners using native plants in their gardens. How beautifully woven is your garden! I admire that you are a certified Monarch Waystation - the Monarchs need you and us. I will have to work towards becoming certified thanks to your inspiring story. Gorgeous and such a welcome sight this morning.

  50. John429 02/03/2014

    quinquek - yes, bee1nine also noticed I didn't mention buddleia and this was an oversight on my part. Being a northern garden where invasiveness is not an issue, it is a wonderful additional nectar source. I currently have five varieties sprinkled throughout my garden but not clearly seen in my photos. Yes - all since 2012. I am almost worried what will happen this next summer. If these plants double in size again, I may not even have room for my path LOL!

  51. John429 02/03/2014

    Again, I am overwhelmed by all of the wonderful comments you folks have shared with me today! Thank you, thank you, thank you :-) I'll be away for a couple hours but will be glad to answer any questions if more new comments show up when I return. It has been so fun to share my garden with you all and hear so many of your interesting stories too! See you in a little while!

  52. djjennings 02/03/2014

    I wish I was a butterfly! I want to get lost in your garden! What a magical world you've created! Thanks for sharing your photos.

    P.S. Thank you for listing the names of the plants. Although I have many of the same ones, there are several new ones that I will be adding to my gardens.

  53. birdnerd 02/03/2014

    Very beautiful, I love all the native plants.

  54. wildthyme 02/03/2014

    Great color combinations! The photography is gorgeous, too. How do you get the colors so vibrant . . . mine always seem washed out?

  55. tractor1 02/03/2014

    John429: I rarely plant anything in my wildflower meadow, I prefer to keep it natural and I worry about invasives. However I do plant some daffodil bulbs as the deer don't eat them. There are lots of insects that call the meadow home, especiallay butterflies, and all kinds of wildlife; frogs, snakes, rabbits, and all sorts of birds from hummers to egrets, to hawks, to geese, and of course deer. About all I do is keep the meadow healthy by rough mowing once a year in late summer early fall to ensure reseeding... I mow with mulching blades, a good 8" high so as not to harm the small wildlife. My wildflower meadow contains a 20 foot deep spring fed pond and several vernal ponds... the meaadow is about 3 1/2 acres and I maintain a walking path around the perimeter... perhaps you need a larger property for your butterfly promoting... here you can see milkweed among lots of other plants:

  56. janeeliz 02/03/2014

    John, you have created a very beautiful garden for butterflies and birds in such a short period of time. I love the lushness and the intensity of color of the flowers you've selected. I, too, have seen few Monarchs on my Joe Pye and other favorites this sad.We may not be able to do much about the effects of weather but we can refuse to buy the products that are likely contributing to this terrible loss. I do leave up anything with seeds for the birds each winter but I'm going to cut back a bit less of my garden in the future after reading/thinking about your information on the possible loss of chrysalis. Thanks . Looking forward to seeing more photos of your garden and its critters...perhaps some other types of butterflies?!

  57. John429 02/03/2014

    GrannyCC - I am so pleased you enjoyed my photos and I'm glad they have given you some ideas to expand your own garden. Yes - anything we can do as individuals, such as planting milkweed and adding nectaring flowers will help rebuild the quickly declining food pathway through the US that the Monarchs need.I'm so glad you are helping support these wonderful butterflies :-)

  58. CJgardens 02/03/2014

    Wonderful photos, wonderful flowers, beautiful winged creatures. I added more natives to my garden last year and don't use chemicals; I'm trying to do my part too.
    Thanks for sharing.

  59. John429 02/03/2014

    thevioletfern - Thank you! Since the native plants developed in conjunction with our native butterflies, they are specially suited to provide for their the needs and they are, in many cases, just as beautiful as non-natives. I am really pleased to hear that you are interested in also becoming a Monarch Waystation! Through the certification process, they are helpful in showing just what to plant to best help the Monarchs and to be honest, it is really cool to have the sign :-)

  60. John429 02/03/2014

    djjennings - Your most welcome! I was glad to add the names in case it was helpful to folks and also the Latin names because sometimes, the common names can refer to more than one species (example "Coneflowers" can be Echinacea, Ratibida or Rudbeckia!)

