Best butterfly garden in Europe

This summer I have recorded 46 species of butterflies in my garden!

Best butterfly garden in Europe

Swallowtail hilltop on a pole that supports tomatoes in the garden.

In the last three years I felt in love with the butterflies. So much that some of my birding friends expressed the opinion that I will soon forget about the birds and devote to the butterflies. That is never going to happen but it is true that I am very excited by the butterflies, and indeed very recently by the moths. After being a birdwatcher for 26 years now (I have started when I was 11 years old boy) that is a whole new world for me, very beautiful and challenging.

Except in my home country Bulgaria, I have watched butterflies in Greece, Macedonia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, and some of these trips were birding tours. In Bulgaria I have of course been to nearly every corner, but one of the best places for butterflies proved to be the garden of our house in the village where my grandmother lives. It is situated in Sredna Gora Mountain (Middle Forest), some 70 km east of Sofia. The garden size is about ¾ of an acre (so about 3000 sq. meters) and is surrounded by various wild habitats. The garden itself is wild and natural and as said above this summer I have recorded 46 species of butterflies in it!
Some of the most attractive ones were Black Hairstreak, Southern White and White admirals, Meleager’s Blue, Large Tortoiseshell, False Grayling, Dryad and High Brown Fritillary. Of course, species such as Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Black-veined White, Marbled, Spotted, Queen of Spain and Heath fritillaries, Great-banded Grayling and Lattice Brown are common.
In the immediate surrounding (200 meters or so) I have found quite a few more species (such as Yellow-banded Skipper, Ripart’s Anomalous Blue, Lesser Fiery, Purple-shot and Large coppers) and they are more or less likely to be found in my garden one day. Of course there are many species I did not found in the garden or in the area which are likely to be found next years. 

My garden is wild enough, but I would like to encourage more species to visit it by planting natural plants that are found in the area, but not in the garden. Some of them are the Dwarf Elder and the Bramble and as both are among the most favorite nectaring plants in can be expected that they will attract even more species. I also intend to plant some LHPs found in the immediate surrounding area and attract more species to breed in the garden – for example Large Blue and Mountain Alcon Blue.

As I have decided to turn our garden into a real butterfly heaven I have started to look for let’s say the necessary know-how – advices and recommendations and even similar projects. To my surprise I have found very few advices, most of them for nectaring plants. There is only one website devoted on a butterfly garden, and of course it is in England. It has to be said that I was searching only in English and it is possible that there are websites in French, Deutsch or Italian, but I doubt there are many.

I will do my best to design a website for my garden and the butterflies there.

Early August I have visited the Butterfly Conservation website and saw their competition about the UK butterfly friendliest farmer. I instantly decided that a European competition for the best butterfly garden in Europe might be a great idea. I have sent an e-mail to BC explaining briefly my idea. The answer however wasn’t very encouraging. They obviously have decided that nobody from England stand a chance to win it due to the smaller number of butterflies there and suggested me to contact the European partners of BC. However I have insisted and during the Rutland Birdfair I have visited the BC stand where I have explained again my idea and stated that such a project without the English butterfly lovers would be something as the World Cup finals without the English national team. As for the criteria of what is the best butterfly garden it doesn’t has to be the number recorded at all. Or at least it can be the % of the national total, so somebody with 15 species in England will have actually more than me with 46 in Bulgaria for example.

The lady there was much more open to the idea and promised to pass it onto the BC PR people. I am still waiting for the answer. Anyway, I will try launching the website about my garden soon and there I will explain in details my idea about the best butterfly garden.

Briefly here are the major features:

Put together as much as possible butterflies’ lovers throughout Europe, from various countries.
Share experience and good practices on attracting butterflies and moths in gardens and improving small scale habitats.
Possibly to start European butterfly garden watch is a mid-term period – 2 to 4 years.
Promote the idea all over Europe and organize a competition for the best butterfly garden in Europe.

If you have any comments, suggestions or critics you are most welcome to sent it to me.