Butterflies & Ladybugs in the Garden

After we went to the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, I decided I need to up the ante in E’s garden to get him even more butterflies coming by. The butterflies already like the current selection of red valerian and red geraniums, but I wanted to attract more with some more options for flowers. When I started creating E’s garden, I removed all of the plants in the area that were poisonous (planted by previous owners). Some of the plants that butterflies enjoy are also poisonous, so I wanted to make sure that I only added non-poisonous additions to his garden.

I also recently went through and had our garden certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation (more info here). Our little changes to E’s garden helped improve our score. Soon the NWF is going to have an additional advanced certification as a butterfly habitat, which I am hoping to get as well. I can’t wait until our garden signs arrive!
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The first thing that I tracked down was a butterfly bush, also known as buddleia. I found this one at Sunflower Farms in Torrance, CA. I also put down some sunflower seeds.
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Next, I found a dune buckwheat, native to the Palos Verdes Penninsula. I purchased this from the South Coast Botanic Garden.
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I also added in some nice yellow yarrow, which can be found many places.
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Butterflies love oregano, so I added in some organic oregano.
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At the butterfly exhibit, I noticed that the water trays were filled with pebbles. I started doing some reading and discovered that butterflies like to have a little rock to perch on while drinking their water. I set up this little terracotta saucer of water with some rocks, and put it on a plant stand in the back of E’s garden.
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I also read that some butterflies like to drink out of slightly muddy sand, so I made another water dish with sand.
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We added some more flowers that butterflies and caterpillars love, all of which have edible flowers for humans. I love the seeds from Botanical Interests because they will actually tell you on the packet if the flowers are edible (always a great safety precaution if you have young children or pets).
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E is always a good helper when planting seeds.
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He had started running after the cats earlier that week and had to get glue stitches on a nasty cut on his forehead. He tripped and fell and cut his forehead open on the floor…he can’t quite keep up with the cats yet.
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After we finished working on his garden, my garden needed some assistance from some additional ladybugs. My neem oil treatment had gotten rid of most of my aphid infestation, but I wanted to bring in some additional ladybugs as a preventative measure. I purchase my ladybugs from Armstrong Garden Center (I mention this since sometimes they can be difficult to find). Ladybugs are best released at dawn or dusk, and E is never awake at dawn, so we released them at dusk that night.
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He had a lot of fun with the ladybugs crawling all over him. 🙂
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Once they started getting all in his hair, he had enough and got a bit upset. Other than that, he had a lot of fun releasing the ladybugs into the garden. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog

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Garden Reveal!

Our backyard remodel has been a major undertaking. Way bigger than we would have anticipated. It has taken so much longer than we had planned, and there are still a lot of last details left to finish. When I made over our front yard two years ago, everything went a lot faster since I didn’t have a child to take care of, and I didn’t have my mobility and pain problems. Those two new factors have made this project infinitely slower. I know a lot of people have been curious to see a reveal, so I wanted to post pictures of the progress so far. 🙂

I hated the ugly retaining walls that go throughout our backyard, and I have been trying to convince my husband to let me paint them some bright colors ever since we moved in. Finally, I looked for some examples on Pinterest that were close enough to what I had in mind that helped me convince him that I should paint. E’s garden is so much more fun now that it is colorful. 🙂 I have a really exciting project in mind for the planter above his garden…I can’t wait to get that installed too!

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I haven’t finished painting this area, but that will come soon enough. The table was an antique store find and actually came with four different chairs, but I wanted the set because I thought the chairs would be perfect around our firepit. The table was cute too, and got paired with four chairs that were a great thrift store find at $2 each!

The pink flowers in the top planter are one of the few that I did not plant (along with the roses that they are mixed in with). They were there from a previous owner, and are amazing. They are super low-maintenance, need almost no water, and reseed themselves each year. They are called a bunch of different names, but you can find them at Home Depot under the name Red Valerian. In the bottom row, I have our dwarf almond tree and kumquat tree, which I planted when we moved in. In between those, I planted more low water plants, lots of geraniums and Santa Barbara daisies.

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This is the pergola that my husband built at our old house! We actually had our small wedding reception under this pergola in our old backyard, so it is extra special. (We had two wedding days…the ceremony day that was moved up when we found out my grandma was dying and our originally planned date). The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced after the move, so my dad made these new ones for us! They still need to be painted but look great.

