Design a butterfly-friendly canyon

This sheltered front entrance pleases winged visitors too

Planting for butterflies

Flagstone skirting a simple columnar fountain gives the impression of a path winding through a canyon. Yellow- and blue-flowering plants, such as agastache, butterfly bush, and Spanish broom, provide plenty of color near the entry and along the driveway.

Thomas J. Story

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Basking in the sun out of the wind is a pleasure for many living creatures.

The below-grade entrance to this Santa Fe home is an ideal spot for butterflies, says landscape designer Nate Downey, who helped create it.

Multitiered raised beds and house walls protect the courtyard from breezes. The fountain in the center provides the butterflies with a necessary supply of water. (After spilling down the column, it moistens the rocks below before disappearing underground; siphoning water from a puddle beneath wet rocks is a butterfly's preferred way to drink.)

Then Downey packed the area with nectar-rich plants such as lavender and buddleja, which supply the butterflies with a ready food source.

When Downey was brought into the project, the basic design of the entrance was already in place, but most of the plants had died. So he added a few more feet to the tiered wall and filled the planting area behind it with good-quality topsoil; improved the irrigation system so the plants would survive; and then brought in plants more suited to the site that would also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

The warmth, shelter, and intimacy of the spot are as attractive to humans as they are to wildlife.

As the home's owner says: "I love sitting here in the sun and seeing nothing but plants and sky."

Next: Three great ideas from this garden


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