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In the Garden: What plants attract butterflies?

Tina visits the outdoor butterfly space at the Camden Children’s Garden.

You may think it is too late to plant flowers to attract butterflies to your garden, but not true.

Adding flowers in the garden now will bring butterflies to your garden for many seasons to come. Late summer and fall is the perfect time to add plants to your garden. Plants have plenty of time to settle in before winter. Typically fall can turn rainy, which is ideal for newly planted trees, shrubs and perennials to establish. Another perk of planting now is that there is still a good selection of plants to choose from at your local garden center. Late flowering perennials are ideal to add now to extend your garden blooms to the first frost.

To start building your butterfly garden you want to do research and find out what flowers butterflies are attracted to. Typically butterflies like sun loving plants. Find a location that receives an adequate amount of direct sunlight, 6 to 8 hours is ideal. Once that is established you can make your plant list. Butterflies not only love sunny plants but they are attracted to sweetly scented flowers in red, yellow, pink and purple. Flowers are usually flat topped or have clusters of tubular shaped flowers.

You want to have a good mix of host and nectar plants both annual and perennial. Host plants are important to include in the garden providing a place for butterflies to lay their eggs and caterpillars to feed on. Naturally different host plants attract different butterflies.

I recommend doing a little extra research if you are looking to attract a certain type of butterfly to your garden. Host plants like Asclepias tuberosa, Parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace, Fennel, Hollyhocks and Shasta Daises are a good place to start.

Nectar plants are equally important to provide food for the adult butterflies. Planting a wide variety of nectar plants will invite a wide range of butterflies. Native plants like Joe Pye Weed and Aster can serve as both host and nectar plant. Other popular native perennials are Coneflower, Phlox, Salvia, and Heliopsis False Sunflower. Butterfly Bush is a popular choice for butterfly gardens because of its sweet fragrance and abundant nectar, but is not native to North America. It originates from Asia and has been labeled by some to be an invasive weed.

A few design tips to consider when planting.

Create large masses of colors and flowers together in large areas. Butterflies tend to linger longer when there is a wide range of flowers and colors. Combine Ornamental grasses with flowering perennials and annuals. Varieties of Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass provide structure as well being a host plant for Skipper caterpillars. Add a water source and resting place in the garden. A shallow saucer filled with water and a few flat stones make inviting resting places for visiting butterflies. Refrain from using any pesticides in the garden and don’t worry about weeds. If you do not mind a wild looking garden keep weeds like thistle and clover around both are considered host plants as well.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, inthegarden, VIDEO

In the Garden: Visiting the Butterfly House

Tina visits the Butterfly House with Jeff Clarke from the Camden Children’s Garden and they discuss their life cycle and what plants attract butterflies.


Butterflies, butterflies and more butterflies!

We can’t get enough of the beautiful and mysterious insects that dance in our gardens with their brightly colored wings. We watch intently to see how they feed from one flower to another as we snap an iphone photo for our Instagram page. Our social media feeds are filled with photos from friends and family who have captured them fluttering about.

This has become a common summer time activity, at least I know it has for my family and friends, including myself. But if you are not quick enough to snap a photo and want an up close and personal look at butterflies, head over to the Camden Children’s Garden in Camden, New Jersey, this weekend. They have a butterfly house you won’t want to miss.

The butterfly house is a greenhouse that is home to several species of primarily North American butterflies with up to a hundred butterflies flying around inside. It is a place where adults and children alike can interact with the butterflies. The house is filled with cut flowers from from the outdoor butterfly garden. Be prepared to have an intimate look at these creatures once you choose to pick up a flower from the Butterfly Bush. While I was there I became acquainted with a beautiful Monarch and a Pipevine Swallowtail.

The Pipeline Swallowtail is unique with it’s black body and shiny blue color with white spots on it’s wings. Its host plant is Dutchman’s Pipevine, that blooms in June producing plum speckled flowers in the shape of a pipe. It is tender vine in this region and generally overwintered indoors during the coldest month. Other species include the Zebra Longwing and White Peacock butterfly, just to name a few. The butterflies in the house are not harvested or caught from the wild, instead they are farm raised. The actual life cycle for the butterflies can be about ten days. Seven days is the usual life span in the wild, but in a controlled environment where they are safe from predatory insects the lifespan is a little longer.

