Backyard Blogger Articles for Specialty Gardens

Specialty gardens can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Depending on your taste, circle of friends, and family traditions, the sky is the limit as to what your landscape or yard can yield in the way of creative garden gifts. Whether it is a green garden gift or a cocktail party garden recipe,...

Backyard Blogger

Looking for expert advice from someone like you but with years of experience doing what they love? Well look no further. has enlisted the expertise of a Texas lawn and garden blogger to pass along some tips and tricks that won't only solve some everyday headaches, but inspire you as well. Seasonal yard and...

Specialty Gardens

The beauty of a well-balanced garden can sometimes be enhanced by a special theme or focus. Hobbyists such as bird watchers can use a specialty garden to expand enjoyment of their hobby into the back yard. Children’s gardens are teaching and family bonding spaces. Here are a few ideas for gardens with a theme:

Wildlife / Bird Sanctuary

  • Birds need food, cover, water, and nesting areas
  • Birds will be attracted to plants native to the area, although they will enjoy other plants as well
  • The greatest variety of birds can be attracted with multi-level plantings, using grasses, large and small trees, and medium-sized shrubs
  • Avoid trimming lower branches on bushes and plant tall grasses to provide hiding places
  • Include tall, mature trees
  • Provide water - excavated pond or small birdbath
  • Involve neighbors - the bigger the wildlife space the better
  • Be careful about using fertilizers or pesticides that may be harmful to wildlife. Read the label before applying and consult with your TNLA member nursery professional about the best products to use.


Back to top of page

Butterfly Gardens

What Butterflies Need

  • A variety of plants for food and shelter
  • Some moisture
  • Absence of pesticides

Choosing the Space

  • You may have lots of space, or you may have little, even a spaced as small as 3 feet by 6 feet will hold enough flowers to attract butterflies. You can even use a window box or 304 containers on a deck.
  • Butterflies enjoy flat stones for basking or sunbathing. Edge the garden with rounded rocks, put a small pile towards one side, or make a path through the flowers with flat stepping stones.
  • Choose a sunny spot. Butterflies need the heat of the sun to raise their body temperatures, which helps them to fly.
  • Provide water, a concave rock, a pot saucer filled with wet sand, or a birdbath
  • Consult your local nursery professional for specialty items that attract butterflies

Choosing the Plants

Variety is the key. Choose lots of kinds of plants, herbs, annuals, and perennials as vines, groundcovers and in beds, plus shrubs and trees. Wildflower meadows featuring native plants are ideal. Try to plan the garden with plants that bloom at different times to keep something in bloom all season. It is not necessary to integrate the larval food with the adult butterfly food.

  • Be sure to provide moisture.
  • Adults enjoy plants in full sun or in sites sheltered from wind.
  • Plant flowers that grow at a variety of heights. Butterflies can be territorial.
  • Most butterflies don’t migrate and their eggs will be laid around your yard over the winter in weedy sites or woodpiles that provide them safe shelter.
  • Consult your local nursery professional for recommended plants for your area.

Butterfly Larval Host Plants

Bermuda grass

St. Augustine grass

  • Butterfly Flower Favorites (adult)
    Larval host plants are often unattractive, weedy, and wild and voracious feeding immediately after hatching will virtually skeleton host plant foliage. Monarch moms choose milkweed for their eggs. Favorites of others include aster, Joe-Pye weed, Black-eyed Susan, Lantana, Butterfly bush, Liatris, Butterfly weed, Pentas, coreopsis, and purple coneflower. Swallowtail caterpillars devour Queen Anne’s Lace, carrots, and parsley, giving them their name parsleyworm.
  • Adult Butterfly Hosts
    Flower nectar needed for energy is provided by any flowering plant but butterflies are particularly attracted to hot-colored, fragrant flowers. They get nutrition from moisture from moisture, even human perspiration if you stand very still.

How do you tell a good caterpillar from a harmful one?
Butterfly larvae tend to be solitary or sparsely distributed whereas pest caterpillars make tents and hatch in the hundreds.

In some cases larvae of attractive butterflies may damage food or ornamental crops. Decide how much you want to share before indulging in a butterfly garden.

Back to top of page

For Specialty Garden tips from the Backyard Blogger, click here!

Fragrance Garden

Caution - some new hybrids of traditional plants may not be fragrant. Check with your nursery professional.

Planning the Fragrance Garden

  • Plant fragrant flowers and vines near windows and doors so a whiff of wind will whisk the scent inside.
  • Select one or two flowers or plants to provide the dominant scents and use other flowers known for their fragrance sparingly.

Plants to Consider

Clethra - shady wet areas (Mock Orange)
Russian sage
Witch hazel



Bedding Plants
Nicotiana - evening fragrance

Back to top of page

Shady Character

Finding colorful shade plants to brighten the covered areas of your yard is a challenge, but with the help of your nursery/landscape professional, you can have your shade and color too.

Ferns grow in a variety of different colors and textures. See autumn, holly, and Japanese painted fern. Some ferns die back on cold weather but they return in the spring.

Hostas - attractive foliage and a range of colors.
Armandii clematis, an evergreen vine that performs well in the shade
Pulmonarias or lungworts have intriguing foliage and spring-blooming flowers.
Tricyrtis or toad lily resembles a tropical orchid and takes a few years to reach full glory.

Trailing browallia

Lamium - silvery white leaves edged in green.
Pachysandra - interesting textural qualities
Variegated vinca
Columbine - airy woodland appearance

Aneom x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ - fall blooming white flowers reaching up to 4 feet in height
Heuchera or coral Bells - reaches about 18 inches and grows in a rounded shape. Fuzzy, maple leaf-shaped foliage that’s semi-evergreen

Back to top of page

Ever wondered how to attract butterflies, birds and other living things to add to the beauty of your outdoor living space? The Backyard Blogger has some helpful hints in this video below.

How to attract wildlife