Butterfly Watching: Up Close and Personal

Butterfly Watching: Up Close and Personal

monarch butterfly on pine treeHave you ever dreamed of being surrounded by hundreds of exquisite butterflies? Or of perhaps getting really "up close and personal" with a delicate Dainty Sulphur, or a bright purple and lavender Anise Swallowtail? So close you could look them in the eye? Or maybe you'd like to feel an exquisite Coral Hairstreak or a magical Tropical Greenstreak gently brush your face with delicate gossamer wings?

Well . . . I have certainly dreamed of that!

You see, it's winter now where I live, and the gentle dusting of our very first snow has just fallen. My recent blooming flowers, now all neatly pruned and manicured after a summer of delightfully pleasing me, are ready for a long winter's nap. My roses, peonies, astilbe, delphinium, hollyhocks, daphne, phlox, azaleas, rhododendrons, wisteria, pansies, Sweet Williams, and still blooming burgundy chrysanthemums now seem content to have this white furry blanket covering their heads. Soon, very soon, they will all be buried even deeper, as Old Man Winter's snow can often reach depths of two to four feet here in Eastern Washington.

Blue Butterfly on SunflowersWith the onset of winter, there isn't much happening in my garden these days. The hummers and "flying flowers" have found their way to their usual winter migration haunts. My gardening tools are safely stowed until spring; while the snow shovel now sits at attention, ready to clear a path to the bird feeders on the backyard fence. My stack of seed catalogs is growing daily beside my favorite chair, awaiting my further perusal. I've already marked some of my favorites, but am waiting to make any final choices until after the Holiday Season.

And now, I have been stricken with "winter wanderlust!" So, to satisfy this nagging urge, I've decided to go on a tour!

So, why don't you join me? It's free! Together, we will tour some almost fairytale places. Places where your dreams--and mine--of getting up close and personal with hundreds of butterflies just might come true!

I would love to be your virtual tour guide. So whenever you're ready, just follow me and the tour will begin. Be sure to bring your camera, lots of extra film, your binoculars, and a small notebook for taking notes. There will be lots of invaluable information along the way for those of you who want to start or expand your existing butterfly garden.

BuckeyeOne of the best places I know of to start our fabulous tour is in sunny Florida. It won't take us long to get there. In fact, we're almost there already! What a great way to travel, and we didn't even have to fight the traffic or wait at the airport! Amazing, isn't it?

Now that we've arrived in Florida, let's begin our virtual tour by visiting exotic Butterfly World.

For those of you who don't happen to be going with us on this virtual tour, you can find Butterfly World located at 3600 W. Sample Road, in Coconut Creek, Florida. The butterfly house is located just inside beautiful Tradewinds Park, about ten miles north of Ft. Lauderdale.

Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife

This National Wildlife Federation book provides over a dozen step-by-step projects for families to do together, making getting back to nature easy, educational, and fun.

Let's get on with our virtual tour. I can't wait to show you this place!

Once inside, we will begin by taking a leisurely Walk Through the Gardens. These lush tropical gardens are widely acclaimed, and contain an abundance of nectar-rich tropical flowers in full bloom that butterflies simply adore.

First, we will enter the "Secret Garden" beneath a breathtaking canopy, with its world-renown array of Passion Vines in full bloom. Here, you will also see exotic Dutchman's Pipe blossoms near a wishing fountain. Go ahead and toss in a penny for good luck! You will be enthralled as you gaze at the beautiful lavender blossoms hanging from the magnificent Sky Vines. And, lest we forget why we came, just look at all those "flying flowers" feeding on the hundreds of blooms above that canopy! Truly, this is a magical Secret Garden.

Gulf Fritillary ButterflyNext, we will make our way into the "Tropical Rain Forest." Here, thousands of some of the world's most exotic live butterflies are flitting from one fragrant blossom to another. Butterfly World has created a wonderful natural habitat for these magical jewels. There is also an outstanding hummingbird aviary nearby, aptly called "Jewels of the Sky." This too is a magical place, filled with still more exotic blooming gardens.

Did you see that beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly that just went fluttering by? And look over there! Isn't that a Lantana bush covered with butterflies, or am I just dreaming again? Getting closer, I am thrilled to discover I'm actually looking a butterfly right in the eye! Now, moving back a step or two, I've set my zoom lens camera on closeup to capture a perfectly camouflaged Owl butterfly imbibing nectar. That should make a splendid picture for my butterfly album.

While we're here, let's stop in at this little shop to see if they have any seeds for sale. Since I'm going to expand my flower garden next spring--and my butterfly population--this looks like the perfect place to find some great nectar source flower seeds. Yes! They have Heliotrope, Buddleia, Verbena, and a host of other seeds.

Speaking of hosts--I must also get some Milkweed seeds. You see, that's the only plant Monarch caterpillars will eat. They're really fussy that way. However, if you plant just a few milkweed, those gorgeous Monarchs will be sure to make their home in your garden year after year. You can always camouflage milkweed by tucking one or two plants behind a couple of lovely buddleias. The caterpillars won't mind, and the butterflies will always know where they are!

Why not pick up a copy or two of Butterfly World's "Regional Gardening Guidebook" while you're here, too? With Christmas just around the corner, this would make a lovely gift for either a butterfly or a hummingbird gardener friend.

Moving right along, our next exciting tour stop is at Milwaukee Public Museum where you will want to be prepared to be a Butterfly Watcher. At this indoor conservatory, we will step into another magical place where we will be able to observe first-hand many exquisite Butterflies Alive! Here, you can feast your eyes on a special display showing butterflies still in their chrysalis stage. This is a very exciting process to observe, as you will actually see a butterfly getting ready for its very first flight, then spread its gossamer wings and fly, fly, fly!

This conservatory also includes a great interactive lab and butterfly displays for visitors to enjoy. If you're needing a nice hot drink about now, here is a nice little cafe where we can sit and relax and just watch the butterflies. Before we leave, let's be sure to check out all the different species that are native to the state of Wisconsin.

I do hope you all enjoyed our exciting virtual butterfly tour! There are many others we could visit, but time just does not allow for more just now. Before we go our separate ways, I want to thank you all for joining me. I learned so much more about those magical free-spirited "flying flowers" on these two grand tours, didn't you?

Lastly, and at your leisure, I'd like to invite you visit the Butterfly Web Site, where you will be greeted by more butterflies! You will love stopping in at The Nature Store where you can shop 'til you drop for those last-minute Christmas gifts. You'll find this a delightful store, and literally jam-packed with unique gifts for your favorite gardening or nature-loving friends.

This article was originally published at Suite 101.

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