The key to cultivating butterflies is to increase their habitat. Planting the proper host plants for them, like Asclepias for Monarchs can attract them to your garden. In fact, native Milkweed can be found growing wild throughout much of the gardens. It provides a place for the Monarch caterpillar to lay their eggs. Planting one or two different species is ideal when mixed with a few host plants to provide nectar for the adults to feed from.

The Butterfly house at the Camden Children’s Garden doesn’t disappoint. If you are unsure why everyone is fussing over an insect then take a trip to the gardens to see the beauty and joy they bring to children and even adults. You will also learn how to attract and keep butterflies for you to enjoy in your own garden. Who knows, you may even make a new colorful friend or two.

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In the Garden: Caring for Annuals and Hanging Baskets

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

For many gardeners, keeping their plants looking happy and healthy during the hot summer months can be a challenge, especially container gardens and hanging baskets.

Longer days result in plants like annuals to grow rapidly. Which is ideal since gardeners from the seasoned pro to the novice use them as their go-to flower of the season. Known for their ability to put on the ultimate show of color from May to the first frost of the fall season, proper watering, fertilizer and grooming are key to their overall health and wellness. But if you are not sure when and how much you should water and fertilize, you could be leaving your plants looking leggy, burned-out and out of bloom.

Watering plants outdoors is very different than watering indoors. There are many different environmental factors sun, temperature, the amount of rain and even wind play a roll in how fast plants dry out. Watering containers and hanging baskets are the most common. They need attention almost daily during an extremely hot and dry summer. Water in the morning if possible. Avoid over head watering during the middle of the day. Sun can burn the leaves of certain plants when water droplets sit on leaves. Invest in a watering wand, my go-to tool. Perfect for hand watering it allows you to control where the water goes, especially if you don’t want leaves to wet on certain plants.

Start a fertilizing regime. Scheduling fertilizer applications will make it easy to remember when to apply. For blooming annuals you want to ensure that they keep blooming. I recommend using a blossom booster fertilizer. It is higher in Phosphorous, which is as essential to plants as Nitrogen and Potassium. Promoting bud initiation and increased blooming a concentration of 10-30-20 is ideal. If your go to fertilizer is an all purpose 20-20-20 you may want to consider switching out a few times for a bloom booster.

I recommend choosing a day and sticking to it that way you know when the last application was. Fertilize weekly according to the recommendations on the package. This will help avoid any mistakes, like over fertilizing, which can lead to burned-out plants.

Don’t forget to groom annuals and perennials as well during the summer. Grooming is cleaning and deadheading. Remove any yellow and brown leaves as well as spent blossoms to rejuvenate and encourage new growth. This will keep plants looking as fresh as the day you brought them home from the garden center.

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In the Garden: Garden Art and Sculpture

by Tina Sottolano-Cain

In recent years gardens have become an extension of our homes.

In essence, the yard patio and deck have become outdoor rooms and people are spending more time perfecting and decorating these areas. Adding garden decor is another creative way to boost interest in your garden, enhancing what you already have.

Adding various architectural elements like garden benches, sculptures and containers, along with easy-to-add elements that include solar lights, can help define the space.

Garden furniture, specifically benches, are not a new concept. It can help define the garden space and provide a destination for anyone visiting your garden. Find an area in the garden with a wide open view to enjoy or place the bench along a pathway under a pergola giving visitors to your garden a destination. Garden benching can reflect your personality, depending upon the material and style you choose. Add a pop of color with a brightly colored bench. Natural materials like stone are great to add in a garden bed doubling as a piece of sculpture as well. Whether you have a formal garden with straight lines or a curvilinear garden there is a garden bench waiting for you to take a seat on.

Garden statues and containers are another way to boost visual interest in the garden. Sculptures can give the element of surprise when used in garden bed. Place them where you may not have an abundance of plant material or tucked under taller perennials and lower growing shrubs.

Containers, on the other hand, are multi functional. Nowadays you can find large glazed pottery. These urns are modern and formal and can be placed in the garden as a focal point. The beauty of theses giant pots are you don’t have to fill them with plant material. If you use smaller potted containers in the garden along the patio or pathway always cluster in groups of three in varying sizes making the display more visually appealing.

