If you’re interested in learning about Butterfly Gardening, I’m doing a free program tonight at Powder Valley – 6pm.
While I have a box of hand tools for the garden, there is only one I use every day. It’s the Ken Ho Garden Weeder. I use it to not only keep my weed population in check, but also to dig holes and cut off small roots. It’s very durable and although mine is filthy with caked on dirt, it is not rusting. If you have a gardener friend, this would be a great gift.
NOTE – they are now using a wooden handle instead of the reddish rubber handle. Hopefully the wooden handle will do as well.
After a cold long winter, Mother Nature is finally showing up in my butterfly gardens. One of the nice things about having a butterfly garden are all the other critters that show up even when butterflies are scarce. Here’s what I saw today.
- First hummingbird
- First goldfinch
- First Black Swallowtail larvae on Rue
- Two hawks
- Honey Bees on Nepeta
Since it’s early in the season, it’s always fun to see a butterfly which is willing to pose for the camera. This American Lady really seems to enjoy the nectar from the Nepeta – Walkers Low. This is one of my favorite nectar plants these days and will bloom most of the summer. I also have some larvae on my Pearly Everlasting so I’m assuming that the Lady is responsible.
As we had a long cold winter in St. Louis, Missouri, I was concerned that my lantana would not make it through year number two, but I was wrong.
When I came back from vacation both Miss Huff and Start Landing were both coming out from their root stock. This is a good reminder to not be so quick to pull up plants that appear to be dead in the early spring.
Note also that Miss Huff appears to be a stronger more hardy plant than Star Landing. Star Landing however is a bit more colorful.
One of the nicest school gardens that I’ve ever helped with used a raised bed system. That year we had a terrible drought so I was concerned about how the plants would do as they baked in the heat. Here’s the result after one year.
- Pearly Everlasting
- Gaillardia – great!
- New England Aster
- Maltese Cross
- Shast Daisy – but doing poorly.
- Slender Mountain Mint
- Verbena bonareinsis – seems to have died out, but may have reseeded itself.
2013 – we planted 25 extra plants – filling in with milkweed(swamp, annual + seeds), bronze fennel, meadow blazing star, coreopsis and lantana,
One of the easiest growing nectar plants to grow in St. Louis is Lantana. There are two basic types – an upright-tall-mounding species and a trailing/spreading/lower growing species. Here are some tips.
- Don’t cut the stems back until you see signs of new growth in the spring. Most lantana will not over-winter, but a couple varieties will. Don’t cut those back until the very latest. (this is a bit controversial)
- Lantana loves sunshine. Only plant it where it gets at least half-day sun.
- If you want lantana to come back every year, trying growing varieties which are hardier. Miss Huff is the hardiest and Star Landing is somewhat hardy. They have both come back over two winters – Miss Huff does seem to be stronger and hardier – although a bit less colorful. Mozelle and Sonset are other varieties which I plan to try. Also Imperial Purple, Lantana montevidensis is possibly hardy (trailing).
- I also like to cover up my lantana in the fall with leaves to help protect the plant from the cold.
- Likes a well drained soil – possibly raised beds, so that the roots don’t get wet, freeze and damaged.
- One of the main advantages of lantana is that it blooms all summer long with no dead-heading! Where I have enough sun, I prefer this to butterfly bush.