Field Trip! Hallberg Butterfly Gardens

California Sister Butterfly

Wouldn’t you know it, dear readers? As soon as butterflies were clearly on my radar and I’d made an appointment to visit the Hallberg Butterfly Gardens in Sonoma County, this beauteous creature greeted me at my front door. I was, as you might imagine, ecstatic! I was even more ecstatic during the next fifteen minutes or so when it played about my head, clearly checking me out, then obligingly landed on a mat on the front porch allowing me full access to photographing him. (Yes, he’s a boy.) I was beside myself with joy. He also gave me a side view when he landed in the oleander. Thank you, dear soul butterfly! You have only an inkling of how grateful I am for your propitious, synchronistic visit. (I was clearly on the right road.)

Mind you, this is the first I have ever seen on this property. Thus it was with great joy and optimism I set out yesterday morning for Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, where awaiting me was the very special 92-year-old Louise Hallberg, and don’t you know I was thrilled to have her greet me at her garden gate! California Sister, indeed!

Louise Hallberg
Isn’t she wonderful? Yes, she is! After a warm greeting we set off down one of many paths to a meadow below. Silly me, wearing clogs, and barely able to keep up with Louise! Here is the meadow where we shortly arrived.

These butterfly gardens were carefully designed through the years through Louise’s knowledge and guidance, and through hired workers, volunteers and grants. As gardeners we would be more apt to call them butterfly meadows, and I think that is an important distinction, and I will be telling you why over the next few posts, as I am currently mining a line of thought I think most important to share. The subject of butterflies is far too complex in this day and age to be relegated to a single post, so today I’m going to focus simply on the butterflies I was able to see yesterday on a hot August afternoon. Down in the first meadow while I was able to learn much about host and nectaring plants I saw only honeybees and bumblebees on hand. After taking many photos Louise led me back up to a guest barn, the doors flung open.

“Do you see a horseshoe up there?” she said, pointing just inside one of the doors.

“Yes,” I responded.

“And do you see a chrysalis?”

Confused, I took a closer look, and sure enough, a chrysalis was attached into the bend of the horseshoe!

Louise explained that the chrysalis I was viewing was a pipevine swallowtail butterfly and that it would remain as a chrysalis for nine months. I was shocked. I had no idea there was such a disparity among butterflies and that while some could emerge in weeks, some, such as the anise swallowtail, might stay in a chrysalis for years. What a metaphor!

After purchasing a very good guide to local butterflies we continued toward the main house, where I was delighted to spot this buckeye, well camouflaged.

Louise then invited me into a side room at the back of the house where she has lived her entire 92 years (!!), to share a very special event. Apparently a man who knew Louise had brought her caterpillars of the California dogface butterfly, California’s state butterfly. This was very special, as, in spite of their status, they are rarely ever seen. Louise said she had only seen one sighting, ever, in East Sonoma County! Louise provided them with amorpha Californica, false indigo bush, which fortunately she has growing, as it is their only viable larval plant food, on which they feasted, and then they ensconced themselves in chrysalides, and, lucky me, I had arrived as they were emerging, two months after their arrival! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!

I felt very honored when Louise generously offered to release one while I was there, so I could witness this process. Her helper, Catarino, carefully removed the cage out into the front yard. We opened the front door to the cage, and whoosh, out flew a male California dogface, landing on a nearby Queen Anne’s lace. Here he is!

After these adventures I was ready to make my departure, not wanting to tire Louise. But, no. She only thought a drink of water would be appropriate, and then she wanted to take me on another path. Okey dokey, Louise! I’m coming! Off she went.

And good thing, too. Soon there were two kinds of swallowtails dancing about our heads. One flew off on his own adventure, but one got curious and made himself available to us, first from underneath…

Western tiger swallowtail

And, then, upon circling a few more times, decided I was worthy of being trusted, and landed close enough for me to catch him from the top.

Wasn’t this a magnificent way to wind up a perfect afternoon?

Next post I want to show you some of the many native plants I learned about under Louise’s generous and abundant tutelage. I will be happy to share.

Thank you for the visit, dear ones.

Love and butterfly blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

24 Responses to “Field Trip! Hallberg Butterfly Gardens”

  1. What a delightful post Kathryn! I remember taking my girl scout troop on a field trip to Louise’s butterfly farm many years ago and I’m happy to see she’s still going strong.

    You clearly have good butterfly karma or something to have been blessed with such special sightings. Thank you for sharing this wonderful adventure, your enthusiasm is contagious!


  2. How Lovely, mom! I particularly like the Dogface butterfly! Beautiful colours!
    Wonderful field trip, and photos! Thanks for sharing!

    Love you,

  3. Hi, Kathlene! I love that you’ve been to Louise’s butterfly gardens! And how wonderful to expose a whole troup of Girl Scouts. People apparently come from all over the world to see this special place! Thanks for the visit! Kathryn xoxo

  4. Hi, Antonia! Yes, the CA dogface is very lovely, especially the male. i feel really privileged to have seen them as they emerged! You can see through the shell of the chrysalis, so you can tell if it’s a male or female that will be emerging! Amazing! Love, Mom xoxo

  5. Good Morning Kathryn.
    What a fantastic day, so many beautiful things especially Mrs Hallberg, absolutely adorable. Thank you for sharing your field trip with us.

    xoxo Tyra

  6. Loved your visitor, neat that he showed up at the door as you were going off to see other butterflies.

    Loved Louise in her butterfly print dress. I hope when I’m 92 there will be somebody to help me maintain my butterfly gardens!

    I’m adding your blog to my list, if that’s okay.

