Our building has a modest, yet practical, yard in front that existed for years as little more than a wasteland of some ferns, which were so out-of-control they had practically gone feral, intermixed with your typical ugly weeds. When I grew (ha! get it? "grew?" puns are funny) weary of looking at it, I took the money my friends would spend on one night of cocktails--which is certainly not a small amount of cash--and invested in some plants, fertilizer, a shovel and seeds. No one was doing anything with the ground, so I figured no one would mess with it.
I've written about my adventures in gardening before, and things have continued to hum along nicely. My neighbors don't touch the plants, as they are thrilled someone is doing something with the eyesore we had to pass every day, and they've even added a few unwanted, dying houseplants here-and-there that they couldn't find the courage to throw away; thanks to our almost-tropical weather, with fresh air and good dirt they totally grew, which is cool. Most of my attempts at growing from seeds have been a dismal failure, but I have had success with milkweed.
I read a terrible story about Monarch butterflies, which are one of the few insects that migrate with the changing seasons. A 2002 frost killed hundreds of thousands of the butterflies in mid-migration, and coupled with habitat degradation, they are on the brink of becoming an endangered species...along with almost every other creature on Earth, but don't get me started on that topic. Anyway--Monarch caterpillars only eat the leaves of milkweed plants, so if there aren't any plants where the butterflies can lay eggs...no more butterflies. So for $5, to cover the cost of shipping, you can get a pack of milkweed seeds to plant in your hard and make the world a more beautiful place. (Milkweed is native to all of North America, obviously, as it's the only plant the caterpillars can eat, so certain types will survive winters.) I used PayPal, which was like getting them for free. PayPal isn't real money.
As I have limited ability in making seeds grow, I just dumped a package of the seeds in a pot with some dirt, and hoped for the best. Surprise surprise, plants popped up everywhere. Separately as a random coincidence, I also went to an abandoned building down the street and went through their yard to find anything in their yard that had flowers on it, and yanked all that out of the ground. Stuck all those in my yard too. One of them was a flowering bush with purple flowers on it. Whatever, it was there so I took it.
BOOM, butteflies started showing up. There is one male Monarch that hangs out permanently in our yard, and I see him every day. Correction: I see him every day except the day I decided to take photos. Here are two more butterflies that come by from time to time to say hey.
That bush they are both sitting on, with the things that look like tentacula, is the purple-flowering bush I stole. Apparently butterflies like dark-colored flowers, because they can see magic ultraviolet colors in the pigment that are different than the spectrum we see. So those purple flowers aren't actually purple to the butterfly. Whatever, they live on that bush like it is a giant buffet. I walk around the yard every day with a stick to clear the spider webs off all the plants--every day! so many scary spiders!--although I've never seen a buttefly get caught in any of the webs.
So the moral is this: we can't live in a bubble. Americans are so greedy and we consume so many resources every day, we need to do SOMETHING to help clean up the mess. Plant a butterfly garden or something. Dark flowers are the key to success.