MoBot Greenhouse Tour

I just got a tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden greenhouses as part of a horticulture class at Meramec Community College. Here are some of my notes from the tour,

  • They use a product called B-Nine 1250 ppm on Zinnias and other plants to keep them small and compact. This costs $78.70 for a pound on Amazon. Hummerts in St. Louis has this product for sale. It looks like they applied this when the plants were very young.
  • They have pests in the greenhouses and use Integrated Pest Management. They use yellow sticky cards, geckos, beneficial insects and when things get out of control they will use many assorted pesticides – even neonics. They try to “rotate modes of action.” Don’t spray with the same pesticide all the time or bugs will become resistant.
  • Water – in the winter they warm their water so as not to shock the plants.
  • They use soil mixes with Mychorrhizae. Most of their mixes come from Ball, but they do have some ProMix soils.
  • Over by the EECC building, to the right of the main entrance, there is a bed which has common milkweed with caterpillars. They seem to only use wood chips and the plants are spectacular.  I would bet though that they have have put in a very good soil mix.
  • The guide does not like Turface – over time it gets mushy.
  • is a way to look up where plants are located in the MoBot properties. At this time they do not allow the public to see the database records where they record what they do to particular plants.
  • Stratify seeds at 40 degrees – usually – put seeds in the refrigerator, not the freezer.
  • To keep seeds for a long time, they dry them out in a frig with Silica Gel Desiccant.
  • Orchids like high humidity – that’s why they don’t do well in most houses.
  • Vanilla comes from an orchid and has to be hand pollinated – that’s why it is so expensive.
  • Ten people are responsible for growing 250,000 plants! They do have volunteers to help them.
  • They use a lot of Peters water soluble fertilizer for most plants that they grow. I found a similar bag on Amazon. They use 150 ppm.
  • Fertigation – new word – adding liquid fertilizer to the water.
  • He likes Forrest Keeling trees because of how they grow them.

This is a great tour, but is only available to horticulture students at Meramec.  Our tour guide was a Meramec horticulture graduate and is a testament to their great horticulture program.

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Help Feed the Bees – Sunday 11 a.m.

bees-Andy-DSC05061-600We can use your help this Earth Day, Sunday April 23rd at 11 a.m. at Whitecliff Park in Crestwood., Missouri.

Crestwood has been designated a Bee City USA and the Boy Scouts have built a bee hive at Whitecliff and the bees will soon be arriving.

What we are trying to do at the Whitecliff Recreation Center is provide them with plenty of pollinator plants for them to make their honey and survive the winter.

If you have an hour to spare, we can use your help plating.
Adults, Boy/Girl Scouts and really any one who can dig a hole is welcome.
If you have any questions, email

Whitecliff Recreation Center
9245 Whitecliff Park Ln
Crestwood, MO 63126


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Best April Ever for Monarchs

The Monarch butterflies have not only made it to St. Louis, Missouri, but they are laying eggs in abundance. A couple of days ago, I saw a flash of orange out the window and when I headed out I discovered forty Swamp Milkweed plants with anywhere from one to three eggs each.

Two days later, I watched as two distinct females laid eggs on another forty-two plants plus a number of Swamp Milkweed in my gardens.

I’ve never had this many eggs laid in the past. I usually might get one to five eggs, and in some years none. It is interesting that these females looked older and one had part of a wing torn away.

Addendum – April 17 – Monarchs still around and laying eggs.

You might wonder how I ended up with so many Swamp milkweed plants and the answer is that these are from seeds I planted in the fall of 2015. Last year I let them grow in place and this year I dug them up for potting.

If you haven’t already, get your milkweed outside and hope the Monarchs will find it.

EDIT – April 19th – Monarchs are still laying eggs on my milkweed. This makes a week of Monarchs in my garden. They don’t seem to have any preference.


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Schools 4 x 8 Foot Butterfly Garden

I have a school which has a 4′ x 8′ area and the teacher wanted some guidelines.