Quick and easy elements to add to the garden include whimsical garden stakes that are colored solar lights perfect for guiding you on a nightly garden stroll. More traditional solar lights can outline garden beds and pathways as well as accenting a piece of garden art you want to highlight. When adding anything to your garden always remember to have fun. The outdoors is a space to feel relaxed, it is your very own sanctuary.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, VIDEO

Butterfly gardens needed to bring back declining insect population

For many people, gardeners and nature lovers alike butterflies have been an important part of the outdoor environment we live in.

These mystical creatures fluttering through our gardens have captured the attention of collectors for centuries, spending endless hours studying the growth cycles, flight patterns as well as the patterns on their wings.

In many cultures butterflies have a great deal of symbolism of hope and love as well as rebirth. In recent years the numbers of native butterflies have been decreasing, especially the Monarch butterflies. I wanted to know how home gardeners can help increase the population in our gardens.

I recently caught up with John Dailey of SkyRiver Butterflies at his traveling butterfly exhibit to talk butterfly cultivation. I even had the opportunity to help release a few for the exhibit.

Sky River Butterflies it the largest traveling butterfly exhibit in the world, with about 1,500 to 2,000 butterflies in the exhibit. The main objective is to educate people on their life cycle and how to cultivate more butterflies in our won gardens.

“People have to understand that butterflies are very short-lived creatures. It takes 40 to 60 days from egg to adulthood. Typically they will live from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks.” They are dependent on their life cycle to reproduce. The opportunities for butterflies to reproduce are decreasing due to the amount of toxins being used in the agriculture industry. The host plants where they need to lay their eggs are not as available as they once were.

The key to bringing back butterflies like the Monarch is the right host plants, according to Dailey. The host plant is the plant to attract the larvae or caterpillars to the garden. For Monarch butterflies it is Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata is a herbaceous perennial native to North America found in wet swampy areas. It can survive in a backyard garden as long as the soil doesn’t dry out. The Swallowtail butterflies have a long list of host plants depending upon the species. The Swallowtail caterpillars need pipevine plants.

“Each butterfly has a specific host plant. You want to surround those plants with high nectar plants,” he said. High nectar plants produce sugars that adult butterflies feed from. Studies have been done on to what exactly butterflies are attracted in terms of types of plants and colors. One plant in particular is Gomphrena, commonly known as Globe Amaranth. It is a wild flower that produces lots of nectar that attracts all butterflies. Plants like Dahlias are another great nectar plant. You want to look for plants with flowers that have a short neck, making feeding easier for the butterfly.

“Monarch populations used to be measured in billions, now it is measured in millions,” stressed Dailey. By adding a few simple native plants to our gardens we can help restore those numbers.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

March Gardening To Do List

crocusSpring arrives March 20, it is time to get out and garden!  Here is what you need to do to get ready!

1) Check houseplants for insects.  Take a thorough look at the leaves for any sticky residue, or any discoloration on the leaves from scale, mealy bugs and mites.  Control with Insecticidal soap or a pyrethrum based pesticide.

2) Rotate houseplants a 1/4 turn each week and mist 2-3 timer per week.

3) Start feeding houseplants, weekly with a 10-15-10 fertilizer.

4) Prune Fruit Trees, if you have not already. Apply Horticultural Oil to control pre-emerging insects before the first sign of leaf growth appears.

5) March 17, time to plant your peas.

6) Plant cool season vegetables, like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and arugula.

7)  Mulch strawberries with straw.

8) Dig and Divide perennials

9)  Apply a pre-emergent herbicide, Step 1 to control crab grass.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Speak the language of flowers this Valentines Day

Thinking of getting the one you love flowers this Valentines day? If red roses just aren’t your thing, consider making a bouquet with flowers and herbs that have as much meaning as red roses, but say a whole lot more.  Roses come in a wide range of colors and we all know that red symbolizes love and passion, but did you know that lavender roses mean love at first sight? Here are a few alternative rose colors and their meaning.

Pink: Admiration, Appreciation, Grace and Gentleness.

Yellow: Joy, Friendship and Falling in love

Orange: Desire and Enthusiasm

Roses are not the only meaningful blossoms. Check out some these popular blooms, potted plants and herbs to add to your Valentines bouquet.

Aloe: Affection and Healing

Basil: Good Wishes

Calla Lily: Beauty

Chrysanthemum: Happiness

Daisy: Hope and Innocence

Delphinium: Saintly

Fern: Sincerity

Hydrangea: Understanding

Lavender: Devotion

Lily: Purity and Beauty

Orchid: Love and Beauty

Queen Ann’s Lace: Protection

Tulip, Red: Declaration of love

Violets: Loyalty and Virtue

Yarrow: Everlasting love

Design tips for the perfect floral arrangement:

When choosing flowers, always select healthy, fresh stems.  Avoid any flowers with browning edges or limp stems.