  61. user-1020932 02/03/2014

    John, i don't know what i enjoyed more today, your photos or your commentary. i love someone who is "fired up" and passionate about their garden and you with your butterflies.
    and i agree that it would be really cool to have that sign!
    such a great job you have done and in such a short time

  62. John429 02/03/2014

    wildthyme and birdnerd - I really appreciate your wonderful comments :-) wildtyme, regarding avoiding getting washed out photos, one tip is to avoid shooting at times of high contrast. For example, a bright sunny day with brightly lit flowers and dark shadows in the foilage. In this case, cameras will often expose for one extreme (bright or dark) or the other. A bright cloudy day is actually a good day for outdoor photography. The muted light is beautifully diffused and just makes colors glow. That is exactly how I got all of the garden photos on display today. Additionally, I try to keep the sun at my back so I'm never shooting into the sun. Alternately, equipment can also play a role. I am fortunate to have a DSLR camera with manual setting capability. Through my wonderful daughter, who is also into photography, I have learned a bit about using the manual settings which has helped me immensely in getting my photos.

  63. John429 02/03/2014

    tractor1 - you have a beautiful meadow! Having a wooded lot, I had to carve my garden out to get an area to plant my sun-loving plants in. To have actual *acerage* of meadow like you do would be wonderful! Also, to have spring-fed pond in the meadow is just amazing :-)

  64. John429 02/03/2014

    JaneEliz - I'm so glad you enjoyed my photos, Jane! Editor Michelle has just told me that she will put up the eight additional ones I sent tomorrow, so more are on the way :-)

  65. John429 02/03/2014

    CJgardens - Glad you liked my garden and I'm pleased you are avoiding use of chemicals. Keeping things all natural is safest for our insects, birds and other creatures. Well done!

  66. John429 02/03/2014

    tntreeman - thanks so much, tntreeman! I'll my story about how my passion for this came about. I was a senior engineer at one of the auto companies for 26 years when one day, my life changed overnight due to a health crisis that hit me completely out of left field! Overnight, I went from years of running 100 mph, with tons of friends at my work and with immense responsibility every day to 0 mph, alone at home. I lost not only many physical capabilities but also my purpose in life that I found through my work. It was a terrible time and when the dust finally settled on where I would be left physically with all this, I needed to rebuild my life with something that I would love to do that was within my reduced abilities. I floundered for quite some time, not knowing what to do, through very dark days. One day, I heard there was going to be a butterfly garden presentation at the bird food store, so on a whim, I went to it. For the first time since this all happened, I felt a surge of interest in something! I was going to make a butterfly garden! I was fortunate to have the help of friends and loved ones and was able to stretch my abilities (to some degree) beyond what I expected to be able to do in making it. It was truly a special gift to me from God when I was at my lowest point in my life. From the garden sprung renewed interests in birds, butterflies, flowers and nature. And new friends who shared these interests. And also a new fun photography hobby! When I see the beauty of my garden, I remember exactly who gave me this special, special gift and to Him I will be forever grateful!

  67. greengenes 02/03/2014

    Oh John! I think this is the most conversations ive ever read! Its all so great! I love hearing what you just shared with tntreeman! It is from God for sure! I have personally been through some bad stuff and God really helped me through it with gardening. And now I cant quit! Its so healing and its an outlet to be creative as well. Iam so glad you are doing what you love! Im sure the peace there is quite prominate especially at the bench! People comment about here at our place, the peace they feel...hmm.... Iam looking so forward to seeing the other pics you sent in! Happy spring!