Soil – I prefer the SLC Raised Bed Mix. It’s more expensive, but makes it very easy to plant. You should only need one cubic yard. Get a parent with a pickup truck to get the mix.

Mulch – The mulch I like is called Black Forest Mulch.
You can buy it at Lowes or at St. Louis Compost.

Construction – Gateway Greening has a good PDF on the materials and construction of the bed.

Edging – If you  can afford it, it’s nice to edge the bed with pavers. It not only makes the garden look more professional, but keeps the grass away from the garden. The kids will be walking around the garden a lot and it will prevent the area from getting muddy. Here’s a garden done by one Boy Scout with pavers.

Fertilizer – The first year you might not need fertilizer, but you can add some later in the year if plants look like they might need some help. I use an inexpensive 10-10-10.

Water – It’s imperative that you have a source of water nearby. You may need a special key to turn the water on. You can buy those at a hardware store.  Talk to the maintenance people for help. I also like to leave a short hose by the garden so that it’s easy to water. You will find that during the summer that the raised bed will need more water.

Maintenance – Schedule parents/families/scouts to maintain and water the garden during the summer. Once a week should be fine. Weeding and watering are the main chores.

Other Tips

  • Make sure the kids can walk all the way around the garden. They will need to be able to plant and pull weeds without getting in the garden.
  • You want most of your plants to be blooming in September. This is when the kids will be coming back to school and the Monarchs will be migrating.
  • Find a location with the most sunshine possible.
  • Make sure the small plants are in the front where they will get the most sun. You don’t want the tall plants to shadow the smaller plants.

Here is a general idea of what I might plant.
I’ve divided it into three areas – Tall – Medium and Small.


Dill, Fennel, Milkweed, Agastache, Blazing Star, Zinnia-tall, Verbena bonareinsis


Shasta Daisy, Salvia, Maltese Cross, Veronica, Echinacea, Lantana, Coreopsis lanceolata, Zizia,


Parsley, Allium, Pussy Toes, Coreopis (small), Zinnia -Profusion


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Monarch Butterflies – April 8th

I’m doing a program on Monarch butterflies and what you can do to attract them into your garden.

Saturday – April 8th – 9:30 a.m.
Whitecliff Recreation Center
9245 Whitecliff Park Ln, Crestwood, MO 63126

It’s free and everyone is welcome.

I’ll be giving away free seeds and plants  to get you started.

Here’s a video of the Monarchs in my garden last fall.


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Butterfly Gardening Series

I came across Friends of the Garden recently and found that they have a great series on Butterfly Gardening.

It is written by Lenora Larson and seems to be an ongoing series. I’m impressed with her knowledge and obvious energy since she has a two acre garden in Kansas.

This is a great series and Lenora is quite knowledgeable.

Here is the link for the Butterfly Gardening series.

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Garden Calendar

This time table is for St. Louis Missouri, but should work for most Zone 6 areas. I will adjust it this year as my plants dictate.

After flowering – Amsonia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Baptisia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Maltese Cross – cut down to base
After flowering – Monarda – cut to base
After flowering – Salvia – cut back to base
After flowering – Shasta Daisy – cut to base
After flowering – Veronica spicata – cut down to base
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04-01 Rue – prune to 6″
05-15 Solidago rigida – pinch
05-20 Agastache – pinch
06-01 Ironweed (old) – cut down to ground when 2 feet
06-01 Monarda – cut back by half – once or twice.
06-01 Shasta Daisy – layer front row for lower display
06-05 Sedum – cut back to 4″ when 8″ tall
06-06 Solidago – cut back by half
06-07 Hibiscus – when 16″ tall – cut back by half
06-07 Echinacea – cut back some by 1/2 to delay bloom
06-10 Liatris – TEST – cut back by half when 18″
06-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
07-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
08-10 Coreopsis verticillata – shear blooms
08-20 Agastache – cut back to rebloom
08-30 Gaillardia – cut down to base


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