A visit to Pat Sutton’s Garden

I was thrilled last week when I got the chance to visit with Pat Sutton and her husband Clay in their Cape May,NJ Garden. It is really a thrill to be in a garden that is buzzing, humming, blooming, chirping, and singing with life!

Doug Tallamy calls the lecture he gives for his book, Bringing Nature Home: How native plants sustain wildlife in our gardens, “Gardening for Life,” and this can really be seen in Pat’s Garden. The garden is overflowing with blooms: Ironweed, Perennial Sunflower, Purple Coneflower, Pickerelweed, water lillies, Bee Balm, Mountain Mint, Trumpet Honeysuckle…..every where I looked something else was blooming.

The air swirled with bees, hummingbirds, dragonflies, Black Swallowtails, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, American Goldfinches, American Redstarts. There was no part of the garden that didn’t have some kind of wildlife action.

And this is the whole point of Ecosystem Gardening: the simple actions we take have enormous value to all kinds of wildlife.

Here are some beautiful examples of Pat’s dedication to the wildlife around her:

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys the Clethra (Sweet Pepper Bush)

An Io Moth Caterpillar on a Chestnut Oak LeafIo-Moth-Caterpillar

An American Goldfinch gorging on Perennial sunflower seeds
American Goldfinch

A Hummingbird Moth on Monarda Bee Balm

A Saddleback Caterpillar

And a Black Racer on a tree out front by the mailbox
Black Racer

Now I know you are probably less than thrilled by the snake, and you’re thinking: “Are you kidding me? You want me to have snakes?” Snakes (and bats) are among the most persecuted of wildlife, and if you are lucky enough to see one in your garden, be grateful. According to Pat, the snake had not made an appearance prior to my visit and has not been seen since. I am feeling very blessed that it chose the day of my visit to bless us with its appearance.

Click to see more photos of Pat’s garden.

Pat and Clay Sutton’s Books:

How to Spot Butterflies

Birds and Birding at Cape May

How to Spot Hawks and Eagles

Check out Pat Sutton’s website and follow Pat on facebook

And if you’re in the area, make sure to sign up for Pat Sutton’s Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens

What amazing critters are you seeing in your Ecosystem Garden?

Check out my new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week, teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden.

© 2009 – 2013, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of EcosystemGardening.com If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Carole Sevilla Brown

Carole Sevilla Brown is a Conservation Biologist who firmly believes that wildlife conservation begins in your own back yard. Carole is an author, educator, speaker, and passionate birder, butterfly watcher,  and naturalist who travels around the country teaching people to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming habitat for wildlife so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators and other wildlife. She gardens for wildlife in Philadelphia, zone 6b, and created the philosophy of Ecosystem Gardening. Watch for her book Ecosystem Gardening, due out soon. Carole is managing editor of  Beautiful Wildlife Garden, and also  Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. Follow Carole on Facebook and also @CB4wildlife and on Google+


  1. Holly Willett says:

    I was stunned by the Saddleback Caterpillar. It’s so exotic-looking for a New Jersey resident. What butterfly or moth does it become? I wonder how I could encourage it in my Glassboro garden.

    • The Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is a member of the slug moth family. It is a generalist feeder, using plants such as apple, aster, blueberry, buttonbush, cabbage, citrus, corn, grass, maple, and oak. Beware of those spines, because they feel like a wasp sting if you touch it. The adult moth is rarely seen and is not talked about much. All of my insect resources here and a google search will all give pictures of the caterpillar and no one ever mentions the moth. What are you growing in your Glassboro garden?


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  8. [...] solved.  Their garden visitor was instead a day-flying moth, known as a hummingbird moth (one of the sphinx moths).  Most moths are nocturnal, active at night, but hummingbird moths are [...]

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  10. […] To meet Pat is to discover her joy and passion in sharing her knowledge of butterflys and creating gardens to attract them. She was interviewed in the Press of Atlantic City about the decline in butterfly numbers this […]

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