Squamish Butterfly Garden

Most bugs are harmless, and all good bugsters know that they are the backbone of the ecology of B .C., responsible for everything from pollination to decomposition, soil formation, regulation of other bugs and “weeds”, food for birds and  mammals, and so on. Without apology, I think all bugs are worthy of admiration and respect and at least a passing glance. If you don’t understand bugs, you really don’t understand the world in which you live.“(Bugs of British Columbia by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon (Lone Pine Field Guide, 2001)

In a small corner of the Mamquam Community Garden (at Highway 99, just before Mamquam Road), the Squamish Environment Society (SES) established a butterfly garden in the summer of 2011. This garden is a part of the Squamish Rotary Community Garden.

Butterflies love weeds and don’t like monocultures such as lawns, or the neat and tidy gardens seen on most garden tours. For those who love gardens, being a relaxed gardener is a virtue.  Maintaining the garden is relatively easy.  It’s much harder to convince neighbours that weeds and untidiness deserve a place in every garden.

Squamish still has a wealth of native trees, shrubs and scrubby lots. Most people are familiar with the needs of adult butterflies and are happy to plant nectar plants such as flowering currant, coneflower and clematis, to name just a few. Most are less familiar with the role of stinging nettle, thistles,  cottonwoods, and willows as larvae hosts and over-wintering sites. Our butterfly garden borrows heavily from the many larvae plants in the surrounding landscape. Valuing and preserving such natural vegetation is critical to maintaining both bird and butterfly populations.

Many gardeners love the butterfly bush, Budlia davidi. It does a fine job of attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, but it is also very invasive because it spreads by seed. The butterfly bushes in this garden were replaced by tall cotoneaster and lilacs for height and August-blooming plants for nectar. Providing information about invasive plants and what to use instead was another opportunity for this public garden.

There is lots of excellent information for creating a butterfly-friendly garden, on-line, in pamphlets and books, and of course by visiting other nature reserves. Our challenge as naturalists is always to pique people’s curiosity so they want to explore, take delight in, and protect the natural world around us.

A huge thank you to the wonderful caring and sharing people who made this project possible. Several are included in the photograph above: John Buchanan, Hilary Dymond, Mary Livingston, Angela Fish, and Meg Fellowes.

Thanks also to:

  • WBT Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia for the graphics in their pamphlet “Garden Butterflies of the Georgia Basin”. These graphics were used in the signs.
  • John Buchanan, who fabricated and donated the podiums for the signs.
  • BrainstormBuz for donating print costs.

Photo by Dawn Green