Lavender in Missouri

I have tried to grow lavender numerous times over the years with poor results.
The problem is that I top-dress with compost every couple of years to create rich soil and I water when necessary with a sprinkler. Most of my butterfly plants thrive under these conditions, but not lavender.

Veronica – a good lavender substitute

Veronica and perennial salvia are great substitutes that will have two bloom periods if you cut them back in July.

If you still want to try and grow lavender, here are some notes from the Mo. Extension Service.

  • Control the amount of water going to the plants. Keep it on the dry side.
  • Use raised beds ….at least 12 inches.
  • Try different cultivars.
  • Plan on losses – 20% to 25%
  • Plants do well in hot and dry weather.
  • They use weed cloth to reduce weeding.
  • They also have training available during the year.
  • There is a good section in the video below on propagation.

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Free Butterfly Gardening Program

Click Here to Register – Oct. 8th.- 10 am – Powder Valley

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Dragonflies – Another Migration

Chuck Evans Mcevan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Common Green Darner

About a week ago, I noticed about 20 dragonflies hovering in my backyard and wondered where they had come from. It turns out that some dragonflies migrate between the Southern states and Canada.

Yvonne, a local expert said, “Almost certainly those Common Green Darners were migrating. Others that migrate are Variegated Meadowhawk, Black Saddlebags (they also breed here), Wandering Glider, and Spot-winged Glider. Maybe more. I’ve noticed an uptick in the #of CGD at ponds. Also Wandering Glider. Whenever you see that many at one time, it’s a migrating flock. “

According to a Washington Post article, there are three generations of dragonflies. One flying north, one flying south and one staying in the south for winter.

It appears they have moved on since their first visit, but if they come to visit your garden enjoy them in your yard.

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When Monarchs Aren’t Around

Cloudless Sulphur

While the Monarch population is currently non-existent in my garden and many others in the St. Louis area, there’s a good replacement in early August – The Cloudless Sulphur.

This lemon colored butterfly is slightly smaller than a Monarch, but it’s still striking in the garden.

The trick to getting these in your garden is to have Partridge Pea growing in the garden. It’s a magnet not only for bumble bees, but it’s also the host plant for the Cloudless Sulphur. Once you get these plants started in your garden, you never have to buy them again. They are an annual which will gladly freely reseed itself and provide you with plenty of plants the next year. You can also save the seeds and plant the seeds in the fall anywhere you want them to grow next year.

I like them to grow as a second flowering annual. Usually I have bulbs, milkweed and coreopsis flowering in spring and then Partridge Pea comes on strong in August.

The eggs are tiny, white and football shaped.

What I’ve found is that the butterflies even like petunias for nectar.

Lobeila cardinalis and red salvia are also favorites of theirs.

Lobelias cardinalis

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Filed under Butterfly, Butterfly Gardening, Host Plant

Song Sparrow Nest

Song Sparrow Nest on the Ground

A first for me is to find a bird nest on the ground with eggs. It was camouflaged in a patch of weeds I was dispatching. I initially thought it might have fallen out of a nearby Hydrangea, but now have learned that Song Sparrows do commonly nest on the ground if they have cover.

One lesson I learned from this is that the common practice of planting one flower at a time in it’s own isolated location won’t be a good practice for these type of song sparrow nests. They need plants close together to provide privacy and cover.

It appears that the Brown-headed cowbird has also laid eggs in this nest, although I can’t tell which is which.

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Pruning in May

Ironweed in good soil.

Also known as the Chelsea Chop, cutting back certain plants by 1/3 to 1/2 is a common practice to maintain control and size in the garden.

One of the things I’ve noticed with native plants is that when you find them in parks with poor native soils, lots of competition, no extra water other than the rain and certainly no fertilizer, they seem to maintain a diminished size. Once you buy that same plant and put it into good garden soil with compost, fertilizer, lots of space and plenty of water, the native turns from dwarf to GIANT. In the past, I end up staking many of these plants just so they don’t fall over.

