Tag Archive | bee balm

The Simple Daisy

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

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From my garden: Shasta daisies snuggled next to Bee Balm

Other than the dandelion, what is the first flower you remember as a child? Is it a daisy? When we draw flowers, don’t we draw a simple daisy? When imagining a summer field of flowers, isn’t it the daisy we imagine?

Daisies have been around forever and are so often underestimated or overlooked when planning a garden. And yet, you can never have too many low-maintenance blooms! Deer-tolerant and disease-resistant, Shasta daisies should have a home in every garden!

Although we may think of daisies as the simply flower with the white petals, there are many, many cultivars that provide different colors for your garden plans. ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy is easy care, even in the heat of summer. But that’s not the only benefit of this beautiful, long-blooming perennial.

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From my garden: the yellow blooms of ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy among the purple flowers of catmint

Its large 4- to 5-inch flowers are stunning in midsummer. Semidouble, they open pale lemon-yellow — a unique hue for Shasta daisy. In a few days, blooms slowly fade to creamy white. Plants are covered in flowers ranging from shades of pastel yellow and cream.

No matter which stage blooms are in, though, their golden yellow centers are a big draw for butterflies. Snip stems back to a leaf function lower on the plant, so it’s not so noticeable, for long-lasting cut flowers. Two or three weeks later, you should get a slight rebloom, though flowers will be fewer and smaller.

A compact grower that spreads to form neat clumps, ‘Banana Cream’ doesn’t splay open in the middle, like some other Shasta daisies. It has a densely branched habit, for lots of flowers — even on side shoots — and branches are thicker, too, so sturdy stems don’t flop in the rain. Plus, ‘Banana Cream’ won’t give you the same disease problems as older cultivars susceptible to stem rot, leaf spot, or verticillium wilt — it’s green foliage stays good-looking throughout the season.

This Shasta daisy likes a spot in full sun, although it will tolerate some afternoon shade in areas with very hot summers. Because it’s compact, ‘Banana Cream’ works well in containers or at the front to middle of a border. Once established, it doesn’t mind dry soil, but wet soil in winter can kill plants, so be sure to choose a well-drained site. Every two or three years, divide a crowding cluster in early spring to keep plants blooming vigorously.

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Drought Tolerant Plants for Wisconsin Summers

As I write this, we just had two major rain storms pass through the area — one of them bringing high winds and doing a lot of damage. However, having lived through Wisconsin summers, I know there is a high likelihood that we may see little or no rain through July and August. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have these plants in your garden because, being native Wisconsinites, they’re used to living through droughts!

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Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) prefers well-drained sites in light to medium shade. Hummingbirds love this flower.

If native plants are chosen to match your conditions, they will thrive with minimal watering where others fail. To gain the full environmental benefit of lower water usage, it’s absolutely necessary to choose the plants that thrive in the conditions at your location. All native plants are “water-wise” to some extent, but to maximize their full potential, choose those naturally adapted to your specific conditions — soil, sunlight, and moisture.

Native plants create a naturally balanced ecosystem. When you plant natives in the landscape, birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators will soon follow. Because these plants and animals evolved together over thousands of years, they have developed interdependent relationships. Monarch butterfly caterpillars safely consume the toxic sap of the milkweeds. Karner blue butterfly larvae rely solely on leaves of wild lupine. Fritillary butterflies need violets for their larval food source. These are only a few of the necessary relationships between our native flora and fauna. The variety of species that even a small-scale native garden attracts is often amazing!

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Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) is tough and beautiful! As other plants die off during a drought, Rudbeckia retains its beautiful colors.

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Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) grows 3 to 4 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some additional species to try in your garden:

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    Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis) grows 3 to 5 feet in sand, loam, or clay. Full to part-sun.

    Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Sky Blue Aster (Aster azureus)
  • Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
  • Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
  • Smooth Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)
  • Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)
  • Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

 

Who Doesn’t Love Butterflies?!

Watching butterflies in their ethereal flights over the garden is surely one of gardening’s greatest pleasures, but since baby butterflies, aka caterpillars, eat the leaves of garden plants, you may want to limit your garden’s attractions to the nectar-producing flowers on which the adults feed.

If you do this, you won’t have nearly as many butterflies (they don’t stick around long if there is no place to lay eggs), but you will also have less of a problem with the raggedy-leaf look.

Butterfly garden containing goldenrod, black-eyed Susans, and Joe Pye Weed.

Alternatively, you can plant flowers for the adult butterflies in your garden, and beyond the garden’s borders leave the weeds that caterpillars are fond of. Of course, weeds don’t stay put, so plan to be vigilant about incursions if you decide to go this route.

Plants for butterflies: butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), bee balm (Monarda didyma), lilac, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp), cosmos, lantana, gayfeather (Liatris spicata), phlox, goldenrod, and globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa).

Weeds for caterpillars: clover, wild fennel, milkweed, nettle, Queen Anne’s lace, Bermuda grass, sorrel, and thistle.

Garden plants caterpillars adore: parsley, lupine, hollyhock, mallow, dill, fennel, cultivated milkweed.

Monarchs and Swallowtails

The Monarch caterpillar is almost as beautiful as the butterfly

Monarchs and swallowtails feed on different plants at different stages. There are four distinct stages in a butterfly’s life cycle: the egg, the caterpillar or larva, the chrysalis or pupa, the adult butterfly. Only the second and fourth stages eat, and the caterpillars do most of it.

Monarch caterpillars specialize in various species of milkweed, whose bitter juice makes them distasteful to predators like birds. In its butterfly stage, the monarch may also drink the nectar from goldenrod, thistle, cosmos, butterfly bush, lantana, and lilac.

During its caterpillar stage, the Eastern black swallowtail dines on members of the carrot family, which includes Queen Anne’s lace and parsley. During its butterfly stage, the swallowtail prefers nectar from flowers such as thistle, phlox, clover, and purple loosestrife.

Caterpillar Killers

If you are keen on butterflies, be extra careful about how you apply pesticides, including environmentally benign ones like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). As far as the pesticide is concerned, a caterpillar is a caterpillar whether it’s a cabbage looper or a monarch-in-waiting.

Fortunately, caterpillars are comparatively fussy eaters. Those cabbage loopers eat many plants, but only in the cabbage family. They don’t eat carrot family members like the parsley and dill that baby swallowtails dote on.

If butterfly plants are growing close to something you absolutely must protect with pesticide, don’t use a dust, which will spread. Use a liquid, and paint it on the plant with a brush (sprays drift, even on still days).

Butterflies gather water by “puddling”

Water

Give them a place for puddling – Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling,” drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat.

Now, sit back and enjoy the beautiful spots of color darting in and around your flowers all summer!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman