The Butterfly Garden

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burren moth on a raspberry-leaf illustrating an article about creating the butterfly gardenI have always loved butterflies but the butterfly garden in Colette O’Neil’s wonderful Bealtaine cottage in county Roscommon was the real inspiration for my desire to create the butterfly garden here in Galway.

Walking through Colette’s garden we came to a quiet area where there must have been hundreds of butterflies.

The butterflies were perched in perfect stillness on top of the flowers and shrubs.

Their wings were folded and they just sat there as though resting. They exuded silence with their presence.

The beauty and sense of peace is hard to describe here except to say the butterfly garden in Bealtaine  is one of the few places I have visited where I just wanted to stay and watch until dark.

I have never seen anything like this before. Of course I have seen many butterflies in my life, but only in ones and twos.

I had no idea that hundreds of butterflies would congregate altogether like this in one place.


It was like something from a dream – one you wouldn’t want to wake up from.

Returning home I was inspired and wanted to create such a place in my own garden.

Since then, I have made two attempts at creating my own butterfly garden.

Of course butterflies can be seen on all sorts of plants but some have more attraction to our fluttery friends than others.

I chose the location for the butterfly garden to be as far away from the house as possible.

I wanted it to be a quiet place for the hundreds of butterflies I hoped would be arriving.

My first attempt was three years ago and I made a start by planting a half a dozen Butterfly Bushes (Buddleja davidii,)

I had carefully grown these from cuttings in my little tree and shrub nursery.

However, every single one died. I thought that maybe in my enthusiasm I had planted too early in spring.

Perhaps a late frost or one of our severe Galway storms killed them.

I tried again last year and again every single one died.

I have come to realise that I have simply been planting in the wrong part of the garden.

The area where we planted the butterfly garden is a barren rocky place, perfectly peaceful but very little soil.

I had created some rocky circles and added my own compost but the land was just not right and there probably wasn’t enough space for the plants to truly spread their roots.

There are lots of natural ways to improve the land and soil but sometimes you just have to work with what you have.

You see, I live close to the Burren and share it’s rocky, limey landscape.

Much of my garden is just rocks, with very little soil.

Most of the garden we have created so far has been by creating compost in-situ by layering compostable materials such as veggie peelings, newspapers, cardboard and seaweed.

Once these materials broke down we were rewarded with plantable areas and these form the basis of most of our garden.


This year I decided to try again and to grow the butterfly garden in an area closer to the house.

It is not going to be quite as isolated as my earlier choice, but I am surrounding it with raspberry bushes.

I have hundreds of raspberry bushes around the garden as they are great for reproducing themselves.

In fact raspberry bushes love our garden and if left alone they can take over.

I am learning from experience and go with what grows naturally here.

This time I am using the chicken tractor and chickens to ‘dig’ areas for planting.

I will be expanding this garden patch by patch as we move the chicken tractor around.

The chickens who live in the chicken tractor can dig the area under the tractor quite thoroughly in about a week even though they are also out free ranging regularly.

The chicken-dug area is not only prepared for planting, cleared from weeds and grass, but comes complete with chicken manure already dug in – by the chickens themselves.

butterfly bushes in the butterfly garden

As you can see in the photograph above, I have once again started planting with The Butterfly Bush.

I have a ready supply of these growing at any one time as they are easy to grow from cuttings.

I like to grow as much from seeds as I can. It is not just extremely rewarding but also helps stretch the budget.

The Honesty (Lunaria annua) you see at the front of the photograph is also much loved by butterflies and bees.

I have lots of Honesty because it is great for seeding itself around the garden and I love the splashes of colour.

I also have lots of scabiosa growing around so I will be encouraging this to make their home in the butterfly garden as well.

We will be gradually adding more plants to the butterfly garden as time goes on and will keep you posted.

For now, the butterfly garden seems to be thriving, so wish me luck.

Have fun gardening,



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