Tag Archive | butterflies

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)

 

Milkweed for Monarchs

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

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Monarch Butterflies are probably the most recognized and beloved butterflies in North America. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies cannot survive without milkweed plants? That is because their caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed and no other plant will do.   Monarchs have lost a significant amount of that critical host plant because of shifting land management practices, use of herbicides, and because of loss of habitat in both the United States and Mexico. Here are some simple steps that you can implement if you would like to take action.

Plant Native Milkweed!

Monarch caterpillar

Planting milkweed is one way that you can help not only the Monarch but other pollinators too! If you Google where to buy native milkweed seeds you will find numerous places to order and many are free. You can also purchase plants from an area garden center or our local chapter of Wild Ones during their spring native plant sale. You might contact a local landowner to find out if they are willing to allow you to dig up plants from their property. The plants will do best if you transplant them early in the season and be sure to dig deep to get as much aof their root system as possible.

Be sure to plant milkweed plants that are native to our area.   Look for Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, or Butterfly Milkweed. Avoid planting Tropical Milkweed because the wrong species of this plant has been found to increase odds of the Monarch becoming infected with a crippling parasite. This is most often occurring in warmer environments such as Texas and the Gulf Coast States but is worth a mention in case you are a visitor from the south reading this article! Beginning in the early spring, throughout the summer, and into the late fall, you can search for the Monarch anywhere you see milkweed plants in abundance.

Provide Nectar Plants

Monarch butterflies enjoying Joe Pye Weed

Monarchs also need nectar plants and will sip from many different flowers to nourish themselves throughout the season. Why not plant native perennials that bloom at various times from their arrival, breeding season, and until they migrate in the fall.

Some common plants that will provide nectar are: Columbine, Blue Sage, Spiderwort, Goldenrod, Penstemon, Little Bluestem, Wild Anemone, Pale Purple Coneflower, Joe Pye Weed, Poppy Mallow, Culvers Root, and Blood Root to name a few.

Enjoy

I recently learned that the Monarch Butterfly communicates with both colors and scents. And there are numerous opportunities to observe them when you consider the 4 stages of their life cycle which includes four generations: the egg, the caterpillar (larvae) the chrysalis or pupa, and the beautifully developed butterfly.

Take the time to look for them, preferably with your children or grandchildren. The giggles you share while watching a Monarch sip from a nectar plant, or while sitting under the summer sun watching a Monarch Caterpillar munch the leaf of a milkweed plant is a memory to be savored for a lifetime.

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine

 

 

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”

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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

Not all Coneflowers are Purple!

The purple coneflower (echinacea purpurea), which is native to Wisconsin, is one of the most reliable and hardy perennial plants in any flower garden. Easily surviving our Wisconsin winters, it thrives, spreads, and forms a beautiful mass of flowers that attract birds, bees, and butterflies, and self-sows to keep the garden full. However, did you know that the simple purple coneflower is only one of many, many cultivars available to us in Wisconsin. Try some of these, or any of the newer cultivars introduced each Spring.

Rocky Top Hybrid

Rocky Top Hybrid

‘Rocky Top Hybrids’ have spidery petals and narrow leaves, marking this plant as a probably cross between a native wildflower and a standard garden coneflower. These flowers, on their thin, wiry 24-inch stems, tend to follow the sun during the day as sunflowers do, so all the blooms face the same direction.

Sunrise

Sunrise

‘Sunrise’ contains butter-yellow petals surrounding a cone that starts out green and turns gold as the flower matures. A light, sweet fragrance is a nice touch. Most are in shades of orange and yellow, and are 30-36 inches tall.

‘Sparkler’, at first glance, may look like a typical coneflower. But the leaves have splashes of cream and white that may turn more green in

Sparkler

Sparkler

the heat of summer. These plants are a little slower to take off than coneflowers with all-green leaves, but they’re definitely worth the wait. 28 to 36 inches tall.

Jade

Jade

‘Jade’ starts with white petals around the green center cone when the flowers open. As the flowers age, the center cone turns more orange and the petals droop a bit, showing their green-tinged undersides. 24 to 32 inches tall.

‘Razzmatazz’ has been particularly popular over the past couple of years due to it’s “fuzzy” appearance. Instead of a red-orange cone, the centers of these flowers are covered with tiny pink petals. Those fluffy heads are big and heavy, so plant ‘Razzmatazz’ in full sun — plenty of light will keep these 30-36 inch tall stems strong.

