Rachel's butterfly garden

Loads of donors and volunteers brought truckfuls of materials and supplies, rolled up their sleeves and dug in to help a six-year-old child's wish take flight. Plus, find out what you need to create your own butterfly garden.

By Emily Gillette

Building Rachel a butterfly garden
This story was originally titled "Rachel's Butterfly Garden in the August 2009 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

A backyard filled with butterflies – that's what Rachel wanted. And thanks to Make-A-Wish Canada, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, Landscape Ontario, Permacon, Doherty Construction and a host of other donors and volunteers, a play space surrounded by butterfly-friendly plants took shape at her family home in Toronto last summer.

Watch the team transform this backyard in Photo gallery: Building Rachel a butterfly garden.

Rachel, who's six years old, also needed a place to ride her bike, climb, swing and roll around on the grass. Her mom and dad just wanted somewhere to relax and enjoy the scene.

It was a big wish list for a small city lot, but Beth Edney, a certified landscape designer, found a place for everything. Her clever plan includes a raised patio along the back of the house, complete with a strip of garden to provide herbs and homegrown tomatoes close to the kitchen. A paved walkway curves around the patio to join Rachel's bike path, which loops across the back lawn. Linking the pavement to Rachel's play area is a large stone slab laid over a make-believe stream of pebbles. A jet of water sparkles in the sun as it arcs over the stone bridge, creating a magical gateway to Rachel's domain.

Rachel was a keen participant in the garden makeover, visiting the nursery with Beth to choose plants that attract butterflies for the flowerbeds and pots. "She read all the plant labels!" says Beth. "She looked over my shoulder the whole time, and showed me what she liked." By late September, a real friendship, buoyed by a love of gardening, had blossomed between the two, and Rachel's choices were filling the sturdy pots on the patio and rooted in the flowerbeds. Painted by creative volunteers, colourful wings brighten the garage walls, a beautiful reminder of summer and butterflies, no matter the season.

What you need for a butterfly garden of your own:
• Full sun for about six hours a day
• Shelter from wind and traffic
• A few large rocks that provide warm places for basking
• A drinking spot of wet sand or soil
• Clumps of colourful, nectar-rich flowers for all-season flowering
• A pesticide-free yard

20 Blooms that bring out the butterflies
1. Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
2. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
3. Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
4. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
5. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
6. Coral bells (Heuchera)
7. Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora)
8. Cosmos (Cosmos)
9. Daisy (Leucanthemum)
10. Dill (Anethum graveolens)
11. Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens)
12. Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
13. Lupine (Lupinus)
14. Marigold (Tagetes)
15. New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)
16. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
17. Sunflower (Helianthus)
18. Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
19. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
20. Zinnia (Zinnia)

Make-A-Wish Canada

In 2008, its 25th year of helping children with life-threatening illnesses, this not-for- profit organization granted 471 wishes across Canada, according to Judi Farrell, executive director of the Toronto and Central Ontario Chapter. For more information, visit www.makeawish.ca.


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