How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterfly Garden

Photo by Tony Alter

What Plants Attract Butterflies

Certain plants are better at attracting butterflies than others. Did you know that butterflies are dwindling in numbers? Particularly since 1980 due to deforestation, improper landscaping, and environmental changes are affecting many ecosystems. To keep a healthy garden butterflies of all types are our allies.

Create a Butterfly Friendly and Happier Garden.

Butterfly gardens, for example, are carefully planned plots that contain butterfly-attracting sprouts and plants to diversify and introduce butterflies to a particular area. By attracting butterflies, a plot can also attract other insects that assist in healthy growth and development of crops and blossoms.

The collection of plants for attracting butterflies is extensive and easily available to you if you interested in encouraging butterflies to visit your beautiful garden or plot. Whether you own an entire acre of land or just a mound of soil in your yard, plants for attracting butterflies not only add color to your garden, they encourage a healthier planet, too.

How do I begin the process?

It’s simple. Butterflies love sunny open spaces, little or no wind, and fresh water. Next, look for the best plants that will integrate into your current plot while keeping the area aesthetically pleasing. This depends entirely on your taste and your preferences. In addition, would you prefer to attract butterflies and not bees, or butterflies and bees but not hummingbirds? Each plant can attract multiple types of visitors, so take care in your decision making before you dig in to the process.

Do not be afraid of color! Butterflies are drawn to bright, lively colors in their flowers. This is a sure sign of a healthy spot to stop at. It’s most effective to plant clusters of these plants for attracting butterflies so they can easily find their particular favorite blossom.

In addition, the location of your butterfly garden party must receive plenty of sun and warmth. Butterflies may find a flower attractive, but if it’s not in the sun, you may detract more butterflies than you had hoped to.  Live in a colder climate? Drop in some large stones to absorb day time heat and provide an easy rest stop for tired butterfly wings.

What are my best plant options for attracting butterflies?

If you’re looking to attract all types of butterflies, along with their nectar loving friends, here are the easiest plants to start with:

  • Milkweed: This wildflower choice will attract butterfly larvae, encouraging healthy growth and survival of pupas into butterflies. It is a relatively common and hearty flower that’s often seen growing near streets.
  • Honeysuckle: Most people associate honeysuckle with the scent of Summer. So do butterflies! This gorgeously scented petite flower attracts a wide variety of butterflies very easily, and adopts into new gardens without much trouble.
  • Lilacs: Butterflies have good taste in their flower choices. Plant elegant lilacs in your garden to provide a spacious place for butterflies to browse at. This flower attracts over 6 different types of butterflies.
  • Goldenrod: Attract a narrower range of butterflies with this voluminous flower, but attract the most voluptuous of butterflies as well.

Many brightly colored flowers will attract butterflies because of their rich diversity and appearance in a plot. It is best to research your options for any area, especially if you are hoping to only have plants for attracting butterflies in your garden.

Learn more with this handy Farmer’s Almanac table that goes over all flowers and plants for attracting butterflies.

Call us for our a FREE 42 Point Lawn and Garden Evaluation.

Photo: Tony Alter

Landscaping for Privacy in Santa Barbara (Part 2)

Landscaping for Privacy Using Screens, Lattices, Fences, and Block Walls

If, in your search for landscaping for privacy, you seek something a bit more substantial, there are many excellent options for installing hardscape solutions to achieve backyard privacy.

1. Screens

The least expensive and permanent way to provide privacy for a deck or yard is the screen. This is an easy weekend “DIY” project. Screens are accessible through many different retail stores from hardware stores to places like Pier One and Cost Plus World Market. They vary in size, color, design, type, and material.

Gardens that are designed to evoke the calming state of a Zen garden benefit from the use of a screen for privacy. They can be beautiful and authentic. Our one suggestion is that when choosing a screen for privacy, you pay close attention to the kind of material of which it is made and keep in mind the way the weather will affect it.

For example, a landscape that faces the western sun or that is particularly wet will age your screen faster than a shady dry area. Always make sure that the screen material you purchase is meant for outdoors. In most cases, the manufacturer will note this on the box or in the store.

2. Lattices and Fences

Landscaping for privacy

Boundry Wood Fence with Climbing Roses

Lattices can also be “DIY” projects, if purchased at hardware stores. A lattice is any ornamental framework made of a crisscross shape out of an arrangement of crossing “laths” or slight strips of material. They come in prefabricated sizes and thickness and are usually ready to be painted. Be sure to treat the material with a sealant and primer before painting.