Razzmatazz

Razzmatazz

Doppelganger

Doppelganger

‘Doppelganger’ might be one of the most unusual coneflowers ever created. This coneflower, also sold as “Doubledecker”, has two tiers of petals. The first year or two, most or even all of the flowers mays be ordinary, single coneflowers, but one the plant is established, it’ll be covered with crazy 40-inch tall blooms.

Vintage Wine

Vintage Wine

‘Vintage Wine’ have blooms of a rich, bright pink, sometimes almost red. Besides the great color, the petals point out, instead of hanging down, and the foliage on this coneflower is some of the healthiest we’ve ever seen. 30 to 36 inches tall.

 

The Humble, but Reliable Coneflower

Do you have a nice, sunny spot in your garden that is calling for color? Coneflowers look gorgeous in nearly any style of garden. For a relaxed, meadow-inspired look, combine coneflowers with grasses, spike blazing star and goldenrod. Wis108567.002py grasses create a contrasting backdrop for bold coneflowers. They’re also surprisingly adaptable in containers, but they’re usually won’t get as big as they do in the ground. Tucking a few coneflowers into containers is a great way to entice butterflies near a deck or patio.

When it comes to the old-fashioned pink-purple or white coneflower, there isn’t an easier plant to grow. As long as you put the plant in the ground the right side up, it should be fine! Coneflowers like plenty of sun and average, well-drained soil. Like any perennial, you’ll want to water new plants the first summer, to get them safely established. After that, they’ll be virtually carefree!

The yellow, red, and orange ones can be a little tougher to get to survive for several years. Why aren’t they as vigorous? The plant breeding that created those beautiful colors included a species that’s a little pickier about its growing conditions than purple coneflowers — and that means the offspring are a little picker, too. For the most success, try these tips from Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc, a company that’s developed some of these bright new flowers:colors

  1. Pick a good site. While the old-fashioned purple coneflowers will grow almost anywhere, the yellow, red, and orange ones need full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Adding some compost to the bed before you plant will make them happier, too.
  2. Buy the biggest plants you can find. This is no time to cut corners! Choose plants with multiple growing points, not just one cluster of leaves.
  3. Don’t let it bloom the first year. Heartbreaking, right? But the plant will establish healthier roots if it’s not putting energy into flowers the first year. Plants in quart- or gallon-size containers won’t need this if their root systems have had a chance to grow to fill the pot. But if you’re working with plants in small 4- or 6-in. wide pots, it’s best to either pinch the blooms off or cut the entire bloom stalk back.
  4. Be sure to mulch. If you garden where the ground repeatedly freezes and thaws during the winter, mulch over the plant with a 6-in. layer of chopped leaves to protect the crown.

At the end of the season, some gardeners like to leave the seedheads standing — they provide subtle winter interest, and birds, especially finches, eat the seeds. If you leave the seedheads standing, volunteer seedlings will come up. Either enjoy these free plants, or pull the seedlings to keep them in bounds. (Interestingly, the seedlings of all varieties eventually revert to pink-purple.)

 

Garden Clean-Up: How Much is Too Much?

Here in Wisconsin we’re having incredibly wonderful weather for so late in the year. As a result, you may be tempted to just continually clean away the plants in your garden thinking “it will save time in the spring.” The question is not whether or not you can clean away all of the debris from your garden in the fall, but should you.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser explains in her “Savvy Gardening” blog why you should consider leaving the debris in your garden over the winter:

“Twenty-some years ago, fresh out of college with a horticulture degree in-hand, I started teaching adult education classes at a local botanic garden. For many years, I taught a class called Preparing Your Garden for the Winter. I would show slides (remember those?) of how well-kept gardens should look in January. In the images, every plant was cut to the nub, except for the ornamental grasses and butterfly bushes, and the whole garden was snug under a thick layer of mushroom soil mulch. The roses were neatly trimmed to two feet and wrapped in a blanket of burlap, folded and stapled closed to keep them protected from freezing winds. There was nary a fallen leaf in sight; everything was raked up and hauled off.

You see, that’s how we gardeners used to roll in the early ’90s, before we knew better. We’d cut everything down and “clean up” the garden until there was no shred of nature left behind. We’d turn the place into a tidied, controlled, and only slightly dirtier version of our living room. Everything was tucked and trimmed and in its place. Most of us weren’t interested in supporting wildlife much beyond hanging up a bird feeder, and the phrase “wildlife habitat” was only used in places like zoos and national parks.

