The Butterfly Cafe

Western Swallowtail

One of my greatest joys this summer has been reaping the benefits of planting this buddleia last year, for it has emerged as the neighborhood Butterfly Cafe, and I have been there nearly daily to bear witness, to photograph and to share with loved ones, including those I know through social media! What an gratifying adventure, one I highly recommend that you explore!

The actual buddleia is triple the size of what you are seeing above, and is rather rangy at this point of the season. It is flanked by a structural tower of morning glories, by pots and pots of pink and yellow rugosa rosas, and, behind, by purple mallow and an abundance of trumpet vine which wends its way through a nearby tree, and beyond. Way beyond. Such is the nature of trumpet vine, I’m sure so many of you have discovered. So there are several ample blossoms tempting any butterfly or pollinator in the area. That umbrella peeking into view is part of a rather secret vignette bathed in dappled morning light. Four chairs and a round table invite quiet observation or morning meditation. I love this corner of the garden. And so do the bees and butterflies and towhees and scrubjays and an abundance of flickering hummingbirds.

This buddleia is actually one of three, but it is the one that is most mature that receives the most sunlight so for this summer, at least, it is officially the Butterfly Cafe, and I am grateful for it for the sake of all concerned. From the numbers of visitors I am currently getting I’m starting to surmise this might be one of the last Nectar Holes in the neighborhood, as perennials recede and annuals have long ago succumbed to the intense summer heat this year. Triple digits abound. This is even more reason to be grateful for this one buddleia, large enough to feed multiple critters. I have carefully tended it almost every day, being sure to water it in the morning and to keep deadheading so new blossoms, food sources, are generated. My reward has been to be in the company of the most exquisite of beings. All summer long a parade of butterflies have visited, including ample skippers, cabbage whites, swallowtails and even an occasional California sister. California sisters are often harder to spot, even though in abuandance, as they frequently fly quite high, though the males like to puddle. Remembering this I sometimes make little muddy areas below the buddleia as a special treat.

California sister

Most common this year have been the swallowtails and I never tire of being blessed by their presence. Would you?

Tiger Swallowtail

Last week three arrived at the same time and swirled above the buddleia in a delicate and spirited spiral dance, a wonder to behold!

The most special moment this summer however, was a first in this garden, and it’s happened twice. Monarchs! In the many years I’ve been here I have never seen one in this garden! About a month ago one arrived and I was thrilled, thinking this would never happen again. But I was wrong. Last week this beauty arrived and by patiently observing her, careful to give her a wide berth, she eventually allowed me to photograph her up close, definitely the high point of this photography summer season! My first shot I caught on my cell, then ran to get my camera.

Sudden arrival of a Monarch!

“Most North American Monarchs overwinter in the Transvolcanic Range near Mexico City. Ours do not. Monarchs from the Great Basin and West Coast spend the winter along the California coast, from just north of the Bay (not all years) to Santa Barbara.” ~Art Shapiro, UC Davis professor of ecology

She kept hungrily sipping nectar, then departing as I wished her back. She would return and each time she allowed me to get closer.


The best part for me was when she seemed to sense she was safe and I was at liberty to examine her closely. I was so amazed her body was perfect polkadots! I think that’s one of the loveliest discoveries I’ve made in my garden ever! I’m posting her a bit larger so you can see more detail.

Thank you, dear readers, for the visit. I hope your garden is bringing you great joy this summer, too!

Love and butterfly blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

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8 Responses to “The Butterfly Cafe”

  1. Kathryn,
    You take the most amazing photos, these are beautiful!

  2. Hi, Kathlene! Thank you! I feel so privileged to be able to share their beauty. Perhaps folks will be even more inspired to protect them and to learn about them and to plant in their gardens what will sustain them. I hope so! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  3. I love whenever anyone posts about butterflies! I’m so happy for you having a monarch! That one isn’t a “she,” however. The males are the ones that have those thick spots on their lower wings. The females don’t have those.

    We have the tiger swallowtails here, too. I usually see those earlier in the summer. How do you tell the difference between the western swallowtail and the tiger? They look the same to me! Do you have the black swallowtails of any kind?

    Beautiful photos, Kathryn!

  4. Hi, Kylee, Thanks! Me, too! Gail Eichenberger is so good about that! Oh, thanks for the “male lesson”. I did not know that! I have a lot to learn about butterflies, still.

    The butterflies you ask about are Western Tiger Swallowtails. Here’s my last foray into this subject, I think, where I learned about Pale Tiger Swallowtails, thanks to a reader. 🙂

    Kathryn xoxo

  5. Great pics, mom! I’ve never seen polka dots like that on a monarch body; how precious!! Wonderful that you’ve created such a haven for yourself and visitors. 🙂

    Love you,

  6. Good morning, Antonia! Glad you are enjoying the journey and that you are partaking first hand this week! Love you bunches. Mom xoxo

  7. I always save your posts for a quiet moment when I can really enjoy. The time arrived this somewhat rainy quiet afternoon. A treat, as always. Who does not love butterflies! I have quite a few varieties here and my special favorite is the monarch. We are right in the season of their about maricles.

    This Labor Day was the 2nd. anniversary of our Son-In-Law’s death suddenly here in our house. I like to think, like the butterfly, he shed his cacoon.

    Thank you for including me among your friends. Alice

  8. Alice, this is a lovely comment. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m glad you are surrounded by the beauty of the monarchs. Your thoughts about your son in law are very special. Thank you for your visit. Kathryn xoxo

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