  68. user-1020932 02/03/2014

    John, out of all the features here on this blog today has been my all time favorite. the photos, the story behind the garden and your exuberance in sharing it. this has been a REAL bright spot during these gray days of winter.your garden is truly beautiful, serves a great purpose for those around you AND the butterflies and you're just such a nice guy too BUT i really want one of those signs in my yard! i wish/hope Michelle got these in time for her presentation because i know it would be a real hit in Seattle

  69. GardenSmiles 02/03/2014

    WOW John, your butterfly garden is truly AMAZING with all the awesome colors and varieties. You are a natural artist, caretaker of the earth and an inspiration to all. You have captured everything perfectly in your wonderful photos. It's so nice to hear that you also do not use pesticides and herbicides which cause severe damage. Does your garden also attract a lot of bees? Unfortunately our bee population is another unfortunate situation.

    Our hope should be that everyone would do at least just a small amount of planting of flowers, trees and vegetables to sustain our earth. We need to uphold our stewardship of the earth and protect our ever changing planet instead of allowing the harm that is taking place.

    My sleep cycle has also been thrown off with being new to this site! Everyone needs to get hyped up this way, it will make a difference. P.S. I was so excited with your GPOD that I had to us WordPad!! Just now read your life changes and they definitely should inspire others as well.

    You have a PARADISE on EARTH!

  70. John429 02/03/2014

    tntreeman and greengenes - it has been such a fun day for me as well! It has been a blast hearing so many interesting things from fellow gardeners and being able to share my garden with you all and getting to meet so many nice folks. A good day indeed :-)

  71. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/04/2014

    John, I know that your poignantly shared journey that has lead you here today has touched many hearts. Your passionate advocacy to remind us all that butterflies need our help has been beautifully expressed an will not be a message that is forgotten. Please make this friendly board a place you stop in have much valuable knowledge to share and it will always be appreciated. Thank you.

  72. annek 02/04/2014

    Darn it. I was late again today. But what a magnificent set of photos when I finally logged in. Your photography is absolutely exquisite! Truly inspirational design, colors, planning and your story is so touching. Gardening, indeed, has healing abilities.

    A question for you: Does Joe Pye weed come in colors other than orange? Your lobelia colors are incredible and I love your liatris. Again, your photography is surreal. Thanks so much for your story, your flowers, your skills. You are quite a success story.

  73. John429 02/04/2014

    GardenSmiles - Wow!I really appreciate your gracious and thoughtful comments about the garden and my photography! Regarding bees, I actually did notice this year (versus last year) a drop in the number of regular honey bees visiting the garden flowers and it persisted this way all summer. However, in terms of native bees and wasps, there seemed to be about the same number as last year. Yes - I really do feel I have a little paradise on Earth :-) This spring, I was on our local garden club's "Garden Walk". I don't know if this is a universally known term or not? In case it isn't, here's what it is. Every two years, the garden club selects about 6 - 7 gardens to be shown as part of their summer fund raising activity. They then sell tickets for the walk and hand out maps of the garden locations the day of the walk and folks then come and visit the gardens, which are usually scattered around the area. Prior to that day, my garden had only ever been seen by a handful of friends, so I wasn't prepared for how really excited folks were when they saw it! It seemed liked "Paradise on Earth" to me, but I had no idea until that day when I received so many nice comments that it would be so well loved. It made me feel really good have been able to share something so special to me and find so many folks loved it just like I did :-)

  74. John429 02/04/2014

    meander1 - being brand new here, I had no idea this was such a friendly, welcoming community until today with all the wonderful comments. Normally, I probably wouldn't have shared such a personal story like that but by the end of the day, having received so many kind, heart-felt comments, I felt really comfortable doing so. Thanks again to everyone for making me feel so welcome here! And thank you, yes, I will stop by often. This is a really nice place for gardening friends to gather :-)

  75. John429 02/04/2014

    Annek - Thank you, Anne, I'm pleased you enjoyed my photos :-)

