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by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener
By the end of the month, flower gardens will be set for the season. May is when annuals shine. Rules of thumb for annuals in the garden and in containers begin with the color wheel! Make things pop with opposites… blues and oranges, yellow and reds…or go for a classy monochromatic look by layering the same color in different flowers and leaf textures.
Keep in mind the “filler, spiller, thriller” rhyme in your pots and hanging baskets.
Use annuals to fill beds as you await the spread of perennials and shrubs.
by Barbara Platts, Extension Master Gardener in Training
Michigan to Mexico migration
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are one of the most well-known butterfly species in North America. They are easily recognized due to their orange and black wings. The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years due mainly to habitat loss in Michigan and Mexico, where they migrate during the colder months. After overwintering in Mexico, monarchs travel north to seek out larval food sources where plants are plentiful. To view recent winter and summer migration patterns click here.
Monarchs need a variety of habitats to both overwinter and refuel along the way as they travel to and from Michigan. They require access to a wide variety of flowering plants to survive the annual flight. Monarchs are pollinating insects that travel to flowering plants, drinking nectar and transporting pollen.
You can easily integrate monarch food sources into your garden. Find a location that receives at least six hours of sun a day. Light or low clay provides the best soil type and drainage, however areas with poor run off can support more tolerant plants. Plants should be spaced relatively close together to attract the highest number of monarchs and provide shelter from both predators and the elements.
Must have food sources for monarchs include milkweed and nectar plants. A minimum of ten milkweed plants consisting of two or more species is ideal. Having more than one species provides a constant food source as plants mature and flower at different rates during the season. Milkweeds contain cardiac glycoside, a chemical monarchs absorb that is toxic to predators.
Monarchs also need a consistent nectar source. This can be accomplished by planting a combination of at least four biennial or perennial native plants in your garden space to promote continuous blooms throughout the season.
Plants that attract monarch butterflies to gardens:
Spider Milkweed (Asclepias viridis) – An early milkweed variety. Shorter species. Good for garden borders.
Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9
Height 1 to 2.5 feet
Bloom time May-July
Purple and green blooms also attract other pollinators
Plant in full sun, drought tolerant
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – Low maintenance plant with fragrant purple flowers. Has subtle onion flavor. Can be used in cooking.
Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9
Height 1 to 2 feet
Bloom time April-June
Showy purple blooms on green stalks
Plant in full sun
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) – Thrives in moist soils and ponds
Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-4
Height 3 to 4 feet
Bloom time June-October
Fragrant pink flowers
Plant in full sun
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Long lasting clusters of orange flowers. Grows well in poor, dry soil.
Perennial found in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9
Height 2 to 3 feet
Bloom time June-August
Bright orange flowers
Plant in full sun, drought resistant
Additional plants that attract monarch butterflies include perennials such as blazing star, bee balm, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, primrose, yarrow, aster, stiff goldenrod, Ohio spiderwort, Maximillian sunflower, blanket flower, prairie phlox, spotted Joe-pye weed, common boneset and dandelion. Annuals include cosmos, zinnias, marigold and sweet alyssum.
Designing your garden
For dry condition planting (well-drained soil) you will need:
- Minimum 100 square feet
- Minimum 10 milkweed plants, 5 each of two different milkweed species
- Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 19 plants in this design
- Number of plants – 29, spaced 18″ apart
For wet condition planting (poorly drained soil) you will need:
- Minimum 100 square feet, total 250 square feet
- Minimum 10 plants if using one species of milkweed, 15 milkweed plants in this design
- Minimum 4 biennial or perennial native species for nectar, total 49 plants
- Number of plants – 64, 24 spaced 24″ apart, 40 spaced 16″ apart
Sustaining your garden
Maintain the monarch habitat by mulching. Mulching should decrease by the third year after you have established your garden. Some native plants may need thinning. Fertilize as needed and remove dead leaves and stalks in late spring if necessary. Water, eliminate insecticide use and remove invasive species.
Certifying your monarch waystation
You can register and certify your monarch waystation by completing an online application. Click here.
Once certified, your habitat will be added to the Monarch Watch Registry found at https://monarchwatch.org/waystations/registry/.
You can also purchase an official Monarch Waystation sign to install in your garden by clicking here.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, www.michigan.gov. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
Missouri Department of Conservation, https://mdc.mo.gov. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
Monarch Butterfly Garden, https://monarchbutterflygarden.net. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
Monarch Butterfly Migration, https://www.learner.org. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
Monarch Waystation Program, https://monarchwatch.org. Accessed 4 Apr. 2018.
by Nancy Denison, Advanced Extension Master Gardener
On our recent trip to Southern California I was able to visit the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas, just a few miles from our former home in Cardiff by the Sea. It began as a farm and then private residence of Ruth Larabee, who was an avid plant collector and naturalist. In 1957, she donated the land to the county of San Diego as a wildlife sanctuary and park. It became Quail Botanic Gardens in 1970 and while I do remember the name, I never had the opportunity to visit while living in the area. The county stopped the funding of the gardens in 1993 and the non-profit Quail Gardens Foundation, Inc. took over the operation of the garden. In 2009 the name was changed to the current SD Botanic Garden.
There are four miles of trails on 37 acres of gentle hills, with over 4,000 species and varieties of plants from all over the world. There are gardens with plants from Mexico, the Mediterranean, New Zealand and South Africa, in addition to succulent, herb, fire safety and children’s areas as well to explore. It was a perfect spot to walk on a misty Saturday morning and the reciprocal (with our own botanical garden) free admission gave a feeling of being home again for this gardener.
Leaving San Diego, we drove up to Palm Springs for a few days seeking warmth and sun, which eluded us for the most part, but provided a chance to visit the Moorten Botanical Garden on S. Palm Canyon Dr.
This unique garden and “cactarium” was established in 1938 by Patricia and Chester “Slim” Moorten. Slim was an original Keystone Cop and Patricia, a biologist specializing in botany. Together, their love of the desert inspired them to begin collecting samples of plants from the surrounding areas and later Guatemala and into Mexico.
The gardens now contain about 3,000 examples of cacti and other desert plants from California and Arizona to as far away as Africa and Madagascar. The paths wander around part of the grounds of the Moorten home, the “Cactus Castle” and Palm Grove Oasis area. There are crystals, rocks and fossils in various spots as well as a few items for sale on your way out. It was a quick walk through for me with a few items I had not previously seen; the organ pipe cactus, desert willow and creosote bush were highlights. The gardens are available for weddings, meetings and concerts; and certainly an interesting spot to visit in the Palm Springs area.