NO MATTER HOW SMALL (or large) YOUR GARDEN IS, you can still attract small flying creatures such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. These creatures are known as 'pollinators' because they carry pollen from flower to flower, helping the plants to reproduce. In exchange for this service, the flowers provide pollinators with a sugary food known as 'nectar.' As a result, it's easy to have a beautiful garden that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators: All you have to do is to plant a lot of the right kinds of flowers.
The first step in creating a nectar garden, however, is to find a good spot for it. A window box will do. But if you have the room you'll probably enjoy placing your nectar garden near a window situated in a family room or eating area, where people will be able to enjoy the view. Placing it near the house also means that the garden will be easier to water and maintain.
Although a nectar garden can be designed for any type of soil, you’ll have a much wider range of plant options if you choose a site with good garden loam or are willing to amend the soil at the site you do choose. Hummingbirds and bumblebees can be attracted to a nectar garden in part shade, but if you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you must have a sunny spot, preferably sheltered from the wind. Well-drained soil is helpful for a butterfly garden, too. Many good butterfly plants are sun-lovers that resent being made to spend the winter with cold, wet feet.
If you have a suitable site, now ask yourself how much time you can spend maintaining your garden. Cut that in half, and then cut that in half, and you may have an accurate estimate of how much time you actually will spend! Wildlife-friendly gardens should be untidy, but they do require weeding, watering, and at least enough discipline to keep plant thugs in check. If you’re a weekend gardener, however avid, consider starting with a perennial bed no more than 4 feet deep and 8 feet long. You can always make it bigger next year.
Tomorrow: Plants to attract butterflies