  7. Good morning, Nell Jean. Yes, isn’t Louise an inspiration? And she does seem to be surrounded by lots of help. She is a butterfly herself, and of course would attract many to her side. A life to devoted to butterflies seems like a good life to me. I would be honored to be on your blog list. Thank you so much! Kathryn xox

  8. Hello, dear Tyra! Louise was, indeed, adorable! I feel so lucky to have met her. Her mind is amazingly clear and agile. No hesitation whatsoever. Just an encyclopedic catalogue of information, all invaluable.
    I was totally in awe. Thanks for coming by to see! Kathryn xoxo

  9. While we do small butterfly gardens here in Ohio and we do a butterfly release each spring at the Franklin Park Conservatory, I know of nothing in Ohio to compare to the amazing place that you shared with us. I think the most interesting concept was that the garden was planted for the butterflies to resemble natural meadows as opposed to the more formal gardens we see that happen to have plants that butterflies like. It changes the emphasis and gives us a whole new perspective as to who is more important.
    Teaching Introductory Evolutionary Biology this fall. The butterfly is part of the insect arthropod group and have 6 legs. Arthropods show up early, the trilobites of the Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian oceans are arthropods. We have winged insects, certainly dragonflies by the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods when coal measures were formed. Butterfles probably show up about the time of flowers which was not too much later in the geologic time they are much, much older than we are, delicate as they look! Gives us a whole now way to look at them, ancient survivors over long, long periods of time.

  10. Hi, Cousin Julie! I so appreciate your educated perspective and am now enchanted with that thought that the butterflies came in about the time of flowers. Makes sense! Ancient survivors, indeed. The more I learn the more I want to learn! Thanks for your input, dear. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  11. Wow!!! How special was THAT??? Just meeting Louise alone would have seemed a perfect experience, but to see all those wonderful variety of butterflies – big wow. Thanks for sharing such a special, special day. Aloha, p

  12. Hi, Pamela! VERY! The more I contemplate how unlikely it would be that I would EVER see a CA dogface butterfly, the more extraordinary this visit appears to be. And, yes, meeting Louise is very very special. Kissing the feet of angels who led me in that direction. 🙂 Glad I got to share with you! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  13. Dear Kathryn,
    I just loved this post. I read it this morning, with my coffee cup at my side and the view outside the window of Twin Peaks cloaked in fog (which I knew was not really hidden; still there luxuriating in the mist). I could not comment then, as I had to think about the image of Louise Hallberg.
    I saw so much there in this portrait, and I thought about life joined in a grand circle.
    I thought about the butterfly who came to greet you when you called for this journey of discovery;
    I thought of the fun of it all as you and Louise trekked through these enchanted meadows.
    I thought about the butterfly itself, in a chrysalis until it is ready to emerge as a marvelous form that always existed as a promise within.
    I personally looked at these things as life lessons, and I was enriched by them.
    Thank you.

  14. Hi, dear Philip! Yes, metaphorically and pragmatically this is a very rich path. I can barely wait to see what opens up next. I have some inkling. I guess we can say I’m very inspired and excited about who I’m meeting and what I’m learning and delighted to be sharing with all of you, and then be able to discuss and keep the learning going. It’s wonderful! And I suspect in the end will make some difference. Thanks for being there. Your contributions are always so valued. Kathryn xoxo

  15. Kathryn, that was a lovely visit, and to get to meet Louise, priceless. Thank you so much for taking us along on your journey. I look forward to more on the butterflies. How do you know they are male?~~dee

  16. Hi, Dee! Yes, I’m still buzzing with delight over having met Louise, who rang me this morning! She wanted me to know they had released three more CA dogface butterflies yesterday. I am praying a new colony is established on her eight acre property! Apparently they overwinter, so it’s possible. (Fingers crossed!)
    You can bet I will go out next spring and investigate! The males are colorful on upper wings. The females are plain yellow. Those males are extraordinary! They fly about 15-20 feet high, so this is one more reason why EVER seeing one would be unlikely. And they are fast. Oh. So. Lucky! Kathryn xoxo

  17. Kathryn, What a delightful trip through the meadow with Louise! Butterflies often are considered a sign of luck or rebirth. It seems as if your visit to Hallberg Butterfly Gardens was quite lucky, and it opened a whole new line of thinking for you. We’ll be looking forward to the next installment. Debbie

  18. Good morning, Debbie! I so appreciate your reminding me of the metaphorical history of the butterfly and I had not fully thought to apply that to my own process, so excited have I been simply in the pragmatic learning! Thank you. I will do a bit more research in that direction today. It feels spot on! Kathryn, an emerging butterfly, I do believe! 🙂 xoxo

  19. You have some beautiful butterflies in your area Kathryn – and Louise must have worked so hard over the years to creat such a fantastic butterfly meadow ……I loved it.
    Thank you SO much for sharing your trip (and journey!) with us 🙂

  20. Hi, Liz! Thank you so much for sharing this journey! Yes, I can only begin to imagine how much work has gone into this property. It seemed there were stories at every turn. I hope to uncover a few more and share! Thanks for visiting. Kathryn xoxo

  21. Terrific…the butterflies, the garden and meadow, Louise….and, oh yes, Kathryn!

  22. Awww. Thanks, my friend! I appreciate your joining us on the journey! Kathryn xoxo

  23. Kathryn, I am just finishing up a film I have been working on for Louise about her life, the gardens and the decline in the butterfly populations. You took a wonderful photo of Louise standing by the front gate by her house. I wonder if you would consider allowing me to include it in the film. It will be called Louise Hallberg and her Butterfly Garden. Please let me know. Thanks very much, Lisa

  24. Hi, Lisa, I would be honored. Of course you may! Let me know when the film is ready and I will help get the word out. Kathryn xoxo

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