Saturday, May 31, 2014

Butterfly Gardening @ the Library

At my library, we have a beautiful patio area with tables and chairs and nice wooden benches to relax on. We also have an open area that's perfect for container gardening. I love doing any sort of programming that gets kids outside and experiencing nature, thus my annual gardening program was born. It began two years ago with a Pizza Gardening program. We planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs and at the end of the summer, we harvested our vegetables and had an English muffin pizza party!

Last year, we had a potato garden where we grew them in large burlap sacks and then had a French fry party in August.

So this year, my idea was to host a butterfly and bird garden. In conjunction with the garden itself, we could also grow butterflies. Today was our planting day and it was a big success. Here's what you need to run a similar program at your library:

1. Plants that attract birds and butterflies. Long before the actual shopping trip, I did some research into what types of flowers attract butterflies and birds. I learned that you need 2 different types of plants: host and nectar plants.

Nectar Plants: These attract both butterflies and hummingbirds. Some examples are butterfly weed, zinnias, marigolds, verbena, and impatiens.

Host Plants: These are plants that butterflies tend to eat and sometimes lay their eggs on. Some examples are milkweed, dill, parsley, and oregano.

Most of the books that I read recommended grouping your flowers by color. They also suggest creating different flower heights for perching on. Thus, we purchased some shepherd's hooks for some hanging baskets of flowers.

For the planters themselves, I put out a call for coworkers to donate their extra plant pots for our garden and ended up getting more than I needed!

2. A hummingbird feeder. You can find expensive or cheap ones at a garden center. Or, if you're feeling crafty, you can make one of your own! Then you just make some nectar using a recipe like this one.

3. Some places for the butterflies to sun. I purchased a plant saucer and filled the bottom with small, flat rocks. Then I filled it up a bit with water. This way, the butterflies can perch there to sun and also get some water if they like. One of the kids during planting day commented that maybe the butterflies could take a bath there and clean their wings if they got dirty! I also brought in some larger flat rocks for butterflies to sun on as well.

4. Butterflies to grow! We are also growing butterflies inside the library with the intention to have a butterfly release party when they are all grown. There are a couple of places to purchase the caterpillars/habitats:

One thing to be aware of is the delivery of the caterpillars. With some kits, they will send you the habitat and a certificate to send it to get the caterpillars when you are ready, which takes extra time. Others will send you the caterpillars along with the habitat. So make sure to plan ahead to fit your time frame.

5. A planting day. For the actual planting day, the program was open to all ages and took about an hour to get through everything. I decided to have several different activities for the families to do. Because I wasn't sure how many families would attend, my plan was flexible enough that we could either all go from activity to activity together. Or I could split them up into groups and rotate them every 15 minutes. Also, note that I did this program with another staff member, which made everything run much easier.

As the families arrived, I had them gather on the benches. I made introductions and explained what we would be doing. I showed off our caterpillars and we went over their life cycle together. Then we got started planting the flowers. Each child got to plant at least one flower in the pots with the assistance of me, my coworker, or a parent.

Next, we gathered at a table to make coffee filter butterflies. All you need are coffee filters, clothespins, markers, and pipe cleaner for antennae.

Then we made bird feeders with pipe cleaners, Multi-Grain Cheerios, and ribbon. Super easy and fun!

Last, I gathered the kids together for the last 15 minutes to have a snack (butterfly shaped crackers, string cheese, and apple juice) and read The Very Hungry Caterpillar (of course).

Here are some websites that you might find helpful:

Here are some books you might find helpful:

What gardening programs have you done at your library?


  1. Kim, what great ideas. I love the themes for each year. You have me inspired!