    Regarding your question on Joe Pye Weed, the flower heads I have seen range in color from just off-white all the way through pink and purplish-mauve. I am going to try to post a photo here of the typical color of Joe Pye I see from my garden. If this site does not allow active links, you will need to copy and paste this link into your browser to see the picture: Here is my photo of Joe Pye at this address:

    I hope I answered your question, Anne. If not, please let me know :-)

  76. BethinIowa 02/04/2014

    John, I am breathless with wonder over these photos. Just completely beautiful, and nurturing to our delicate friends, the butterflies, and to honeybees that might find their way, and the little hummers that return faithfully every summer to our gardens. I am inspired to try to emulate your success and become a Monarch Waystation!!! Thank you for your photos, a wonderland of color to explore visually during our snowy wintertime!

  77. GrannyMay 02/04/2014

    John I have just spent over half an hour looking at your amazing photos on Flikr from the link you provided. I will return to it again and again. Absolutely stunning pictures of butterflies, birds, insects, flowers and your overall garden! Thank you so much for sharing your talent and your passion!

  78. annek 02/04/2014

    Thanks so much for the link, John.. Your photos are an inspiration (for several reasons ;-) but in this instance, to plant joe pye this spring.

    You were up late last night answering questions, thanks for the response!

  79. quinquek 02/04/2014

    Late getting in, but I was just at the Flickr site and was totally stunned by the photography. Professional work, and breathtaking. The garden is amazing and a real inspiration. There have been times when my thoughts have been "let's just try to one thing today that affirms life" and it has always been found in the garden. Thank you so much for sharing!

  80. John429 02/04/2014

    I see there are more wonderful comments since I was on last night from Bethiniowa, GrannyMay, Annek and quinquek. Thank you all very much and it does my heart good to hear you've enjoyed the garden photos. It has truly been my pleasure to have met you all today! And Bethiniowa - super to hear that you're going to create a Monarch Waystation - just outstanding!

  81. plant_lady_55 02/06/2014

    John, yes I have been to Matthei numerous times. I love the gardens there. I purchased the Joe Pye because it was on the butterfly list and was pleasantly surprised what a beautiful plant it turned out to be. Even now in the winter, it adds such interest to the garden.

  82. user-7006917 02/10/2014

    John429 - So many posts! I'm still reading them all. Your garden is inspiring and I love your photos on your Flicker account. Are you on Pinterest by any chance? Just wish I could PIN more of this photos to my Pinterest board, Save the Monarchs! I just received my Monarch Waystation sign and would really appreciate if you would tell me how you were able to attach it to a post to put it in your garden? I want to get mine out soon. Congratulations on your achievement of encouraging more people to garden for our disappearing Monarchs.

  83. John429 02/11/2014

    Dollybelle - I'm so pleased you found my garden inspiring :-)

    Regarding Pinterest, I'm sorry, but that isn't something I'm familiar with. But if you want to save a copy of my photos to enjoy for wall paper on your computer, please do! I'm really happy to hear your garden is now a Monarch Waystation - Great Job! Also, yes, it is wonderful that more folks have been encouraged to plant more milkweed to help the Monarchs! If more people do this, we can really be a great help to this wonderful butterfly! Regarding how I mounted my sign, I took a photo for you at this link:

  84. John429 02/11/2014

    plant_lady_55, I'm glad you enjoy Matthaei too :-) It is one of my favorite places in the world, especially the beautiful Gateway Garden. That is where I first saw Joe Pye Weed and it's cousin, Sweet Joe Pye that likes shade out on the edges of Marilyn Bland Prairie. I took a walk over to the garden today and you're right, Joe Pye does add neat interest to the garden in winter!

  85. user-7006917 02/12/2014

    Thank you so much for going out in the snow to get your sign and getting on here so fast! I showed it to my husband. I'm hoping he'll find time to get ours done like that. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

  86. John429 02/12/2014

    Your welcome, Dollybelle :-)

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