Once you bring your flowers home, place in water. Recut a 1/4″ to an 1″ to reopen the stems to take up water.   You will cut more depending on your arrangement size and remove any lower leaves on the stems. Use warm water in container and add a floral preservative.

Choose a color palette of no more than three colors in varying shades and tones.  Depending upon the size of the arrangement.  Too many colors can look too busy.

Choose flowers with a variety of shapes  to mix together.  Large round heads, and smaller clusters of flowers, mixed with tall spiked blooms will give your design good depth and dimension.    

Select container, whether it is a vase or a bowl shape you want to design the arrangement no larger than one and a half sizes taller than the container.

Add filler for extra dimension.  Having an arrangement filled with luscious blooms is just not enough.  Add a little greenery, like Baker fern, Pittosporum foliage, and even Eucalyptus seed heads in between flowers.  Add some drape around the base of the  arrangement.

Change water daily and keep arrangement out of the direct sunlight in a cool environment.  This will keep your bouquet fresher longer.

 

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Planting and Caring For Amaryllis

Well, I did it again…I forgot to plant to plant a few Paperwhites and Amaryllis bulbs I purchased a few months ago.  It never fails I always buy a bunch of Paperwhites and Amaryllis with the intent of planting them all winter long so I can have a little springtime indoors.  If you are like me and this has happens to you, you may be wondering if the bulbs are still viable.  If the bulbs are over a year old and haven’t been stored properly chances are they may not be.  Bulbs stored in a paper bag with peat moss or wood shavings should stay dry in a cool dark environment.

Here are a few easy tips on planting Amaryllis and Paperwhites bulbs…

They are big beautiful bulbs and extremely easy to grow. Cultivars are available in a wide range of colors, various shades red and white, even deep pinks and salmon, they have large multiple single blooms on one stalk or they are available in double flowered varieties as well.  Paperwhites have beautiful clusters of white star shaped flowers that are extremely fragrant.  One of my favorite varieties is ‘Ziva’, they have large flower umbels and sturdy stems.

When choosing Amaryllis bulbs make sure the bulb has a large circumference, that will give you the largest showy blooms. All bulbs should be firm to the touch and not spongey. You also want to make sure the bulb has no greenish or soft powdery looking spots, that indicates bulb is moldy.

You generally don’t need a large pot to plant Amaryllis bulbs.  A 6”-8” pot is sufficient, I like using terra-cotta. It’s simple natural look doesn’t compete with the beautiful flowers.  They also look great in glassware.  I have a ton of glass jars that I use for terrariums always at the ready.  Both Amaryllis are Paperwhites are so easy to grow in soil and decorative stones.

When planting the bulbs always use fresh potting mix, place a little soil in the pot, covering the bottom place your bulb inside and fill in around the bulb with soil to about there.  Leave the upper portion or neck of the bulb exposed.

Place in a warm sunny window, once they start to push some growth lightly water. Once they are actively growing let plants dry between waterings.  In 7-8 weeks you’ll enjoy these beautiful long blooming flowers. Plant now and throughout the winter months. Be careful not to over water your bulbs, this is a common mistake.  Overwatering can soften the bulbs and promotes mold growth.

Here are a few easy tips for Amaryllis care post blooming…

So your Amaryllis bulbs have stopped blooming, what do you do now.  It is possible to keep the bulbs and force them to flower the next year.

Cut off flower and the stalk, leaving 1-2″ above the bulb, keep foliage.  The leaves providing essential nutrients that are stored in the bulb for the next years growth cycle.  Keep in a sunny location and continue to water when soil is dry. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a water soluble houseplant food.

In mid may put plant outside in a shaded location, and don’t repot.  Bring indoors at the end of summer.  By then leaves will turn yellow. Cut back to the crown of the bulb.  Now it’s time to give your plant a rest, let it go dormant for 6-8 weeks.  Place plant in a cool place…55 degrees is ideal, in a low lit room and don’t water.

In November repot and place plant in a warm sunny window and water regularly, be careful not to overwater until leaves appear.  Buds and blooms are soon to follow in time for the holidays