Tag Archive | perennial

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

Advertisements

Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #2

Author Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio was my inspiration to become a Master Gardener. At the time, she was the editor of Birds & Blooms and a Master Gardener herself. Since then, she has branched out to pursue her goal of being a published author — and has been wildly successful. With 15 published books currently available on amazon, Stacy was the keynote speaker at our Garden Conference several years ago and a vendor this year.

Stacy’s most recent book, Plants You Can’t Killwas written with an eye toward inexperienced gardeners but there’s a wealth of information in the book for those of us who can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong! Loaded with beautiful photographs, it’s a book that should be in every gardener’s library.

From the amazon page:

“I kill everything I plant.”

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Give yourself a pat on the back because admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And lucky for you, you can easily turn your brown thumb into a green one with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

Seriously—it doesn’t matter how many plants you’ve killed in gardens past. It’s time to put those experiences behind you and finally grow something in your empty and bare spots. This is the only gardening book you’ll ever need with more than 100 plant picks for every situation. You want veggies? We have ’em. You need to fill a big space? We have shrub ideas for you. You just want something pretty? We have plenty of that, as well.

The plants in Plants You Can’t Kill have been vetted by an amazing and famous panel of horticulture experts (this is just a fancy way of saying they went to college for gardening), so feel confident you’re not wasting money on yet another gardening book. These plants will actually survive your well-meaning, yet sometimes neglectful ways.

Ready for the most resilient, hardcore, badass list of plants known to gardeners? Find them and grow them with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #1

Master Gardener and author Tammy Borden

One of our Master Gardeners, Tammy Borden, is also a published author and accomplished singer. Tammy was the emcee at our recent Garden Conference, as well as the Chair of the committee that planned and executed the event. She’s a giving and spiritual human being. From the amazon page showcasing her book:

Every soul longs for purpose and new life. But when we’re in the midst of a cold, dark winter with no hope on the horizon, it can feel like life is futile and spring will never come.

Broken dreams, loss, addiction, betrayal, fears, guilt, and haunting reminders of our past can overwhelm our souls. We dream of a day when we can break free from the bondage and silence the toxic voices that play over and over in our minds, convincing us we’re failures and that things will never change.

So we search. We try more. Pray more. Read more. Thinking we just need to believe more. Yet the peace and joy we desperately seek continue to elude us, and it seems as though God does, too. We’re left feeling more alone and empty than before.

In A Perennial Life, Tammy Borden invites you to newly discover who you are and, more importantly, who God truly is so you can let go of past regrets and experience the abundant life you’re meant to live. Through heart-gripping true stories, playful humor, raw confessions, and transparent admissions of life’s deepest longings, she’ll help you embrace and redeem your own story — your seasons of life — so you can transform, grow, and unveil the significant purpose your heart longs for.

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Transplanting Peonies

Autumn is the best time to plant peonies, whether they are newly purchased or simply being moved. You can start whenever the weather cools but should stop at least six weeks before the expected date of frozen ground. (Newly planted peonies won’t mind early fall’s icy mornings because the soil below the surface is still warm, but they must have plenty of time to make new roots before growth sops for the winter.)

Start by choosing a location where they can grow undisturbed for the foreseeable future. Peonies are long-haul plants, not at their best until they have been in place for some years.

Test the soil in the planting spot to be sure it has a pH of at least 6, although 6.5 to 7 is better; amend it with dolomitic limestone if necessary. If you’re moving the plant, cut off the discard the spent foliage. Dig up and handle the roots carefully as they are quite brittle.

Peony_zpsce6b6354Dig planting holes roughly twice as deep and wide as the peony roots. Prepare the soil by working in a few shovelsful of compost. Set the roots in the prepared holes, making sure the budlike eyes are no more than 2 inches below the ground. Backfill gently; don’t tamp down around the plants. Water them in, then top off with additional soil if necessary.

After the ground is frozen 3 or 4 inches down, add a protective blanket of straw, shredded leaves, or bark mulch. Do not fertilize until spring, when a generous application of compost will be welcome.

Note: there is an old wive’s tale that says you shouldn’t cut more than a third of your peony blooms or you’ll have fewer flowers the next year. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Plants get nourishment through roots and leaves and use it to make flowers and fruit. The flowers are takers, not givers, as far as the plants resources are concerned, and you could cut every one without hurting the plant at all. In fact, when flowers are removed, perennials can use the strength that would have gone into making seeds to do things like fight disease, put out replacement foliage, and build up their underground resources. 

The one-third business probably got started because peonies have short stems. When you cut them for the vase, you usually take a lot of the foliage, too, and a plant does need its leaves to stay healthy. So, leave the leaves, take the flowers, and don’t forget the “get rid of it” rule: even healthy-looking peonies usually harbor fungus spores that should not stay nearby or be composted. Send all peony flowers to the landfill, bury them a foot deep, or burn them.

peony-bud-111910_960_720And one more thing: don’t attempt to eliminate the ants that crawl all over your peonies!! Peonies have tiny nectaries, specialized tissues that secrete nectar, at the edge of their bud scales (delicate leaf-like structures covering the bud). The nectar is a highly nutritious blend of sugars, proteins, and amino acids and it attracts the ants to the flower buds. In exchange for the nectar, the ants provide protection for the buds. Any bud-eating pest is attacked by the ant who make formidable foes since some of them can bite from one end and sting or spray from the other end. Don’t spray the ants with poisons or water — the peonies know what they need better than you do!

Perennial Herb Garden

Herbs-in-containersTired of replanting herbs every year because they don’t survive our harsh winters? Want to try some new flavors and fill out some of those empty spaces in your garden? Try planting perennial herbs! There are so many hardy herbs that fit the bill, you’ll want to refine your garden plan before choosing plants. Is this a culinary herb garden? If so, consider chives, garlic chives, fennel, sage, tarragon, thymes, winter savory, and — as long as you keep it in a confined space — mint.

If your interest is more in medicinals, you’ll want to try arnica, catnip, echinacea, feverfew, valerian, and comfrey (which should only be used externally no matter what you read).

And don’t forget that some annual herbs are such rampant self-sowers that you’ll have to plant them only once. Borage, dill, chervil, and coriander will come back reliably year after year as long as you let some plants go to seed. They won’t necessarily come up right where you want them, but a little untidiness never hurt any garden, and they are easily weeded out if they’re really in the way.

Note: if you have space for your herbs near your back door, they’ll be handy for throwing into your cooking. Containers of fresh herbs growing near your bar-b-cue grill will liven up your outdoor cooking.