In our landscapes, we prefer to use lattices as part of fencing structures for privacy. We build our own lattices, and we like to combine them for a custom look that will remain beautiful for many more years then the prefabricated versions.

We often use them near hot tubs or in areas where a screen is more preferable than the closed look of a fence. They can be particularly effective in “secret garden” type landscapes. They tease the senses with a peek at the opposite side while still providing shelter from the elements. They are also great options for sweet scented vines like climbing roses, sweet peas, and pink jasmine.

[Read more…]

Landscaping for Privacy in Santa Barbara (Part 1)

Hedges for Privacy

Hedges Create Walls for Privacy

Landscaping for privacy is common when living in an urban space. Although Santa Barbara might not be specifically classified as an urban space by most standards, this city’s geographical orientation with the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other has caused builders to make use of the space as creatively as they possibly can.

Many Santa Barbara living spaces are situated on stilts, terraced, and just plain built with the neighbors on the other side of the wall.

Living in close proximity can create privacy issues that are frequently solved with the strategic planting of hedges and tress. Proper landscaping can mute sound, provide some privacy from outside onlookers, and delineate property lines.

Landscaping for Privacy with Hedges and Trees

When it comes to creating privacy, you should use plant material, rather than fences and walls, as a first option. We like to call hedges living walls, because they provide much of the same buffer as hardscape walls in regards to sound, light, and screening, while also offering a softer living landscape of greenery and flowers. Hedges contribute to the ecology. They create oxygen and they balance the landscape.

Let’s explore our best tips on utilizing plant material for privacy.

Choosing the Best Plants for a Hedge and Privacy

There are three particular types of hedges that we love to use in Santa Barbara landscapes:

1. Privet (genus Ligustrum)

Ligustrum is an evergreen shrub that is native to the continents of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. We prefer to use the Ligustrum texanum, or the Texas Privet as our first choice for “living walls.”

We like it because it is particularly repellent to insects and disease. It is a hearty hedge, and provides thick growth that gives excellent screening against street noise. Once established, it requires little maintenance outside of regular pruning for height.

The only drawback to planting the privet is that its berries are not edible. Though they can be mildly unpleasant to humans, they can be harmful to domesticated animals.

If you have pets that like to eat foliage, or if you live on a ranch with horses, we suggest that you consider planting a different kind of hedge. However, the way we use privet for privacy requires regular maintenance. Regular pruning keeps berries from forming.

[Read more…]

Santa Barbara Landscaping Permit Process

backyard pergola and sitting area

Backyard Pergola with hardscape and softscape

Most Home Landscaping Projects Require a Permit

City ordinances, or codes, can often seem confusing. We are all so busy, and our hectic lives might tempt us to overlook them because many homeowners believe that government building and safety agencies are too busy to follow up on all the landscaping jobs currently in process and therefore can sneak under the radar.

At Down to Earth Landscapes, we urge you resist this temptation because not only is it illegal, but also because it can be dangerous and can negatively impact the future sale of your home.

The codes and ordinances are there for you protection. They protect consumers by creating a standard of safety for all contractors to follow. Many construction jobs are shut down or penalized by overlooking permit process requirement. That means delays and even more money in the long run.  You don’t want this to happen to you!
[Read more…]

6 Tips for Planting Bare Root Fruit Trees

Santa Barbara and Fruit Trees

Planting Season for Fruit Trees in Santa Barbara

Fruit trees and Santa Barbara go together like peanut butter and jelly. Many of our streets are so named for the groves of fruit trees that used to grace the street that now house much of our community.

Olive, lemon, walnut, avocado: these are just a few of the trees that call Santa Barbara home. As with many of the coastal regions of Southern California, Santa Barbara fruit trees can provide some of the sweetest, tastiest fruit available. January is the best time of year to get those bare root trees in the ground.

