Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

A New Butterfly Visitor!

Possible eastern Iris-Skipper posing on a tap for perspective!

A couple of days ago this little skipper fluttered past me in my butterfly garden at high-speed. It caught my eye as it was quite different to the many orange-brown shaded skippers that visit. It was also a little bigger. I didn’t think I’d get a good look at it, but it was kind enough to pose on the garden tap for me for a few moments.

I’m not exactly sure which skipper it is, my best guest from having a look at my trusty ‘Field Guide to the Butterflies of Australia’ (M.F. Braby) is an Eastern Iris-Skipper Mesodina halyzia. I’ll have to see if I can confirm.

I also forgot to mention last time how wonderful the online resource that Bernie from My Dry Tropics Garden put me on to has turned out to be. It is Flora for Fauna if you missed her comment earlier. As the name suggests, it is not just about planting for butterflies.

For someone who is just starting to get their head around botanic names having something that can give you suggestions for the right larval plants at a click of a button is wonderful, so thanks again Bernie!

Having said that, I’m still going to persevere with teaching myself at least a few botanic names!

The Butterfly and Bee garden starting to buzz!

A slightly ragged Common Brown (Heteronympha merope merope) visiting the garden today.

The space down the side of the house is gradually starting transformation into the butterfly and bee garden. There’s not too much to see plant wise yet, as I have to discipline myself to focus on cleaning up not only this area, but the rest of the garden too.

However, once I’ve put in a few hours wrangling Couch grass and Ivy I let myself off the hook to spend a little time to work on setting up the butterfly and bee garden.

The butterfly and bee 'garden to be'

Here’s my progress report, please feel free to point out mistakes with Botanical names, I’m just starting to get the hang of these and realise that I’m probably making many mistakes!

Nectar Plantings

Buddleia

The fact we already have a well established mauve Buddleia (in foreground of photo above) is what started attracting Butterflies to our garden in the first place. The bees love it too.

Lavandula Multifida – ‘Spanish Eyes’ or ‘Canary Island’ Lavender.

Lavender planted next to a shallow water dish and some resting rocks for butterflies

I found this beautiful little soft ferny Lavender which has very dainty little tube shaped flowers and couldn’t resist it. I’m thinking the butterflies and bees will love it too.

Monarda didyma – Bergamot

Said to be a favourite herb for bees that I’m hoping will flower soon. I’ll post a picture when it does.

Larval Plantings

I’ve been following up my research on the food plant preferences of the caterpillar of Vanessa kershawi – The Australian Painted Lady by planting:

Bracteantha Bracteata – Golden Everlasting Daisy

Golden Everlasting

For anyone unfamiliar with an everlasting daisy it is a low growing plant that loves the sun. The apparent petals are actually bracts and you can find a lot more information about them here. I hope to grow a few more colourful  varieties from seed next spring.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum – Yellow Buttons.

Sad little Yellow Buttons

A Native plant commonly grown as a low maintenance and drought tolerant ground-cover. It’s meant to be as common as muck but I had a bit of trouble finding it and bought quite a sad looking little seedling just because I was so happy to have finally found it! It is meant to have a mass of small cheerful yellow flowers. We’ll see if it cheers up!

A journey of discovery

Australian Painted Lady - Vanessa kershawi - on a Buddleia

Research for the Butterfly Garden is already turning into a very exciting journey of discovery. ‘Decoding’ botanical plant names has resulted in more than one surprise.

As I’m not familiar with botanical plant names it is quite likely that I am getting a few things wrong, particularly when it come to plants that seem to have been reclassified more than once! I’m happy to be corrected if anyone notices a mistake.

The focus of my research so far has been larval food plants for the three most common butterfly visitors to our garden; The Australian Painted Lady – Vanessa kershawi, The Australian Admiral – Vanessa  itea and The Common Brown – Heteronympha merope

The larval food plant preferences of the Painted Lady are the kindest for the garden so far, so I’ll focus on those today.  The Painted Lady likes Chrysocephalum (Everlasting Daisy), Ammobium (Yass Daisy) and Chrysocephalum apiculatum (Yellow Buttons).  It is also fond of Gnaphaliums, but these are going to take a bit more research.

Larval food plants sourced from Braby, M.F – The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia.

I don’t currently have any everlasting daisies in my garden but will happily try growing them from seeds next spring.  ‘Yellow Buttons’ is said to thrive on neglect, so that at least will fit right in!

Meadow Argus

Today I was also excited to find another Butterfly visiting the garden, the Meadow Argus, so there’s another one to add to the research list!

Around the garden…

Quite late in the season I’ve sown some cherry tomatoes. The seedlings are looking quite happy after transplanting into bigger pots, so hopefully with some feeding I can get them going before it’s too late!

Cherry Tomato seedlings

The photo below is for Gururajr, it is one of the Japanese Maples growing in our garden. I’m not sure which variety it is,  as it was an unlabelled seedling we planted about eleven or twelve years ago.  We fondly refer to this tree as ‘Mother Maple’ as she self-sows very readily!

'Mother Maple'

Last of all is the inevitable rose photo, another David Austin Rose in need of a move to a slightly sunnier spot in the garden. This time it is William Shakespeare Rose.

A Beautiful Pest

Thanks to Museum Victoria’s Discovery Centre we were able to identify the fuzzy ‘butterfly’ in the last post. We thought it was a beautiful butterfly but it turns out to be the day flying Grapevine Moth Phalaenoides glycinae.