I am making a conscious effort this year, around May 15th, to cut back all of these giants by 1/2.

Here’s a list of plants which I plan to trim back.

  • Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)
  • Echnacea purprea – Purple coneflower – only doing this with some so I can get some later blooms.
  • Helianthus silphioides – Silphium Sunflower – 2020 N
  • Heliopsis helianthoides – Ox-eye Sunflower
  • New England Aster
  • Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Salvia – cutting back half of the plants.
  • Senna marilandica – Wild Senna 
  • Shasta Daisy – I’m also going to try this with part of my plants to see if I can get some later blooms.
  • Solidago rigida or Oligoneuron rigidum – Rigid Goldenrod
  • Vernonia p. Ironweed 
  • Veronica – cutting back half of the plants.

Here’s a video on the technique.

Technique #2 – Pinching Your Plants

Many annuals and some perennials can have more branches and blossoms by simply cutting back the main stems – called pinching since you can use your fingers to make the cut.

When you pinch the main stems, you usually force the plant to send out side shoots which will make the plant bushier and increase flower production.

Here’s a good video on the process.

Technique #3 – Chop half the plants.

October 4, 2020

I noticed one year that the bunnies had taken a liking to some of my echinacea and kept them trimmed low most of the early part of the season. While most of my echinacea bloomed normally, the bunny-trimmed echinacea bloomed later in the summer and into the fall. I thought I’d try this technique by chopping back half of my echinacea so I theoretically will have echinacea blooming all year round.

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Recent Garden Videos

The St. Louis County recently sponsored a number of excellent gardening videos which are now available on YouTube. This is one of the finest collection of speakers and instruction that I have ever seen. Enjoy!

Below is a summation of the videos and their location.

Keynote: Let It Be An Oak by Doug Tallamy

A 3-Year Suburban Landscape Makeover by Dave Tylka

Life in the Soil by Jerry Pence

Native Plant Gardens Bring Pollinators by Nina Fogel and Jenny Mullikin

Investing in Native Trees and Shrubs by Meridith McAvoy Perkins

Garden Maintenance for Wildlife: A New Way to Garden by Scott Woodbury

Rainscaping with Native Plants by Allison Joyce and Cody Hayo

Homegrown National Park by Jean Ponzi

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Spindly Seedlings

If you are in the process of starting seeds inside, here are a few tips to make your seedlings strong and robust. There are four steps.

  • Light
  • Fan
  • Fertilizer.
  • Potting Mix

The more light the better. I use a shop light with four bulbs and keep the lights as close to the plants as possible. You want to give the plant as many lumens as possible. The string in the picture is a way for me to move the lights up and down.

Use an oscillating fan to blow on the seedlings. You want to exercise them by moving them back and forth to strengthen their stalks.

Add a slow release fertilizer to your potting mix. I use Osmocote Plus plus I use a 1/4 tsp water soluble fertilizer in my watering can.

I use Pro-Mix potting mix. It includes Mycorrhizal fungi which helps plant growth. They have a number of different versions, but any will do. This mix usually does not include fertilizer.

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Dividing and Planting Early

While my main planting date is around May 1st, one of my tricks to go out into the garden around mid-March, dig up a healthy plant, divide it and grow it inside under garden lights. In the case below, I have divided Calamint into 8 plants which I will plant around May 1st. I also do this with Asclepias incarnata – Swamp milkweed, Allium, Shasta Daisy plus any other plant which catches my eye. Since most perennials need dividing after a few years, this is an easy way to get a head start in the garden and increase your plant supply.

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Inside Bugs on New Plants


It’s easy to have an infestation of flying bugs on your inside plants during early spring. As you can see from the picture above, sticky traps do an excellent job of keeping these pests under control.

Laura, in the video below suggests that using a BT spray might work as well. I’m going to try both in March when I start most of my indoor plants.

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