Planting Tips for Bare Root Fruit Trees

  • Tip 1: Plant bare root trees within 24 hours of acquiring them. If you cannot plant them within a day, place tree into a pile of soil or a bucket of soil mix.
  • Tip 2: Soak the roots overnight in a mixture of water and Vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 can be found at your local hardware store. This will prevent the roots from going into shock.
  • Tip 3: Dig a whole in which to plant the tree. The hole should be approximately double the size of the root ball. It is not necessary to dig a hole deeper than the length of the rootstock. Soften and amend the surrounding soil. Refer to our previous blog on soil amendment if you are unaware of your kind of soil.
  • Tip 4: Place the tree on a slight mound in the middle of the hole, and then spread out the roots; don’t let them encircle the tree. Face the bud union of the fruit tree (where the root stock and fruiting section have been grafted, you’ll see the bump) to the north east, away from the direction of the sun. Use quality, rich soil amendment mixed with a slow release fertilizer for trees to backfill tree
  • Tip 5: Make sure that the tree is approximately 1-2 inches above grade. This keeps the tree from developing root rot and insect damage.
  • Tip 6: Make sure you install an irrigation system with the tree. We recommend a drip system. If you are unable to do so, you should check frequently for moisture. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO DRY OUT. When you do water, you should water deeply.

*Note: Some suggest that you should paint the tree trunk of a young fruit tree in order to keep the tree from becoming sunburned. This method is unnecessary in Santa Barbara, as the climate is moderate and unlikely to scar young trees.
[Read more…]

Planting a Herb & Spice Garden in Santa Barbara

Grow Herbs and Spices All Year Long in Santa Barbara.

Last week our blog was unusually quiet because my wife and I went on a trip to Milwaukee to attend a conference. While we were there, we discovered an amazing store called The Spice House. Check out their website— The Spice House. They ship!

Herb Garden  - Rosemary


Although we relished the cool days and beautiful autumn leaves, the realization that fall would quickly turn to snow there made us realize how lucky we are to be designing and installing landscapes in  Santa Barbara. Reflecting on this special boon of the Santa Barbara climate causes us to decide that a blog on Santa Barbara herb gardens was in order.
[Read more…]

5 Secrets to Growing a Beautiful and Healthy Low Maintenance Garden

santa barbara low maintenance landscapes

Growing Low Maintenance  Gardens in Santa Barbara

We will end our Four Part series on low maintenance gardens with tips on planting.

You might be aware that many factors are necessary for planting a successful low maintenance garden. These basic ingredients are the same no matter where on the planet your garden is located. The planting wisdom we are about to share below is universally accepted. However, there are distinctions specific to Santa Barbara landscaping.
[Read more…]

Using Soil Amendments to Create a Low Maintenance Garden in Santa Barbara

soil prep and healthy plantsThis week begins a series of blogs that will spotlight methods for creating a low maintenance garden. This week’s topic is “How to Use Soil Amendments to Create a Low Maintenance Garden”.

These blogs will provide you with a few tips on how to transform your garden into one that essentially takes care of itself. Who knows, you may be closer to “going low maintenance” than you think!

Soil Amendment and Low Maintenance

In an earlier blog dated March 14, 2012 we discussed the importance of amending soil. Proper soil preparation and amendment  is the starting point for having a healthy landscape. As a matter of fact, the quality of soil also directly impacts the maintenance required in your yard’s landscape because well amended and prepared soil keeps plant material healthy and strong and the result is a low maintenance garden  that will require fewer instances of fungicide, fertilization and dry soil.
[Read more…]

Licensed Landscape Contractors in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Licensed Landscape contractor

Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc. Team

This week I will address “unlicensed” Landscape contractors working in Santa Barbara.

First Things First.  Let me introduce you to our team. We have been serving Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for over 40 years

Down to Earth Landscapes, Inc

Fully Licensed, Bonded & Insured
Members of the Better Business Bureau and California Landscape Contractors Association

A licensed landscape contractor is  not necessarily a measure of competence; however it certainly states a certain degree of professionalism and commitment to the industry. The State of California, through the State Licensed Board promotes quality construction through a licensing and regulatory system designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.
[Read more…]

Rock Walls in Santa Barbara Landscapes

Santa Barbara Irish rock wall construction In honor of St. Patrick ‘s Day and my Irish heritage, I’ve decided to spend the month of March blogging about the contributions Irish immigrants have made to  Santa Barbara landscapes. This week’s topic: Irish rock walls in Santa Barbara.

History of the Irish Rock Wall

The Irish rock wall, also called the dry stone wall, is an ancient landscaping form used across Europe and the Western Mediterranean region. Rock walls of this sort are found in any region where materials are plentiful. The word “dry” refers to the construction of a rock wall without the presence of mortar. This tradition employs a method of building a wall by fitting each piece of stone against the next until the wall resembles a perfectly constructed puzzle. These rock walls are particularly abundant in the West of Ireland, especially Connemara.
[Read more…]

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