Mystery no more

Apparently it is a very serious pest for grape growers – and it gets worse. It was the reason for the introduction of the Common Myna Bird, a biological control gone wrong and a threat to our native bird life. Bad bug. Well, in fairness it didn’t decide to import grapes or Myna birds!

Anyway, today I started the serious business of decoding botanical plant names. I have put together a short list of the butterflies we’ve observed,  along with those we might be able to attract (as they have been identified in our area).  Now I’m identifying and reading up on their larval food plants. More on this next time!

I've decided this is the Greenish Grass Dart. Well, maybe. There are about 30 different little brown and orange grass darts in our area, so it's going to take a bit of work to know for sure!

In bloom today…

Chicago Peace

The blooms on Chicago Peace are usually more vivid than in this photo, but I think the intense heat of the last couple of days has ‘bleached’ it a little.

Scentimental Rose


Hatching a plan for a butterfly garden.

Butterfly fever has got us chasing butterflies across town and through car parks much to the bemusement of others! Here is a strange butterfly we found not far from where we live and are yet to identify. It is quite small (approx 35 – 40mm wingspan) and a very fast flutterer who barely settles (so we couldn’t get a clear photo). So far I have not seen it in our garden. I will come back and update when we find out what it is!

Mystery butterfly

Now to the future Butterfly Garden! Well, the research has begun, if not the actual planting.

I’ve decided to make the north facing area that runs along the side of the house into my butterfly and bee garden. The majority of the buddleias are already there anyway and there is not much else going on in that part of my world apart from my beloved raspberry bath.

Australian Admiral Butterfly resting on a Silver Veined Creeper

Researching food plants is going to take me a little while as most of the texts and sites I’ve found list latin names which I have no skill with! However I did manage to discover that Australian Admiral butterflies are fond of some varieties of nettle including Sticky Weed. Ironically one of our cats does a great job of spreading sticky weed all over the garden.  He does this very effectively by collecting the burrs in his long coat!

Blue Bees and Bashful Butterflies

Australian Blue Banded Bee

I’ve been spying this little buzzy bee around my Budleias for a while now and finally I did some research at www.aussiebee.com.au to find out what he was. I thought he might be a native Australian bee and sure enough it turns out he is a Blue Banded bee. There are plenty of other bees and wasps buzzing about at the moment, so identifying them will be a new job for me. There are lots of butterflies flitting about to, but they have not been co-operating for photos. Below is a tiny little skipper sitting on a rose stem. Not sure what variety he is.

Tiny unidentified skipper butterfly

Another important job is going to be learning about having a proper ‘Butterfly garden’.  So far I seem to be doing well in attracting the critters by chance, but I’m sure some thoughtful planting will have even better results!

In bloom today…

Californian Poppy

Here is a little Californian Popy which my daughter is very proud of raising from seed along with some Snapdragons and Cat Mint.

And below is a beautiful little geranium bloom in my favourite colour. It seems

Cranesbill (?) Geranium

to enjoy the dappled shade under Mother Maple much more than the roses do. I think it is a Cranesbill Geranium, but I’m not 100% certain.

Last of all for today is yet another of my favourite flower, the Rose. This one has a lovely scent and a beautiful colour, but unlike the other David Austin roses I have, doesn’t seem to last so well in the vase.

'Pat Austin' Rose

January 2010. Time to get things under way!

It’s early January and my garden is overgrown. Again.

The worst of it!

As I was looking for a shady patch to weed without getting sunburnt I started to think about the changes that occur in a garden over a year and how beautiful mine could look, if only I put in the effort. I wondered how I might motivate myself to tidy the lot up properly. Then it occurred to me a blog could help me record both the changes to my garden and motivate me at the same time. If I say I’m going to fix it up and show pictures of it evolving, well, I have to do it don’t I?

An Australian Admiral Butterfly fittingly sitting on a Butterfly Bush.

Hopefully along the way I can snap a few pictures of interesting birds and insects visiting the garden which will help me focus even more on seasonal changes.  I love butterflies and have just started to learn about some of the ones that visit our area, so I’m keen to snap and properly identify those. My daughter loves ladybugs and I’d like to record their visits too.  Sadly last year we didn’t seem to have any visit which I’m hoping was just ‘one of those things’ rather than a marker of permanent change. I also hope  to educate myself about the plants I’ve never bothered to learn the names of along the way too.

So that is the basic plan – a garden on the improve! My aim is eventually to have shady and tranquil retreat from the world.

Currently the garden is very overgrown with weeds, but underneath the weeds are some beautiful flowers and plants. The roses are largely finishing their second flush for the year, but are still coming out with the occasional beautiful bloom. They flowered early in the season last year, so I’m hoping most will have a third flush.

Angel Face Rose

Angel Face Rose

My Green credentials aren’t that great as I do prefer introduced plants to locals, but I don’t tend to water anything unless it looks like it is going to keel over and I don’t use much by way of chemicals. The insects largely seem to balance themselves out and the ducks make pretty good biological control for snails and slugs!

Ducks amongst the weeds!

The ducks amongst the weeds!

The garden is still very green for January, as we’ve had a bit of rain lately, but some very hot weather is predicted soon, so we’ll see how it looks then.

Well, it is more than likely that I will go off topic before too long.  Especially if the gardening isn’t going to plan!