The pergola used to be our patio dining area at our old house, but now it is a play zone. 🙂 Underneath the pergola is the artificial grass my husband installed (more info on that in a later post), and a nice play area for the little guy and his friends. Things are a little more put away than usual today since we are expecting rain, but this is where his bounce house/ball pit normally sits, and his trains are put away from the train table. We actually found the train table for free on Craigslist, but it needed some legs, which was an easy fix for my husband! It is one of E’s favorite things. 🙂 I will post pictures of his bounce house/ball pit when I blog about his birthday party, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.
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This is the part of the garden where all the work really took place…I am going to post some wide angle overview pictures here and then go into more detail about all of the various projects and areas within the next few days!

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Our to-do list for this project still includes installing new raised beds for veggies, completing the irrigation system (I am hand watering for now…not too bad since most of the plants have low water requirements), installing the shade fabric system that will be drawn or retracted over the entire garden, lighting, sound system, waterfall, and adding more decomposed granite as walkway.

We originally were going to put in pavers, stepping stones, bricks or gravel, but then I realized that the decomposed granite that we put down as an underlayer is much easier for me to walk on! I like how it looks and it is super cheap (you can often even find it for free!), and we just need a bit more to thicken it up.

Lots more details coming in the next few days!

E’s First Easter Egg Hunt!

I have been so busy with finishing up all of the planting in the garden that I haven’t been in front of my computer for quite some time now. I am finally finished planting everything, so I am trying to get caught up with everything else now!

Last year was technically E’s first Easter. We came home from the hospital the evening before Easter, but we were all pretty exhausted and it wasn’t a very festive holiday. This year was definitely more fun. 🙂 E had his first Easter egg hunt in his little garden. He had a lot of fun looking for his eggs (filled with dried fruit, nuts, a few candies, and a few small toys).

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One last one (cell phone picture for this one unfortunately)…my two dapper dudes as we were leaving for church Easter morning. 🙂 I love getting them dressed up in coordinating outfits!
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Botanic Garden

In my effort to spend more fun, quality time with my son, I decided to take E to one of his favorite places last week, even though I had tons of work to catch up on. We have a family membership to South Coast Botanic Garden, and it is a place E and I both really enjoy going. We go whenever I have free time, but I decided I need to start making the time to take him more regularly, even if photos that need editing are piling up. 🙂 This was the first time I actually let him out of his stroller in the children’s garden, so he was pretty excited. 🙂

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E’s Birthday Surprise – His Own Children’s Garden!

I have been searching for months for what I thought would be the perfect birthday present for E – a vintage train. The kind that people usually set up at Christmas time, to go around the base of the Christmas tree. He is wild about trains. He loves his Thomas the Train books, his wooden train whistle, and he goes nuts over my old battery powered train that my grandpa used to set up every year at Christmas. Since that one is pretty sentimental to me, I wanted to get E one of his own. I couldn’t find one anywhere, since apparently most antique stores only have them stocked around the holiday season.

I was getting discouraged and feeling like the little small presents I had gotten for him weren’t special enough for his first birthday. E has been helping me a lot in the garden (actually putting dirt in flower pots, picking out flower seed packets, etc.). When a friend suggested that I make him his own little children’s garden, I knew that would be the perfect birthday morning surprise. 🙂

The night before E’s birthday, we went to the dollar store and let him pick out any of the garden decorations he liked. I also grabbed some other things that I thought would be fun and educational, like giant plastic fake crayons, small hula hoops in a rainbow of colors, etc. After he went to sleep for the night, I went out into the back yard and started prepping a section of garden bed next to our patio. I pulled out all of the weeds (it has been a somewhat neglected area for a while), and set everything up. Most of the plants that I had in there were edible already, which is good since he is still putting everything in his mouth, especially plants.

When I was planning his garden, I saw a lot of horrible children’s garden advice all over the internet. It disturbs me how people recommend poisonous plants for children’s gardens. Tomatoes are great, but the leaves of the tomato plant are poisonous if ingested. Sweet peas are pretty and smell nice but also poisonous. I could go on and on, but instead I am going to make a list of the plants that I will be using in his garden. Some still had to be removed after his birthday morning, and we will be planting more. I am also using plants that mostly require very little water and are drought friendly. E’s garden will include:

1. Marigolds
2. Lavender
3. Rosemary
4. Nasturtiums
5. Pansy
6. Red Valerian
7. Pelargonium(which are commonly called geraniums in stores)
8. Mint
9. Lemon Balm
10. Sage
11. Aloe Vera
12. Sedum
13. Various varieties of lettuce
14. Spinach

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It is still a work in progress, but he loves it. 🙂 I will post an update once it is completed!