Black Swallowtails in the Garden

black-swallowtail-caterpillars-01While Monarchs have been rare this summer, there have been lots of Black Swallowtails around laying eggs in St. Louis. I have personally raised or given away about thirty caterpillars to schools.

Luckily Black Swallowtails have a wide palette of host plants. These include, bronze fennel (their favorite this year), rue (also good for Giant Swallowtails), Golden Alexander – Zizia aptera, dill. fennel, Parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace. If you see a caterpillar on any of these plants, there’s a good chance it’s a Black Swallowtail.




Filed under Butterfly, Butterfly Gardening, Caterpillars

U City Garden Tour


Jesse Gilbertson, the director of horticulture for  U City in Bloom, is going to give a tour of some of the city gardens on Monday – August 8th at 9:30 a.m. We are going to meet at Centennial Commons in Heman Park on Olive Blvd. This should be quite an informative program for all types of gardeners. No reservations are required, just show up.

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Dr. Lincoln Brower – Monarchs

Dr. Lincoln Brower has just posted a new program on the Monarch Migration via YouTube. Unfortunately, the news is not good. While the population was up last year, 2016 looks bleak for a number or reasons.

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Filed under Monarchs, Uncategorized

Mary Ann Fink – Tips for a Better Garden

maryann-fink-01Recently, I was lucky enough to have Mary Ann Fink, one of the top gardeners in the St. Louis area, come and visit my garden. Here are a few notes from my conversation with her.

How can we grow flowers in a non-irrigated area?
Solomns Seal can take lack of irrigation.
Rudeckia will take lack of irrigation, but will look rough.

Shasta Daisy – to keep blooming, as soon as they are fading, not done, but just past their prime, take off just the top flower. There is a dormant bud just below the flower that may come into bloom. If you wait until they have gone to seed, it’s probably too late.

Asclepias tuberosa – plant pansies or small bulbs around it in the fall. It’s a late spring plant, and you want to mark the area where it is growing so you don’t dig it up accidentally.

Jerry Pence – great landscape designer.

Consider adding a walkway in my milkweed bed in the front to give it some visual interest and it’s easier to get into and weed.

10-6 Rule – This is for plants that tend to get tall. When it gets to ten inches, you cut it back to six inches. She suggested putting plants together that grow at the same rate so that you can just go in and trim the entire area at one time. New Englad Aster will take three prunings.

MA volunteered to help me during one of my talks.
(Possibly we could have her come and talk to Crestwood gardeners.)

Privet – cut to the ground every few years to rejuvenate.

MA likes the Claw – garden tool.

She suggests trying White Ball Buddleia – as it gets larger you can shear it.

She likes Veronica and Vervain.

Pom Pom Echinacea is borderline hardy,

Verticillium wilt – I may have in the soil. Killing Shasta Daisy?

Profusion zinnia – should be a good pollinator.

Bee Balm – cut to the ground when it is done blooming.

Hopefully Mary Ann will do a gardening program in the near future. I’ll keep you posted when she starts her class.








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2017 – Dates – Notes – Plants – ToDo

Plants for these people/schools/groups
If you know of a St. Louis group or school that wants plants for 2017 – let me know.

  • Justin Charbonneau – alderman who helps the Beautification Comm.
  • Mayor – milkweed and plants
  • Jerry A – help with new garden – house that burned down.
  • Woman who had her sunflowers cut down – Mary S.
  • Board of Alderman – make them an offer of free plants.



Cut Privet to ground to rejuvenate.

Take out Amsonia blue star



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Mosquito Spraying – Butterflies and Bugs


Aphids love the milkweed that I plant. Since I grow lots of milkweed, I get lots of aphids. Up until approximately June 22nd, I have had a biblical plague of aphids on my milkweed plants.  A few days later 90% of them were dead or had disappeared. What happened?

I asked that question of Dr. Lincoln Brower, a monarch expert and he suggested that it looked like an insecticide had killed them. Since I don’t use insecticide, I wondered if the mosquito spraying that they do in my city might have killed them.

According to one Wall Street Journal article, spraying for mosquitoes will kill bees and butterflies, so why not aphids.

According to an article in Mother Earth News, “Do not use pyrethrum in situations where lady beetles, honeybees and other beneficials are active. Used carelessly, pyrethrum can wipe out these and other beneficial insects. ”

According to St. Louis County mosquito control, they use a product called Aqua-Reslin. They also indicated that they only spray after their traps have certain types of mosquitoes. West-Nile virus is something they don’t want in our neighborhood. You can call 314-615-4284 in St. Louis County to see what communities are being sprayed that night. What I have learned is that they don’t spray all the communities listed on each night. For example, this last Thursday they sprayed in Kirkwood, Des Peres and Ladue. The other cities were not sprayed.

Their email address is


Ed Spevak who is the Curator of Invertebrates at the St. Louis Zoo has also written a good article on mosquitoes.

While my initial thoughts were that the mosquito spraying was killing the aphids, if you look at the picture below you will see the same type aphid death, but I know for sure that there has been no spraying in our neighborhood, because it is the July 4th holiday.

Leaf #1 was June 30th. The same leaf is shown as #2 and the picture was taken on June 5th. What is killing these aphids?

One option from the University of California indicated that some wasps will lay eggs on aphids.

They also say, “Aphids are very susceptible to fungal diseases when it is humid. These pathogens can kill entire colonies of aphids when conditions are right. Look for dead aphids that have turned reddish or brown;” That is certainly St. Louis in the summer and the dead aphids I see are this color. Possibly our hot humid conditions are killing off the aphids.

What I will probably try to do in the future is to water my milkweed leaves more often to try and encourage this killer fungus and reduce my aphid population without endangering other insects.



Filed under Bees, Insecticides

Starting Seeds Outside

If you’re having trouble getting seeds to start over winter and then can’t recognize the plants from the weeds, here’s a technique that I tried out this last winter with good results.


  • I used a product called Terrace Board which is usually used as a lawn/garden edging.
  • I cut it into twenty foot lengths.
  • I drilled a hole into both ends and used a bolt to connect the overlapping ends.
  • You will probably also need to buy plastic pegs to keep the board in place.
  • I cleaned out the area where I was going to place the soil so I didn’t have weeds or grass popping up. You could lay a couple layers of newspaper to accomplish the same thing.
  • I filled the oval with good potting soil.
  • Put in your seeds, cover and water.
  • Label the area so you know what seeds you planted,
  • The plants you see are Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed.
  • The advantage of this method is that you know that the plants coming up are the ones which are on the label.

Note – instead of the plastic edging, you could use any material like wood, boards or bricks.


Filed under Seeds