Before you start putting pencil to paper to test layouts on your base plan or choose plants, we’ll start by getting familiar with thinking in layers.
Naturally-occurring plants grow in many layers. These include tall and understory trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and the ground layer. Each level provides a home for varying wildlife species. Missing plant layers means that there are wildlife species unable to select the layer to which they are best adapted for survival.
A layered landscape provides food throughout all seasons. Bees benefit from early spring- blooming flowers --especially trees and shrubs, which provide an early food source just when the bees are emerging from a long winter’s fast.
You say you want a butterfly garden? Many of the showy butterflies that we enjoy lay their eggs in our native trees and shrubs. Small groves of native trees planted by Dr. Snetsinger in the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden were planted specifically to support the caterpillars of various species of lepidoptera. Large yellow tiger swallowtails are frequently spotted gliding down from the treetops to nectar on their favorite flowers. Other butterflies, like fritillaries, depend on plants in the ground layer.
Layered landscapes support fellow creatures, but also create yards that are interesting and attractive. Trees and shrubs provide seasonal interest - aromatic spring flowers, gorgeous fall colors, and stunning architecture in the winter. The joy of discovery awaits in every layer- a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar on a spicebush, a bird flitting from branch to branch or a bumble bee emerging from beneath the leaf litter –it never gets old.
Whether you are working around existing plantings or are starting from the ground up, you can make your yard into a living layered landscape. And you can choose whether to spend a weekend, a year, or a lifetime doing it!
Just like a puzzle, the journey is half the fun. The rest is watching your garden come to life.
Author: Pam Ford