BOOK REVIEW: Ground Rules

Ground Rules by Kate Frey, Sustainable Gardener
Hamilton Public Library: 635 FRE

So many gardening books seem to follow a formula, giving similar instructions, in similar formats.  Ground Rules by Kate Frey feels different.  This book doesn’t read like a collection of rules, but more a collection of wisdom.  As the book’s cover states, the lessons within are easy steps to growing gloriously.  The numbered “rules” don’t feel limiting, more like intimate notes left by a garden guru mentor just for you, and the book is laid out in such a way that the most important info is conveyed in bold headings, not buried in dense paragraphs or multi-part instructions.

The book is divided into chapters, yes… but the broad categories cover a huge range of topics in an unconventional order.  Wandering from traditional (Planning Your Paradise) to esoteric (The Joy of Plants) with blunt honesty (The Real Dirt), wisdom (Be Wise With Water) and practical advice (How to Be A Good Garden Parent), Kate Frey encourages us to support our wild garden friends (Birds, Bees, and Butterflies) and our inner selves (A Garden of Earthly Delights) all within one tidy, charming book.

As someone working in the horticulture and garden industry, I can tell you the tips in this book are really really good.  This is the sort of wisdom that is circulated between professionals, passed from teacher to student, and gifted to homeowners by their gardeners.

Rule 15: Don’t buy rootbound plants.

Rule 41: Not all mulches are equal.

Rule 58: For a (relatively) weed-free garden, don’t let a single weed go to seed.

Rule 70: Cardboard to the rescue.

Rule 96: Learn how to create emotion in the garden.

Admittedly, none of this information is rocket-science, nor is it new… but too often I see these important gems buried in pages of useless or superfluous text.  Ground Rules distills years of garden wisdom into the most important seeds you need to get planting.

RESOURCE: Butterfly Lifecycle

This educational handout is a launching point for discussions about the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly.  The worksheet outlines the four basic stages of the butterfly’s lifecycle and leaves space for participants to write their notes and answers to discussion questions about each stage.

garddwest printable lifecycle of monarch single

garddwest printable lifecycle of monarch double* this double-column worksheet can be printed on 8.5×11 and cut in half when printing multiple copies of the handout

Butterfly Gardens – 5 PLANT RECIPE

This “recipe” for a Butterfly Banquet comes to us from an excellent book I recently checked out of the Hamilton Library: Five-Plant Gardens (635.932 OND) by Nancy J Ondra, garden writer and editor as well as the former owner and operator of a small rare-plant nursery.  Artfully arranged with a wide variety of vibrant planting layouts there is sure to be a Five-Plant Garden for any taste.  The beautiful Butterfly Banquet below, is only one of 52 captivating gardens in this book, suitable for sun or shade and a range of soils.  Check it out from your local library or independent bookstore for simple to follow perennial garden “recipes” with easy planting tips, as well as a detailed “shopping list” and design for the Butterfly Banquet below!

Butterfly Banquet
(full sun to partial shade)

Five-Plant Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra

  • SWAMP MILKWEED – Asclepias incarnata 
    OR:  BEE BALM – Monarda ‘Marshall’s Delight’
    OR:  JOE PYE WEED – Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’
  • CONEFLOWER – Echinacea purpurea ‘Little Swan’ 
    OR: PHLOX – Phlox paniculata ‘David’ 
    OR: TURTLEHEAD – Chelone glabra ‘Black Ace’ 
  • RUSSIAN SAGE – Perovskia x ‘Little Spire’
    OR: GLOBE THISTLE – Echinops ritro ‘Longwood Blue’ 
    OR: BLUEBEARD – Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’ 
  • YARROW – Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’
    OR: GLORIOSA DAISY – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ 
    OR: SHASTA DAISY – Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Sonnenschein’ 
  • PINCUSHION FLOWER – Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ 
    OR: CATMINT – Nepeta faassenii ‘Kit Kat’ 
    OR: ENGLISH LAVENDER – Lavandula angustifolia 

PLANT LIST: Butterfly Gardens


Orange + Pink

– Asclepias tuberosa (info)

– Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’ (info)

– Buddleia x weyeriana ‘Bicolor’ (pictures)

– Salvia nemorosa ‘Sensation Deep Rose’ (info)

– Coreopsis verticillata ‘Sweet Marmalade’ (info)

Blue + Yellow

– Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yello’ (info)

– Achillea millefolium ‘Sunny Seduction’ (info)

– Buddleia ‘Flutterby Petite Blue Heaven’ (info)

– Salvia nemorosa ‘Sensation Sky Blue’ (info)

– Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (info)

Looking for more information about how to select a location for these plants, which butterflies they attract or want to DIY your own Butterfly Garden? -> see the Butterfly Gardens section of our Resources Page and the

FEATURE: Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly gardening provides a garden space that attracts, feeds and provides a home for butterflies and certain moths.  Butterfly garden plants are selected for all stages of the butterfly’s lifecycle – places to lay eggs, leafy food for caterpillars, flowers for adult butterflies as well as complimentary plants to attract other pollinators and deter unwanted pests.  Because many caterpillars and adult butterflies are obligate feeders, meaning they feed exclusively on one plant species, special care must be taken when selecting plants to provide for specific butterflies.

for example – the Monarch Butterfly’s caterpillar is an obligate feeder, and can only feed on milkweed, the adult also prefers to lay her eggs near milkweed to provide the larva with a food source after hatching

finding the best LOCATION
for your Butterfly Garden

The ideal spot for a Butterfly Garden is in warm, direct afternoon sunlight.  Keep in mind, as the sun changes seasonal positions along the horizon, the light and shade patterns in your garden will change.  Select a section of your garden that is sunlight between 3pm and 7pm during the butterflies’ most active season – July to September, here in Southern Ontario.  Dappled morning shade gives relief to caterpillars while bright afternoon sunlight encourages flowers and provides warmth for cold-blooded butterflies sunning themselves.  Most butterfly garden plants listed by Garddwest would do best in sunny, mixed soils but tolerant of a wide range of conditions.

TRY THIS: tracking the sun’s path through your potential garden space
Collect marking flags, sticks, any kind of indicator / Find the area of your garden that gets most afternoon sun / Mark the edge of the sun’s shadow every 15 minutes as it moves through your yard by inserting a flag in the ground

attracting BUTTERFLIES
to your Butterfly Garden


Attracts: Eastern Comma, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Least Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper, Milkweed Tussock Moth, Snowberry Clearwing Moth
*Host plant for: MONARCH!


Attracts: American Painter Lady, Gray Hairstreak


Attracts: Cabbage White, Fiery Skipper, Sachem, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Zabulon Skipper

* information on which butterflies are attracted to specific plants provided by Advice From The Herb Lady and The Natural Web.

choosing the best PLANTS
for your Butterfly Garden

see the more detailed PLANT LIST post, for additional information