Unfortunately, many gardeners still think of this kind of hack-it-all-down and rake-it-all-up fall clean up as good gardening, but in case you haven’t already noticed, I’m here to tell you times have changed. Preparing Your Garden for the Winter is a completely different class these days. We now understand how our yards can become havens for creatures, large and small, depending on what we plant in them and how we tend to our cultivated spaces. Thanks to books like Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, we now know how important native plants are for insects, birds, amphibians, and even people. Our gardens play an important role in supporting wildlife and what we do in them every autumn can either enhance or inhibit that role.

To that end, I offer you these six very important reasons NOT to clean up your garden in the fall.

1. The Native Bees: Many of North America’s 3500-plus species of native bees need a place to spend the winter that’s protected from cold and predators. They may hunker down under a piece of peeling tree bark, or they may stay tucked away in the hollow stem of a bee balm plant or an ornamental grass. Some spend the winter as an egg or larvae in a burrow in the ground. All native bees are important pollinators, and when we remove every last overwintering site by cutting everything down, we’re doing ourselves no favor. We need these bees, and our gardens can provide them with much-needed winter habitat.

2. The Butterflies: While the monarch flies south to overwinter in Mexico, most other butterflies stay put and take shelter somewhere dry and safe until spring. Some butterflies, like the mourning cloak, comma, question mark, and Milbert’s tortoise shell, overwinter as adults. They nestle into rock fissures, under tree bark, or in leaf litter until the days grow longer again and spring arrives. Butterflies that overwinter in a chrysalis include the swallowtail family, the cabbage whites and the sulphurs. Many of these chrysalises can be found either hanging from dead plant stems or tucked into the soil or leaf litter. And still other butterfly species, such as the red-spotted purple, the viceroy, and the meadow fritillary, spend the winter as a caterpillar rolled into a fallen leaf or inside the seed pod of a host plant. If we cut down and clean up our gardens, we are quite possibly eliminating overwintering sites for many of these beautiful pollinators (and perhaps even eliminating the insects themselves!).

3. The Ladybugs: North America is home to over 400 different ladybug species, many of which are not red with black polka-dots. While the introduced Asian multicolored ladybug comes into our homes for the winter and becomes quite a nuisance, none of our native ladybug species have any interest in spending the winter inside of your house. Most of them enter the insect world’s version of hibernation soon after the temperatures drop and spend the colder months tucked under a pile of leaves, nestled at the base of a plant, or hidden under a rock. Most overwinter in groups of anywhere from a few individuals to thousands of adults. Ladybugs are notorious pest eaters, each one consuming dozens of soft-bodied pest insects and insect eggs every day. Leaving the garden intact for the winter means you’ll get a jump start on controlling pests in the spring.

4. The Birds: Insect-eating birds, like chickadees, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, pheobes, and bluebirds, are very welcome in the garden because they consume thousands of caterpillars and other pest insects as they raise their young every gardening season. Leaving the garden intact through the winter months means there will be more protein-rich insects available to them during the coldest part of the year. These birds are quite good at gleaning “hibernating” insects off of dead plant stems and branches, and out of leaf litter. The more insect-nurturing habitat you have, the greater the bird population will be. Your feathered friends will also appreciate feasting on the seeds and berries they can collect from intact perennial, annual, and shrub stems.

5. The Predatory Insects: Ladybugs aren’t the only predatory insects who spend the winter in an intact garden. Assassin bugs, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, ground beetles, and scores of other pest-munching predatory insects spend the winter “sleeping” in your garden as either adults, eggs, or pupae. To have a balanced population of these predatory insects, you have to have winter habitat; when spring arrives, they’ll be better able to keep early-emerging pests in check if they’ve spent the winter on-site, instead of over in the neighbor’s yard.

6. The People: If the previous five reasons aren’t enough to inspire you to hold off on cleaning up the garden, I’ll add one final reason to the list: You. There is so much beauty to be found in a winter garden. Snow resting on dried seed pods, berries clinging to bare branches, goldfinches flitting around spent sunflowers, juncos hopping beneath old goldenrod fronds, frost kissing the autumn leaves collected at the base of a plant, and ice collected on blades of ornamental grasses. Winter is a lovely time in the garden, if you let it be so.

Delaying your garden’s clean up until the spring is a boon for all the creatures living there. Instead of heading out to the garden with a pair of pruning shears and a rake this fall, wait until next April. By then, all the critters living there will be emerging from their long winter nap. And even if they haven’t managed to get out of bed by the time you head out to the garden, most of them will still manage to find their way out of a loosely layered compost pile before it begins to decompose.”

Posted by Vicki