If you are new to the St.Louis area, here are a number of resources to get you started.
Since butterflies don’t stay in one place very long, it’s tough to get that perfect picture.
John reminded me of this tip which I had forgotten.
Instead of trying to take the perfect picture, take a series of pictures in burst mode and then choose the best picture of the bunch.
Every phone and camera is a bit different so you may need to look up directions on how to do this.
The Pixel 3A, my preferred camera, does this by holding down the button for a few seconds and it then later shows you each frame and you choose which is best.
Below is a video of the process.
As I trimmed back some of my aggressive growers by about half, also called the Chelsea Chop, I decided to try leave my trimmings on the ground. I did cut them into four inch pieces. While this may not be appropriate for some more manicured gardens, in this pollinator garden, it makes sense.
I have read and seen this technique online from a couple of experts and it seems to work for a Chicago Botanical garden and a KC expert – Lenora Larson.
What I like about this technique is that it avoids fertilizing, composting and adding mulch.
While you may want the outside edge of your garden to have a more kept look with nice looking new mulch, the inside can be covered with cuttings which will decay and feed the soil.
Here is how Lenora Larson does it.
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.
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.
Don’t plant mint in your garden.
The picture shows what can happen when mint is planted and takes over a garden after only a couple of years.
This plant was suggested by a native landscaper, who obviously doesn’t know how aggressive this plant can be.
There is two exceptions
If you have time and are committed, I have grown Slender Mountain Mint in a garden, but you have to give it a specific area to grow and be prepared to dig out the invasive roots once or twice a year.
The 2nd exception is Calamint. It doesn’t spread by runners and will bloom all summer. Montrose White is a great cultivar.
If you want to grow most mints, I’d suggest growing them in a large pot either on concrete or off the ground.
Monarch Watch is offering free milkweed plants to schools and non-profits.
Here are the details.
“If your school or non-profit educational organization is interested in this conservation measure, we can help you create a habitat for monarchs and pollinators. “
Please apply using this form: biosurvey.ku.edu/application-free-milkweed-nonprofits-and-schools
Here are few new products which seem to be doing well this spring.
Promix potting soil – available at Walmart.
This is slightly moistened and breaks up easily.
It also has Mycorrhizae added to the mix.
You will need to add Osmocote fertilizer.
Sherwood’s Forest has a nice looking triple ground mulch which is easy to spread.
You can see the difference between its dark brown color and the Black Forest Mulch.
Swamp Milkweed – Asclepias incarnata.
Amazon – Outside Pride – Carmine – Rose.
I’ve never seen Incarnata germinate this easily without cold stratification. These plants are only two weeks old and are thriving.
I will separate these soon into individual containers.
If you’re interested in annuals which will give you color almost all the summer and which will self-sow for next year, Lenora Larson has done a wonderful presentation online.
While I am tending toward perennials, I appreciate the ease and color of self-sowing annuals.
One of the reasons schools and individuals have trouble maintaining their gardens is that they put the garden in, water the plants and then assume the plants will thrive on their own. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work and the plants wither.
In general, I either recommend a Timer system for schools or a dedicated volunteer who will water on a regular basis. Depending on rain, I’d recommend at least once or twice a week to keep plants happy that first year. The problem with volunteers is that they come and go and at some point the garden is on it’s own. This is a good reason to use natives, but still watering the first season is critical.
Jesse Gilbertson, Horticulture Director for U City in Bloom, doesn’t put in any new garden without a water source. Find money to get irrigation – at least a spigot. They do have a water “truck” to water containers.
Scott Woodury of Shaw Nature Reserve says, “Establishment watering is critical for any planting. The establishment period might be three months long, it might be the entire growing season….let’s call it the first growing season.”
I personally use a timer on my hose with a sprinkler. It’s an inexpensive solution and only puts down the amount of water which is needed.
I spent $40.00 yesterday on tender plants and the thought came to me, “When is it safe to put these plants in the ground and be fairly safe from frost?”
The answer in the city/county of St.Louis is around May 1st.
This link from the Univ. of Missouri contains all sorts of data about the probability of frost in all the different Missouri counties.
In practical terms, I usually look at the ten day forecast and if if looks safe, I will plant ten days early.
This is obviously for tender plants as some plants will take the cold without much damage.
The video below explains the data.